Exercises to Treat Shoulder and Neck Pain from Cycling

Neck pain from cycling is probably one of the most common overuse injuries that stems from poor posture and weak muscles. Despite the lack of trauma, the injuries associated with neck pain can be debilitating to the point where it is almost impossible to get on the bike.

Some of these issues can be fixed with a good bike fit. Having a frame that's too big or too small, handlebars that are too wide or narrow, or a stem that is too long or short are just a few of the adjustments that need to be dialed in to correct postural problems associated with spending hours on the bike.

But what about after the bike fit? Maybe you don't have any pain cycling for an hour or two, and only get pain on the longer rides that reach into the four- to six-hour range. If this is you, chances are the muscles of the neck and shoulders aren't strong enough to support the weight of the head for that long of a duration, which can also be a source of pain.

This happens because of the tensing of the trapezius muscles that run along the side of the neck and shoulder and, attach at the base of the head. When these muscles are tensed for a long period of time, blood flow to the area is decreased, which starves the muscles of oxygen. This can lead to trigger points, muscle spasms and potentially quite a bit of pain.

To keep the muscles loose and relaxed (also important to do while riding) and strong enough to support the amount of cycling you're doing, cyclists should develop a consistent routine of strengthening and stretching exercises to stay pain free.

As you become more comfortable with these stretches you can increase the hold of each stretch, just don't do as many (i.e. hold for 20 to 30 seconds but only do 2 to 3 repetitions). Remember that pain is a good indicator that something is wrong. These exercises are not meant to be an alternative to seeing a doctor, as some conditions can be more serious than simple stretching and strengthening exercises can fix. As always, be smart and listen to your body if in doubt.

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