Solutions for Common Cycling Aches and Pains

As you begin logging more miles, aches and pains can start cropping up. The usual culprits: poor riding position, imbalanced muscles, a weak core or just another birthday. "With new riders, you can usually blame poor bike fit or equipment setup, or a training error, like going out for 50 miles on their first ride of the season," says Andy Pruitt, EdD, director of Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, in Colorado. If you're a seasoned cyclist, the culprit is generally wear and tear. Your body has grown accustomed to your bike setup and training regimen over the years, then suddenly you have knee or back pain. General aches and pains can be remedied with traditional treatments such as rest, ice and anti-inflammatories—and with the following fixes.

Hip Pain

WHAT AND WHY: Pushing excessively high gears can wreak havoc on your hips, as can tight muscles and weak glutes.

FIX: Gear back and increase your cadence to take pressure off your hips. Follow the glute-strengthening advice in Knee (below). Do yoga poses like the pigeon, where one leg is bent 90 degrees in front of you and the other is extended behind you.

Knee Pain

WHAT AND WHY: Achy hinges are usually a result of incorrect saddle and/or cleat position, weak outer glutes, and doing too much too soon, especially in a big gear.

FIX: Generally, if it hurts in the front of your knee, your saddle is too low. Pain in the back means it's too high. Spin an easier gear. Strengthen your outer glutes with lateral leg exercises like side lunges and side leg raises. Stretch your quads, iliotibial bands and hamstrings. Get a professional bike fit.

Foot Pain

WHAT AND WHY: You experience hot spots, pain under the ball of your foot, numb toes when pressure is concentrated on one part of your sole, squeezing the nerves between your foot bones. Hot spots can happen to longtime cyclists who've never had such pain because the fat pads in our feet shrink over time, leaving the nerves less protected, says Pruitt.

FIX: For numbness, loosen your shoes. Already loose? Try a wider shoe. For burning, slide your cleats all the way back, switch to shoes with a stiffer sole or try wider-platform pedals. "Change your foot beds regularly," Pruitt says. "Change them once a year if you ride 5,000 miles or less; more often if you put in higher mileage."

Back Pain

WHAT AND WHY: Fatigue, age-related wear and tear, poor bike fit and a weak core can cause pain and strain.

FIX: Perform plank exercises to strengthen your core. Stretch your hamstrings. Check your bike fit to see that you're not overreaching (see Neck, below), keeping in mind that over the years you may need to tweak your riding position to compensate for decreased flexibility.

Hand Pain

WHAT AND WHY: Excess pressure on nerves in your hand can cause numb, tingly fingers and pain in your wrists. Also, you may have too much weight on your hands or have your wrists cocked at too extreme an angle.

FIX: Wear lightly padded gloves. Hold the bar with your wrists in a neutral position (like when you shake someone's hand). Check that the nose of your saddle isn't tipped down, shifting your weight too far forward and onto your hands.

Neck Pain

WHAT AND WHY: Over-reaching causes tension through your shoulders and upper back.

FIX: When you look at the front wheel with your hands on the hoods, your bar should obstruct your view of the hub. Relax your shoulders when you ride.

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Ankle Pain

WHAT AND WHY: Pain in the back of your ankle is a symptom of Achilles tendonitis—generally brought on by doing too much too soon. Having your cleats too far forward, which makes you pedal on your toes, can also strain the Achilles.

FIX: Ice the area and use anti-inflammatories. Stretch by placing the ball of your foot on a step and letting your heel hang off the edge. Hold for 20 seconds. Also, move your cleats back.


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