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Lower back pain specific to climbing...

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Lower back pain specific to climbing...

Old 01-06-13, 04:44 AM
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knoxtnhorn
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Lower back pain specific to climbing...

I had back pain issues arise over this past summer. Now that I believe I've isolated the specific problem, I'm looking for advice. I originally thought the problem was a result of a combination of several minor issues; however, as of yesterday, I know exactly what it is - climbing (or climbing form).

I had been riding my trainer for 3 straight weeks without any back pain at all. Yesterday, for the first time, I decided to do some climbing work. I warmed up properly. About 15 minutes in, I shifted to the highest resistance and the highest gears and did about 10 sets of "push until your legs can't take it any more". Between each set, I'd give myself about 2 minutes to recover by going to a much easier gear.

The back pain I experienced over the summer usually arose after being on my bike for more than an hour. I just chalked it up to being in the prone position for a good length of time and/or possibly just a weak core. After yesterday, I put 2 and 2 together and now realize that my back pain correlated to the amount of climbing I did on a specific ride. I know this because I have, what I call, a time trial course that I occasionally ride which has no climbing at all. I just realized that I've never had any pain whatsoever when riding this course despite the length of time I'm on the bike.

So, my guess is either form or physiology. Either I'm improperly positioned when out of saddle or I have some inherent back problem that will always be there regardless of fitness or form.

Anyone else have any experience or advice?
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Old 01-06-13, 08:50 AM
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Sounds like poor core strength
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Old 01-06-13, 10:20 AM
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I definitely noticed in the past that climbing gives me severe lower back pain. Luckily I didn't do much climbing, but I guess that is why I was never used to it whenever I did it. I could go for hours and hours on rolling hills without back pain on my perfectly set up position.
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Old 01-06-13, 10:41 AM
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When I do a lot of climbing my back is fine, it's when I don't climb for a week or two then go on a climbing ride that my back hurts. It helps to stand a little and change positions, and of course, spin as much as possible.
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Old 01-06-13, 10:49 AM
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Spin a low gear and/or stand up once in a while.
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Old 01-06-13, 12:39 PM
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IME the way to deal with back pain is to work it until the point of pain, rest it a day or two and repeat. Not working it makes it worse. Not resting it makes it worse. Yeah, weak core, but the question is how to fix it. I use the gym, too - squats, back machine, roman chair, lat pulls, rows, that kind of thing, but the bike is really the very best thing.
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Old 01-06-13, 01:35 PM
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I hope it's something that can possibly be cured via repetition on the bike. I'll be the first to admit that I absolutely cannot stand lifting weights. To give an idea, I've had two knee reconstructions. Both times I stopped going to physical therapy after the first session. I just can't do it. Props to those that can do gym work, though.

I was diagnosed with a slightly herniated disk in my lower back about a year and a half ago; however, it only truly bothers me if I do something strenuous like move furniture (or climb hills on my bike).
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Old 01-06-13, 02:36 PM
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I have had 2 lower back spinal surgical procedures and my neuro-surgeons say cycling helps. Get this one; my lower back actually feels better when climbing or out of the saddle in general.....Go figure.
Anyway, good luck to you mine is a unique circumstance I'm sure. I don't wish lower back pain on any-one. In reality, the back pain is nothing compared to the horrendous nerve pain which rips down ones leg.
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Old 01-06-13, 02:38 PM
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I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that although you may find climbing hurts your back it may be that it's just "riding hard" that affects your back. Many people, myself included, simply can't push as hard on the flats as on the hills.

When you stand up you'll recruit different muscles. As suggested it's good to alternate standing and sitting. I read somewhere a long time ago that if you're a bigger rider then you should climb seated 2/3 of the time, standing 1/3. If you're a super light type rider then stand 2/3 and sit 1/3. Although not necessarily a rule carved in granite it's at least a place to start.

You can also try climbing either standing all the time or sitting all the time. If you do one now then do the other, so if you sit all the time then you should go out and stand on every climb, just to see what happens. A long time ago, on one of the hardest rides I'd done in my first 4 years of serious training, I had to sit to follow my training partner - he was flying up the hills. Even though I weighed about 100 lbs at the time it was all I could do to sit in and hang on. If I stood I caught so much wind I would lose his wheel. After 4 or 5 hours he started to fatigue significantly and slowed. I could barely sit upright at that point (and I was 17 years old so it wasn't like I had a lot of back issues) so I finally relented and stood. It was like someone hit a switch in my legs. The last hour or so I was romping up all the hills, using relatively fresh muscles to power up the hills. Incredibly my back felt fine when I stood - I actually looked forward to the hills so I could stand again.

If you're too upright you're not going to recruit your most powerful muscles. There's a reason why the pros climb so hunched over, at least when seated - they recruit their glutes, aka their butt. I found out the hard way that if I don't race for a while and I don't ride in a "racing" position, I end up with really sore glutes. It's because I'm not using those muscles in training. When this happens I focus on doing some seated power work, to work the glutes. I even hold a hand to my glutes for a few revolutions every now and then to make sure they're flexing.

