Repetitive Strain Injuries in Cycling

05.12.2021 18:23

Injuries are a part of an athlete's life. When we talk about cycling the injuries that come to mind are often the result of falls, pileups and faulty cutting-edge technology, but we don't often talk about repetitive strain.

While a dull ache can seem dismissible, these 'smaller' injuries can make or break careers, can alter the course of races and can be hard to recover from. Egan Bernal, Last year's Giro d'Italia winner, thought his back injuries might prevent him from participating only days before the race was set to start. It was these same injuries that saw him withdraw from the Tour De France - for which he was defending champion - in the final stages.

These injuries were the result of a marginal difference in the length of his legs - problems that may not have arisen if he didn't have his stellar career. But pro athletes have a lot of support with regard to their health - sponsors will pay any bills necessary that could get their contestant back on the road. If you're not a pro, you don't have that luxury - so it's important to pay attention to your body to ensure you're able to cycle for years to come. Let's look at some common cycling issues and how to treat them:

Muscle Strain

Cycling takes balance - and not just on the road, but also in your body. As you move up, down, left and right over the frame, your muscles are working to counterbalance your weight while exerting force on the pedals.

If you've strained a muscle (from a fall or just repetitive strain), your other muscles will have to pull more weight to compensate. In turn you face a risk of injury there as well. There's a sort of snowball effect at play, and it's one that can cause serious problems further down the line.

If you think you may have strained a muscle, it's a good time to take a break from cycling until you've healed. A short break now is better for your performance than a longer break later. If it's a muscle that's been strained from a specific style of riding, maybe try to stay on flat tarmac as opposed to gravel or trails.

Lower Back Pain

Hopefully your legs are the same length and you're not facing Egan's predicament. Lower back problems are most often caused by longer periods of leaning over the handlebars. If you work a desk-job as most of us do, the more likely you are to develop lower back issues.

If the pain is borderline unbearable, it's probably a good idea to go to a physiotherapist who'll be able to give your more in-depth advice as to how to attend to your injury.

If the pain is fairly new, start by taking regular stretches before, after and during training. Use a foam roller to massage this area and take a hot bath where you relax and enjoy games at every now and again to release tension in those important muscles.

If you're in any sort of pain, it's time to stop - check in with your body and make conscious decisions about injury prevention and care.
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