Cycling Pain And Numbness

By Trevor Chetcuti on 10 Oct 2014
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Cycling is one of the fastest growing fitness sports in Australia.

Since Cadel Evans won the Tour de France in 2011, cycling in this country has grown in leaps and bounds. There are more cyclists on our roads keeping fit now than ever before.

This seems like great news for our fitness, but there are a lot of health issues associated with cycling. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, most of these come back to one simple fact: we just aren’t designed to sit on a saddle.

The Heath Issues Associating With Cycling

At some stage, most people who cycle regularly, especially on race-bred road bikes, will stage suffer from back or neck pain. 

While fatigue is commonly responsible for this problem, our neurology also plays a significant role.

Our lower spines (lumbar) are just not designed to bend forward (flex). When we bend forward, our lower spine needs to rotate a little to move vital structures out of the way.

This coupled motion is present in every healthy person and helps to prevent us from doing damage to discs, muscles and ligaments. 

“The problem arises when we sit on a saddle and lean into our handlebars.”

Whilst the neurology governing this action is very complicated, we know that part of this action is achieved by certain muscles turning off as we flex and extend.

To the cyclist, the most important of these muscles is the right piriformis (right glute) and the left upper trapezius (left neck) muscle.

The effect of having these muscles turn off is a decrease in pedalling power and a predisposition to back and neck pain due to decreased spinal support.

The problem arises when we sit on a saddle and lean into our handlebars. The natural instinct is to keep the lower spine straight. If we do this the forward rotation of our pelvis causes our perineum and genital areas to compress, resulting in a level of discomfort.

Repeating this action over the long term compromises neurological and vascular supply to the genitals, potentially causing numbness and impotence.

Fixing The Problem Is Very Simple

Saddles need to change in shape and design to keep pressure off these vital structures.

New saddles such as the Selle SMP series have left traditional saddles behind, allowing us to keep the lumbar spine straight and relieve pressure off vital areas as we reach for those bars.

So when you hop on your bike for that next ride, check and see if your lower back is straight, or if you have a hunched or flexed lower spine.

“Most people who cycle regularly, especially on race-bred road bikes, will stage suffer from back or neck pain.”

Reducing lumbar spine flexion (lower back) below 25 degrees might just relieve all that discomfort when riding. The secret in doing so is a saddle that offers support in shape and allows for pressure-free riding.

There are many great stores that stock the Selle SMP range and other similar saddles, such as the Adamo.

All good bike stores will offer you the ability to test ride before purchasing. Saddles are like shoes and should never be purchased without spending a good couple of hours on one first.

About the Author

Dr Trevor has a passion for helping people that goes beyond what most people expect. He has a knack for getting to issues quickly and an amazing knowledge for all things health and wellbeing. With extensive study in areas such as Physiology, Nutrition, Supplementation, Applied Kinesiology, Neuro Emotional Technique and Chiropractic, Dr Trevor's skills at working with a wide range of health and performance issues have become widely respected.

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