When I give talks on injury prevention to cyclists, we focus on preventing neck pain and numbness while cycling. Preventing neck pain and numbness are the top goals of many cyclists early in the season. As the season trudges on, those of us who have put a lot of miles on are starting to feel the weak and plainly old parts of our bodies.
If your neck tends to give you trouble on the bike, there are several factors to play with. First, please make sure you have a good bike fitting. There are two bike fitters in the area that consistently get awesome reviews from my patients. Chris Balser at Penn Cycle in Minnetonka and Maple Grove Cycling both have bike fitters that are worth their weight in gold. Simple changes like changing out a stem, raising your handlebars or lowering your seat can make a world of difference in how much you enjoy cycling and how far you can ride without pain and numbness. It is worth it to spend a little money with a bike fit expert to focus on preventing neck pain and numbness while cycling. It will save you from creating larger problems later that will require more time and money to fix.
If you are having neck pain, I have a couple simple form tips. First, make sure your shoulder blades are engaged and that you are holding them back and down (away from your ears). Not only will you have more neck pain by cycling in an extreme forward position, if you have a rotator cuff or shoulder problem, rounded shoulders don’t make it better. Also, think about whether or not you have your head cocked back too far. I am all for looking forward versus down, however, there is a happy medium when it comes to extreme extension of your neck. Odds are, by engaging your shoulder blades, you have already helped your neck be in a better posture and this won’t be an issue.
As for hand numbness, equipment changes such as making sure your bike gloves have padding built for the bike you are riding is important. This is especially the case for the gear junkies like me who have multiple bikes. Different bikes need different gloves to take the pressure off. If you are riding a road bike, also make sure you have good tape on your handle bars. If you have just started to noticed the numbness, it might be because your gloves or tape are breaking down. If you have more recreational style bikes, I can’t say enough for the figure 8 handle bars I have seen on the bike trail. I’m sure it takes a lot to get used to them however, it has to help people with upper extremity pain so much by letting them vary their hand position on the handlebars.
There are definitely other things that can cause neck pain and numbness while cycling. To prevent that means to correct the problem causing the pain. Frequently, those of us who are involved in adult athletics but have sedentary jobs during the day have a lot of neck pain and stiff shoulder problems. If you log plenty of screen time at work, you know what I am talking about.
Problems with the alignment or movement patterns of your spine can set you up to have problems that other cyclists don’t. The common attitude is that if I just ignore it or back off on my miles, it will go away. Often this makes it take longer to heal and costs more money to treat. On top of this, sometimes neck pain and numbness can be a cervical disc problem that needs more intensive treatment. Only a licensed doctor can know for sure. Chiropractors are specially trained to diagnose and treat conditions such as these. If you want to live an active and healthy life, it is important to stay on top of potential problems before they get to be big looming problems. If you have questions about your neck pain and numbness and how it is affecting your cycling or anything else, call me. I would be happy to help.