Bicycling as exercise has been proven to maintain weight and boost a person's overall health. Cycling is an intense cardio exercise that works out the entire body at once.
But do you know how to prevent injuries while riding?
Overuse injuries often require "mechanical" as well as medical management. Bike fit and other padded equipment become necessary to prevent and recover from overuse injuries from cycling. Injuries stemming from repeated motions or overuse can be managed by improving the mechanical management, such as your body's position or the bicycle's position, and by medical management, such as exercises, over-the-counter medications or other treatments recommended by a physician.
Here are some of the more common overuse injuries among cyclists:
Up to 60% of riders experience symptoms of neck or back pain. Increased handlebar reach or riding in the "hands low" position can exacerbate these symptoms causing the low back to flex and the neck to hyperextend.
Handlebar palsy is a nerve injury caused by compression of the ulnar nerve as it goes through the palm – often from pressing the palms on the handlebars. It can cause numbness and tingling of the ring finger and pinky, along with weakness in some of the hand muscles. Handlebar palsy generally occurs after several days of long or intensive rides.
Cyclists may suffer from saddle sores, nerve compression injuries, calluses or inflammatory nodules due to saddle compression and friction.
The repetitive sliding of the IT band over the hip bone can cause trochanteric bursitis, or pain on the side of the hip.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome can result from too much force repeatedly applied through the patellofemoral joint in the knee. This is typically due to errors in bike fit or cycling technique.
Plantar fasciitis, metatarsalgia and Achilles tendinitis are all conditions that can occur when cycling. They are united in that they cause pain in the foot or ankle, and can be helped by changing certain mechanical issues on the bike.
Environmental exposures provide a variety of challenges for the cyclist, but of those, some of the most critical are exposure to the sun and heat.
Dehydration can occur because of loss of body fluid through sweat. Thirst is not usually a good guide to replace fluid. If a cyclist is adequately hydrated, they should pass clear or lightly colored urine every 1 to 2 hours.
Sunburn also is a common problem and can predispose to skin cancer. Wearing sunscreen is a must. Follow these tips on ensuring proper SPF coverage.
There are rules of the road that should be obeyed in order to stay safe and prevent crashes on your bicycle.
Check out additional tips for bicycling safety from the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons.
By Catherine Reese, MD, CAQSM
Franciscan Physician Network CityWay Family & Sports Medicine