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Is shoulder pain normal?

Old 06-21-11, 03:08 PM
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BigCurly
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Is shoulder pain normal?

Hi Everyone,

I have done a few long rides in anticipation of doing some short tours this summer. I seem to experience some pretty annoying shoulder pain after about 70km. Is this normal and something I just need to work through or is a proper bike fit something worthwhile to invest in?

(I've also posted in the Long Distance forum)

Thanks!
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Old 06-21-11, 03:18 PM
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It's your "normal". I'd suggest stretching/changing posture more often after 50km and giving yourself some kind of conditioning/stretching while off the bike. Instead of slugging it out figure it out with periods of recovery and relief during and between rides.
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Old 06-21-11, 04:57 PM
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Depending on where the pain is located the problem could be bike fit around saddle height vs. stem height or saddle vs stem length or many other variables.

I once encountered shoulder pain on a long tour. The problem turned out to be the handlebar had shifted off center during airline box packing. Once the bar was centered equally the pain went away.
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Old 06-21-11, 06:49 PM
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Bike fit is basic. Make sure that your bike fits. Hit up a good LBS when they aren't busy and buy whatever parts they suggest to help you fit better. Bicycle riding should be painless. Of course, you should be generally stiff and sore after a hard than usual work out, but never suffering localized pain.
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Old 06-21-11, 06:56 PM
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The only "normal" pain that I know of for bike riding is in the lower back due to what the position of riding does to hip flexors. That, however, should be less of a problem for most tourers due to a more upright sitting position. My guess with shoulder pain is probably a bad fit and perhaps poor posture that requires a lot of pressure on the shoulders to hold up the torso. You can find lots of good resources regarding bike fit on the net and see if you are in the ballpark.
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Old 06-21-11, 08:04 PM
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Getting older is Normal, it might be part of it.
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Old 06-21-11, 08:17 PM
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How severe is the pain? I was having pain last summer and fall, had it checked out with an MRI and found a torn rotator cuff. Had surgery and PT and it's as good as new. If your pain is getting worse have it checked by a orthopedic doctor. BTW, the injury was not cycling related.
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Old 06-21-11, 10:09 PM
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Good post. For me, shoulders are the first thing to tire. My bike fit is all about how those shoulders feel.
I've gotten sore shoulders from too long a reach to the bars. Also, from having the handlebar too high and sitting too upright and not getting enough power from the gluts. The more bent I can get the more power I get from the gluts.
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Old 06-21-11, 11:16 PM
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Recently I took some advice from this forum to tilt the nose of my saddle slightly upward. This pushed my rear-end back a little bit, which then took some weight and pressure off my hands/arms, thereby creating less tension on my shoulders & neck. The extent to which you tilt you'll need to tweak with a bit to find what's right for you, because if you tilt too far back then the additional weight will just be displaced on to your butt and then your butt will hurt much more than usual. Do a search here under "saddle position" and you'll see some interesting things. I feel like, for the first time in a long time, that I am finding a position that is going to keep me comfortable for hours at a time and days on end. Good luck! This is a good place for advice, and much of the above mentioned things are proof of that.
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Old 06-22-11, 04:49 AM
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Not normal. Failing to maintain a relaxed upper body is probably the cause. Keep elbows bent, fingers draped loosely over the bars, neck relaxed, and shoulders not hunched. Bike fit could be part of it or not. Also a helmet and visor that causes you to strain a bit to keep head up could be a factor.
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Old 06-22-11, 05:08 AM
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Originally Posted by SBRDude View Post
The only "normal" pain that I know of for bike riding is in the lower back due to what the position of riding does to hip flexors. That, however, should be less of a problem for most tourers due to a more upright sitting position.
I would question that on two counts.

First IMO it isn't normal to have pain in the lower back even in a racing posture. It is an indication that something is wrong with your posture, bike fit, or conditioning.

Second, I think that an upright posture is actually more likely to cause back pain in the long haul assuming a rider conditioned to the lower position.

BTW, I am a bit puzzled by the fact that, on the road, the touring cyclists I have met mostly did not adopt an upright posture, while on the various forums my impression is that everyone has their bars at or even well above the saddle. The majority I met on the road seemed to be in a range between racing posture and slightly more relaxed, but seldom with bars higher than the saddle.
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Old 06-22-11, 05:21 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I would question that on two counts.

First IMO it isn't normal to have pain in the lower back even in a racing posture. It is an indication that something is wrong with your posture, bike fit, or conditioning.

Second, I think that an upright posture is actually more likely to cause back pain in the long haul assuming a rider conditioned to the lower position.

BTW, I am a bit puzzled by the fact that, on the road, the touring cyclists I have met mostly did not adopt an upright posture, while on the various forums my impression is that everyone has their bars at or even well above the saddle. The majority I met on the road seemed to be in a range between racing posture and slightly more relaxed, but seldom with bars higher than the saddle.
Regarding bike tourers, pure conjecture on my part.