If you can recruit your glutes then you'll reduce the stress on other muscles. I have fragile knees and a pretty bad back but I've found a way to get through some decent amount of riding relatively comfortably. I try and use my most powerful muscles, try to use good form (i.e. I ride in the same position when I train and when I race).

Finally core work really helps. I've thrown out my back a bunch of times, finally relenting and getting some MRIs. The doc told me that I have "several burst and bulging discs" (direct quote). I found that I can do two things to help prevent back problems and there are two things that really help instigate them.

Prevent:
1. Core exercises. Crunches. I also do situps because the hip flexors are good muscles for cycling. You can do crunches while watching TV, while talking to family, while looking after your kid, whatever. I set myself a standard - 50 crunches or 40 situps. Anything less than that isn't that great. If I can do 2-3 sets then great. It's really helped maintain my back.
2. Stress. When I get stressed my back really gets bad. If you see me walking around looking like a jigsaw puzzle piece you know there's stress somewhere. For example when I promote the Bethel Spring Series (in March/April), it's very stressful. My back is always on edge.

Causes problems:
1. Cold back. If my back gets cold then it really gets weak. I make sure my torso is warm and my back is covered up. This is especially important when I'm also stressed, like in the colder temps of March/April. If I work outside I make sure my back is covered - the last time my back went out I wasn't careful about that and I collapsed in the yard.
2. Walking on uneven ground. For whatever reason this really hurts my back. Just last summer we went to a car/plane show at a local tiny airport. Walking on the field was terrible - I had to sit and stretch out my back just to get back to the car. I also leaned heavily on the stroller to try and unweight my back. It took only about an hour of walking before my back went south.

Hopefully you can use some of this information and apply it to your situations.

cdr
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Old 01-06-13, 08:32 PM
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Originally Posted by big john View Post
It helps to stand a little and change positions, and of course, spin as much as possible.
Originally Posted by BykOfALesserGod View Post
Spin a low gear and/or stand up once in a while.
^^^^ +2.
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Old 01-06-13, 11:16 PM
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Some good advice here.

Recommend you find a good PT guy. Preferably one with bike experience.

What it will definitely come down to is length and strength. Stretching the muscles and strengthening them. Yoga is your friend.

Btw, are you over forty? If so, VERY par for the course.
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Old 01-07-13, 12:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
IME the way to deal with back pain is to work it until the point of pain, rest it a day or two and repeat. Not working it makes it worse. Not resting it makes it worse. Yeah, weak core, but the question is how to fix it. I use the gym, too - squats, back machine, roman chair, lat pulls, rows, that kind of thing, but the bike is really the very best thing.
Those are all back exercises. Your back is not the problem. Your core is. When most people say "core" they mean the front side of you, not the back side. Crunches, Leg raises, anything that works your ABS. Those are the exercises you want to emphasize for the next several months. If you did nothing else but work up to 200 situps (or crunches) you would see a marked improvement in your back pain.

https://www.twohundredsitups.com/

H
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Old 01-07-13, 09:19 AM
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Originally Posted by knoxtnhorn View Post
I hope it's something that can possibly be cured via repetition on the bike. I'll be the first to admit that I absolutely cannot stand lifting weights. To give an idea, I've had two knee reconstructions. Both times I stopped going to physical therapy after the first session. I just can't do it. Props to those that can do gym work, though.

I was diagnosed with a slightly herniated disk in my lower back about a year and a half ago; however, it only truly bothers me if I do something strenuous like move furniture (or climb hills on my bike).
Same deal. I have a herniated L4/L5 disc. It was diagnosed back in July, after a 100+ mile ride with a lot of climbing. In my case, climbing definitely did aggravate my back. One of the best things I did was get re-fit on my bike. On long climbs I have a tendency to shift my weight far back on the saddle, but my fitter found my saddle was not supportive, putting major strain on my lower back. Additionally, I underwent physical therapy, which helped me discover that I had awful hip rotation and flexibility. Once again, the fit process took steps to address both of those issues. It's important to realize that the actual pain in your back may be caused by several other factors (hips, hamstrings, IT bands). A rigorous stretching and core work routine has helped. Don't screw around with a herniated disc or back pain. Doing so once left me immobilized on the side of the road after a minor twisting motion caused a back spasm.
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Old 01-07-13, 05:12 PM
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Low back pain on the bike can be core strength as has been said but it can also be related to tight hamstrings.
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Old 01-07-13, 06:27 PM
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that - try stretching your hamstrings, it helps me a LOT after hard rides.

