Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Cycling and Low Back Pain: How Physical Therapy Can Help You Ride Pain-Free

February 26, 2024

Cycling is a fantastic way to stay active, improve cardiovascular health, and enjoy the great outdoors. However, for some cyclists presenting to our Boulder Physical Therapy and Lafayette Physical Therapy clinics, low back pain can be a significant obstacle that hinders their enjoyment of this activity. Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or just starting out, experiencing low back pain while riding can be frustrating and discouraging. According to research, up to 58% of professional cyclists experience low back pain, but only 41% sought medical attention during a specific season of observation. Fortunately, there are ways to address and alleviate this discomfort with the help of physical therapy including spinal manipulation, exercise, and education.

Factors that contribute to low back in cyclists include improper bike fit, riding technique, muscle imbalances, or underlying musculoskeletal conditions. A flexed spinal position adopted by cyclists changes the area of load across the low back during cycling. This results in a condition termed flexion spinal disorder, which has been correlated with non traumatic low back pain. Fortunately, numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of core-specific exercises for cyclists with positive results.

A study by San Emeterio and colleagues demonstrated the effectiveness of 8 sessions of core-specific training in a group of 24 female elite road cyclists. In their study, the experimental group increased their front plank, side plank, and single-leg deadlift stability when compared against the control group. The 6 exercises utilized were single-leg balance with rotation, T balance, front plank with alternating leg lifts, dead bug, bird dog, and single-leg bridges. Sets ranged from 2-3 sets, and repetitions ranged from 10-16 per set. All participants demonstrated improved core strength and endurance.  An increase in front plank time has been correlated with a reduction in nonspecific low back pain in numerous studies.

Click here to see which exercises are best for your low back pain