Regarding lower back pain in general, I got that from poking around on the web because I tend to get lower back pain after about 2 hours. Since that's usually about the time I stop for food and water, I do a quick stretch and I'm usually fine for another hour or so. Anyway, I was hoping I could do something to get rid of that pain (I already do a fair amount of abs and core work), either through exercise or bike fit, and everything I came across said it was a very common problem even among those who race for a living and it was the result of being in a bent over position for such a long time and putting pressure on the back or hip flexors that weren't meant to be bent for so long.
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Old 06-23-11, 06:49 AM
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I think it's hard to get the leverage I need for climbs in an upright position. I did experience shoulder pain on my most recent tour because of saddle trouble. I found myself trying to relieve my underside by bearing my weight forward on my hands and shoulders, rather than on my bottom.
I've been home 3 weeks, and am still having shoulder pain.
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Old 06-23-11, 11:15 AM
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I get shoulder pain if I don't keep they strengthened. As lpng as I lift weights to keep the upper body and the shoulders toned and strengthened I have no trouble at all. I have damaged them a few times including a bad shoulder break a few yeas ago. Too many people neglect the shoulders and have pain.
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Old 06-23-11, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by SBRDude View Post
Regarding bike tourers, pure conjecture on my part.

Regarding lower back pain in general, I got that from poking around on the web because I tend to get lower back pain after about 2 hours. Since that's usually about the time I stop for food and water, I do a quick stretch and I'm usually fine for another hour or so. Anyway, I was hoping I could do something to get rid of that pain (I already do a fair amount of abs and core work), either through exercise or bike fit, and everything I came across said it was a very common problem even among those who race for a living and it was the result of being in a bent over position for such a long time and putting pressure on the back or hip flexors that weren't meant to be bent for so long.
"Conventional wisdom" folks frequently repeat what they've heard, rather than write from personal experience. That's a big reason for a lot of foolishness on the web. The traditional road bike position with bars even with or lower than the saddle is that way because it's easier on the back. It's also more aero, but the larger reason is that it's more powerful and comfortable over the long haul. The reasons for this are very simple. The biggest reason is that our backs are much comfortable when they can respond to loads by flexure rather than compression. The more upright, the more your spine is loaded in compression which is exacerbated by riding a bike on bumpy roads, and all roads are more or less bumpy to a bicycle. The second is that back flexion opens the dorsal side of the lumbar vertebrae, which decreases pressure on the nerves and the facets.
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Old 06-23-11, 12:18 PM
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I have shoulder pain as well on 50+ mile rides, usually pretty terrible around 60 miles and eases up by 80. I'm taking the bike into the shop this evening to see about a longer stem or if they have other advice for fitting.
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Old 06-23-11, 12:59 PM
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I had shoulder pain on long rides for a few years. Then I got a bike with a shorter top tube. I've had no shoulder pain, since.
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Old 06-23-11, 01:32 PM
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During long rides I may have broad soreness in my shoulders (sometimes other parts too). I attribute it to not riding enough. To put it in perspective, I ride 2-3 couple of times a week, including a 2-3 hour ride. My butt is fine after the long ride. My wife riders for 30 minutes and is sore all over. If she road for as long as me would she still suffer after a 30 minute ride. Probably not.

My shoulder soreness goes away after 10 minutes of not riding. I think it helps to clarify the level of pain. If it hurts days after being off the bike, I would call that a 8-10. Mine is a 2-3 (less than an hour after riding, and never acute pain that makes my cringe).
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Old 06-23-11, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
"Conventional wisdom" folks frequently repeat what they've heard, rather than write from personal experience. That's a big reason for a lot of foolishness on the web. The traditional road bike position with bars even with or lower than the saddle is that way because it's easier on the back. It's also more aero, but the larger reason is that it's more powerful and comfortable over the long haul. The reasons for this are very simple. The biggest reason is that our backs are much comfortable when they can respond to loads by flexure rather than compression. The more upright, the more your spine is loaded in compression which is exacerbated by riding a bike on bumpy roads, and all roads are more or less bumpy to a bicycle. The second is that back flexion opens the dorsal side of the lumbar vertebrae, which decreases pressure on the nerves and the facets.
Two issues here.

One, I wasn't just reading stuff written by cyclists, but at medical and sports medicine websites.

Two, you're not addressing the point they make - that being bent, even if it's being bent while sitting at a desk all day, isn't how are bodies are designed to perform. You are talking about a different issue, even though it has to do with the back.
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Old 06-23-11, 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by SBRDude View Post
Two issues here.

One, I wasn't just reading stuff written by cyclists, but at medical and sports medicine websites.

Two, you're not addressing the point they make - that being bent, even if it's being bent while sitting at a desk all day, isn't how are bodies are designed to perform. You are talking about a different issue, even though it has to do with the back.
Links to studies done by sports medicine doctors then, which show your contention to be true. Otherwise, it's just CW, I don't care who it's from.

Au contraire, our bodies perform well in a great variety of postures. The traditional posture works best for cycling, and there's a reason that experienced cyclists, from MTB to RAAM riders, adopt almost identical positions. Being on a bike is not the same as sitting at a desk. And one's back should not be "bent," but ideally straight in the upper part and only curved in the lumbar region.