I have relatively poor core strength and hard rides kill my lower back. Stretching helps a lot, but more consistent hard rides with proper rest in between will help strengthen your core too
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Old 01-08-13, 12:00 AM
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I suffer from the same problem when doing long (> 5 km, 5 - 8%) climbs - my lower back kills me. I weigh 6' and 210 lbs (and reducing). I'm working on my core strength and riding position. Will also try stretching a little before the climb.
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Old 01-08-13, 06:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Leisesturm View Post
Those are all back exercises. Your back is not the problem. Your core is. When most people say "core" they mean the front side of you, not the back side. Crunches, Leg raises, anything that works your ABS. Those are the exercises you want to emphasize for the next several months. If you did nothing else but work up to 200 situps (or crunches) you would see a marked improvement in your back pain.

https://www.twohundredsitups.com/

H
Also having a bad back, I've come 'round to the theory that one shouldn't do ab or back work that bends the spine. I.e., no crunches, no sit-ups. There are many other ab exercises which keep the back straight: roman chair I mentioned, also planks, bird dogs, leg raises, pushups, many others. The theory behind what I've been doing for several years is more or less here:
https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/0.../?ref=magazine
and here:
https://www.undergroundfitnessrevolut...-exercise-ever

A huge number of core exercises can be found at www.exrx.net

Even though my MRI looks like crap, I've been able to stay strong and largely pain-free by using these exercises in combination with a lot of cycling. I'm even skiing bumps again.

IME the trick is to keep one's spine in column. On the bike, this means rotating the hips forward so that the back stays straight. I watch myself in a mirror at spin class and on rollers. I watch in the mirror whenever it's possible when using weights or machines.
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Old 01-08-13, 06:34 PM
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I have two herniated discs and have tried a lot of things mentioned here and can add a couple of things. If you have herniation then here is a little info that I have spent a long time finding out and visiting the Australian Institute of Sports as a patient.

1. Have a look at this book "Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence" by Eric Goodman. It has the most progressive information I have seen to date, packaged well and with good diagrams. It focuses a lot on bending about your major pivot points being your hips and not bending your spine which is not really designed to be in a curved position all the time. I agree with the "back straight " comments above by @carbonfibreboy
2. Avoid heavy weights, especially squats and lots of sit ups. The core that people are mentioning is really a combinations of many smaller muscle groups, multifidis in particular and hamstrings if working correctly can go a long way to minimizing back pain.
3. Have realistic goals like ride pain free for 2 hours, I know if I ride for 3 + hours then I will have pain so I just manage it with anti inflammatory drugs, heat press and sometimes acupuncture if my muscles seize up - I know that is not good news but it is helpful to get a yes or no.

If I poodle around on the flat I rarely get sore but if I put the hammer down anywhere then I will feel stress. That said a 4000ft climb the other day at a medium pace was fine.

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Old 01-08-13, 07:11 PM
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It's often related to the hamstrings getting too tight. This happens to me if I don't adequately warmup I believe. Maybe you're pushing yourself too hard and/or not getting enough sleep.

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Old 01-08-13, 09:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Rimmer View Post
It's often related to the hamstrings getting too tight. This happens to me if I don't adequately warmup I believe. Maybe you're pushing yourself too hard and/or not getting enough sleep.
The frequent comments on here about hamstrings are interesting to me. I have started stretching my hams more lately, as a response to pes anserine bursitis rather than back pain, but I also think it has helped my back. I don't squat over about 120, doing lots of reps at that weight though.

Three supersets of 30 back extensions and 20 pushups tonight after rollers - changing my routine for a more advanced base. That felt really good.

I used to do straight legged deadlifts, which are of course done with a straight back. I haven't done them since overdoing it and having a knee scoped. Very best thing for hamstrings ever, though. Thoughts?
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Old 01-09-13, 09:01 AM
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I had this exact problem, and it took me awhile to nail it down. In the end it was poor core strength, I was working out the lower back too much compared to my abs. I stretched my back after every ride and a good ab workout twice a week and it was gone.
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Old 01-09-13, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by arok View Post
that - try stretching your hamstrings, it helps me a LOT after hard rides.

I have relatively poor core strength and hard rides kill my lower back. Stretching helps a lot, but more consistent hard rides with proper rest in between will help strengthen your core too
Bingo. For me, I get back pain when I have tight hamstrings. Especially if it is single-sided (as in left side only), hamstrings could be the culprit.
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Old 01-09-13, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by knoxtnhorn View Post
About 15 minutes in, I shifted to the highest resistance and the highest gears and did about 10 sets of "push until your legs can't take it any more".
I don't think it's climbing per se, but pushing too high a gear. I have back issues and cycling actually helps in general. However, spinning slow and pushing high gears causes pain over time in my lower back muscles.

Originally Posted by ThinLine View Post
I have had 2 lower back spinal surgical procedures and my neuro-surgeons say cycling helps. Get this one; my lower back actually feels better when climbing or out of the saddle in general.....Go figure.
Same here. If my back is bothering me I often feel better by going for a ride.

Anyway, good luck to you mine is a unique circumstance I'm sure. I don't wish lower back pain on any-one. In reality, the back pain is nothing compared to the horrendous nerve pain which rips down ones leg.
I've actually been unable to walk much less ride when that happens. Luckily it's not very often. I'd love to make it go away permanently.
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