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Handlebar width for neck and shoulder pain

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Handlebar width for neck and shoulder pain

Old 07-30-16, 11:55 AM
  #1  
stevedarcy
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Handlebar width for neck and shoulder pain

Hi all,
I had a car accident twice, (hasten to add not my fault) that resulted in whiplash and neck strain.
I have a road bike, but I feel like I am straining my left should and neck. The pain always comes on 1 day after cycling and not whilst cycling.
Any ideas on how to alleviate this? I have had a bike fit in the past but also have been suggested to try narrow bars, but get mixed messages as some say to increase width?
Any ideas folks? It is only my left shoulder and neck.
I am 187cm and ride a CUBE Peloton Frame Size 60 (when you measure it is a 58 in old school)
Look forward ot your help!
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Old 07-30-16, 12:23 PM
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Without knowing the details of the injury (or having a medical degree for that matter), your age and fitness, and without being able to see you on the bike to get ideas about fit, it's pretty darn difficult to tell you with any certainty what's going to help.

With that said, though, handlebar width would be pretty low on my list of guesses. For shoulder and neck strain and pain, I'd probably start by looking at handlebar positioning relative to the saddle. Is the bar positioned too low? The lower the bar, relative to the saddle, the more your neck has to bend to look up. With age or with injury, it may be necessary to position the bar a bit higher. Is the bar too far forward? If it is, your center of gravity is shifted forward as well and you may be carrying more weight on your hands than you have to. The higher and further back your bar is, the more your weight is carried by your legs and trunk, which may ease the workload on your shoulders. Saddle position fore & aft, relative to the crank, also plays into this equation, as does saddle angle.

Sorry I don't have a magic bullet that'll make the discomfort go away, but here's hoping you can try some adjustments and find something that helps!
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Old 07-30-16, 12:28 PM
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I'll offer some thoughts having little to do with bikes. Assuming you know injuries didn't cause a chronic condition, I suggest finding daily conditioning exercises and warm-up exercises for prior to riding. It may that adding strength and flexibility may help you avoid problems. Beyond that, consider heat therapy for after riding if you know you'll be in pain later.

If you suspect the condition is chronic, my suggestions would be the same but I'd recommend you find a therapist to assist you instead of trying to find solutions on your own.
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Old 07-30-16, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Tony P. View Post
I'll offer some thoughts having little to do with bikes. Assuming you know injuries didn't cause a chronic condition, I suggest finding daily conditioning exercises and warm-up exercises for prior to riding. It may that adding strength and flexibility may help you avoid problems. Beyond that, consider heat therapy for after riding if you know you'll be in pain later.

If you suspect the condition is chronic, my suggestions would be the same but I'd recommend you find a therapist to assist you instead of trying to find solutions on your own.
I think this is great advice. If you want to test the bar width idea, I suppose you could do your next ride with your hands almost exclusively on the tops of the bar, inboard of where you normally position them when you ride. That will give the effect of both narrower bars, and a relatively shorter and higher stem, so you'll be less stretched out and bent over. I would think bar height and stem length would be potentially bigger factors than bar width, so if this strategy works for you, there are three variables you'd need to consider changing.
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Old 07-30-16, 01:57 PM
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Closer, Higher , though it will be slower because you are sitting Up More.
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Old 07-30-16, 02:01 PM
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Handle bar width does make a big difference. I have a Fuji newest 1.0 I have used as a back up bike for years. I rarely rode it besides when my Surly was in the shop or something. the handlebars felt like they were too wide and when I rode it my neck and shoulders hurt, and I have had no injury in that area. I went to the local bike shop this spring and swapped out handlebars just to see if that helped, I think my new ones were about an inch narrower. I probably have about 600 or 700 miles on it this summer and have been riding it most of the time. My neck does not hurt even after long rides. Might be the handlebars.
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Old 07-30-16, 02:18 PM
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I have arthritis in my neck due to an old injury and surgery to correct the problem. I played around with handlebar width and found literally no difference in the amount of pain and soreness I had whether I used 40/42/44/46. Tried them all. (Fortunately I was able to borrow them from friends and not buy). I'm just going to say I doubt changing width is going to help you. Less tilt to the neck likely will help, though. This means a more upright riding position and less time in the drop or aero bars (the amount of head tilt using aero bars really aggravates my pain and soreness). My neck issues aren't going away but with some stretching and strengthening exercises and massage (I highly recommend it, along with a trip or two to a chiropractor) yours might. Hopefully it does and doesn't become chronic.
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Old 07-30-16, 07:38 PM
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Ditto -- permanently damaged C2 vertebrae limits my riding position options. But I wanted to lower my profile a bit for better efficiency and less wind resistance over longer rides.

Video yourself riding around. Check your posture. Your neck shouldn't be craned upward.

Be sure the saddle height and position are adjusted appropriately.

Then adjust the handlebar stem height to ensure your spine is as straight as possible in line with your neck. Then, if possible, adjust the handlebar reach for comfort.

After that, adjust only 1/4" to 1/2" at a time, ride for a day or so, then reevaluate.

That's what I did over a period of weeks back in the spring to find a comfortable compromise between low wind resistant profile and comfort with my hybrid. I flipped the upright bars upside down and raised the quill stem a bit. The sweet spot seemed to be with the grips about an inch or two above saddle height.
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Old 07-31-16, 05:58 AM
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Thanks all, my handlebars are quite low compared to saddle but not sure I can raise them much more as already have 3 spacers.
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Old 07-31-16, 06:34 AM
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Consider going to a recumbent.
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Old 07-31-16, 10:10 AM
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That Cube Peleton looks like a road racing bike. No way I could ride something like that again with my damaged C2 vertebrae. I'd be looking for a different bike.

If it's not feasible to raise the bars, what about higher hoods?
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Old 07-31-16, 10:47 AM
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Yes it is a road bike, and quite comfortable. I have had a few years of exercises for rehab and have been told no permanent damage so looking for ways to reduce strain.
Thanks again all.
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Old 07-31-16, 11:00 AM
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No permanent damage is good. You might have built up some knotted muscles from tension and pain. The right side of my neck and shoulder are almost permanently knotted up, not just from the C2 damage but from years of tension and pain. I have to massage it daily before and after rides. I'll often use analgesic creams along with the massage -- usually just the salicylate type, since the menthol, camphor, etc., can burn when applied before exercise.

You might try a masseuse, physical therapist or good chiropractor. While I'm a bit skeptical of most chiropractors I did meet one who was the only one I'd let touch my neck. He was strong as an ox but very careful and didn't do anything until he'd reviewed my X-rays. Some chiropractors only do alignment adjustments but he also did massages, which was just as important.
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Old 07-31-16, 12:42 PM
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I started a stretching routine from the Mayo clinic web site that helped with my shoulder neck issues, good luck with whatever you do.
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