The Position does put weight on the hands, just as it subtracts that weight from the butt. Having the proper back position means that one must acquire sufficient arm and shoulder strength and endurance to support that weight. No way around that. If a cyclist's shoulders hurt, it is either that they are not conditioned to riding or their position is incorrect in some detail. Sitting upright may seem like the thing to do, but it is not, not because of the shoulders, but because of the imperative of the correct back position.

It's not that our bodies are designed to perform very well in the traditional cycling position, but rather that The Position is designed to take advantage of the characteristics of our bodies. That's one of the reasons that cycling on modern bicycles has become so popular and is called the "ageless sport." It's a fit.

Having taught people to hike, I might point out that how to walk is not that obvious to modern humans, either.
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Old 06-24-11, 03:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Links to studies done by sports medicine doctors then, which show your contention to be true. Otherwise, it's just CW, I don't care who it's from.
You demand a scientific presentation from others, yet you proceed to offer your own common wisdom. Too funny. If you don't want to believe that hip flexors are a problem, then fine by me and happy riding.
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Old 06-24-11, 05:53 AM
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I had shoulder pain thanks to a good bicycle crash on the way to work years ago, I have learnt to put up with it until a few months ago when I replaced my old tourer with a new one and went up two sizes...................no more shoulder pain, pity I didn't do this earlier.
I also found getting off and stretching every 20klm for about 5 minutes helps a great deal also.
Hope this helps
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Old 06-24-11, 06:41 AM
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SBR, with all respect, I believe you are the fellow who has not toured yet, Am I wrong? If so, my apologies.
If so, I bring it up to mention that while this topic is clearly always going to be tricky as it is only on paper, first of all we cant see the OP on his bike, and then there are physical condition factors etc that come into play.

that said, localized pain like that is pretty clearly a sign of a bike fit issue that is affecting a specific area, not soreness from biking all day and/or getting into shape and therefore having stronger core muscles etc.

all I can recount is getting a new bike with a shorter toptube than my other bikes, and it making a world of difference to my riding comfort. Very little weight on hands (as should be) and despite the bars being lower than the saddle (compared to my old touring bike where the two are mostly level, but more stretched out) I am more comfortable on it.

the thing with bar height is that with proper reach, even if it is lower than seat (mine is about 4cm easily) it puts one in a good position for evening out "weight distribution" of hands/bum/pedals.
Of course too, if a cyclist is a "toodler" and not pushing on pedals very easily, then of course, more weight goes to bum and hands.

lets face it, there are a myriad of factors that come into play here, but from my personal experience of having ridden my old touring bike for years and years, and then getting a shorter toptube bike and closer reach to bars (we are talking maybe 2-3 cms perhaps) even with lower bars to seat height, I am more comfortable. I am not a strong strong rider, but that said, if I ride with my wife, or kids, I find I have too much weight on butt and hands cuz I am not pedaling with my usual steady cadence and my usual "cruising" power output from my legs.

again though, I agree completely that specific area pain should be addressed. Its tricky as everyone and his dog will give different opinions and less experienced riders can find it hard to know what direction to take (or people like my wife who doesnt give any of it a second thought, but will still complain and still believes "drop bars are uncomfortable, all stretched out, sore for my back and neck"--the classic classic uninformed "rode a bike waaaaaay too big for them as a kid" comment.

good luck OP, at least with modern bikes it is so much easier to change handle bar stems to shorter, longer ones.
On my old tourer, I changed the stem to a shorter one soon after I got it (1991?) but in hindsight, should have gotten a shorter one, but with threaded stems, you'd have to take the tape off bars, remove brake, screw around gettng bars through bar stem etc etc....so I left it with the one I changed and then just rode. I was younger too and put up with it.

I think a lot lot of people just put up with improper fit, are sore, get wrist issues like my wife with a straight bar bike, then dont ride much "cuz its uncomfortable", or ride with pain etc etc etc.
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Old 06-25-11, 05:50 AM
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djb, I agree with about fit and said so as much in my first post. I was trying to make a different point - that lower back pain is the only "normal" pain I know of that affects cyclists who ride for long periods of time. The OP asked about shoulder pain being normal, which is why I responded about the only normal pain I know of.

Also, I'm not sure why any of this has anything to do with the fact that I haven't toured yet. I have plenty of experience with long bike rides and the pains involved doing them.
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Old 06-25-11, 06:55 AM
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Originally Posted by BigCurly View Post
Hi Everyone,

I have done a few long rides in anticipation of doing some short tours this summer. I seem to experience some pretty annoying shoulder pain after about 70km. Is this normal and something I just need to work through or is a proper bike fit something worthwhile to invest in?

(I've also posted in the Long Distance forum)

Thanks!

Something to keep in mind Bigcurly: I don't know how much you ride or how far ganerally but if you've never ridden 70km straight before you will experience all kinds of soreness and it can be normal. after my first 50 miler I hurt all over my body including my shoulders. Now I can ride that distance without pain but if I tried 100miles I'd probably ache all over just like I did at 50 miles before. You get what I mean? It may just be you need to loosen up and get used to longer rides. Riding a bike is working out, working out makes people sore.
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