No matter you’re a fresh cyclist or an experienced rider, you can feel your neck and your shoulders tightness when you ride for a long time. What happened? Some might think that is not a serious problem and consider it as a kind of common discomfort after strenuous exercise. Actually, it will get worse if you don’t pay attention to it.
Cycling requires you to maintain a posture in a long time riding. If you feel pain on your neck and shoulders on bikes, that will be a warning sign which means your body position cause more over stress on your neck and you should be corrected. The following are the cause of neck pain and the advice to prevent.
The main cause of neck pain is the poor posture. Sometimes it is a bad habit from your daily work and it needs to be corrected. But more often it is a result of causing the poor posture on your bike. Your goal on bike, or anywhere for that matter, should maintain a good spine posture. This is the position that the least strain on your joint and the least of muscle work on. If you over stretch your neck and poke your chin forwards, it will place uncomfortable pressure on the joints in your neck, especially when you ride for a long time. Overusing will lead to painful fatigue.
a. You should keep your chest up and your chin down to maintain a straight line through your spine as far as possible.
b. Relax your shoulders and don’t hunch up to your ears.
c. Elbows should be unlocked, not collapsed. It allows bending your elbows slightly to act as shock absorbers.
d. Look the safe distance ahead down the road and the potholes and other hazards in front of you. Don’t over stretch your neck.
e. Change your hand position to reduce muscle fatigue sometimes.
2. Too low drop
One key factor of causing your neck pain is the low handlebar, relative the height of the saddle. In this position, if you need to crane your neck to look the front road, you will force your neck to the overextended position. Staying this position for a prolonged time can create joint strain. The cervical extensor muscles which hold your head up will fatigue if overuse. Over time it will cause to uncomfortable neck pain.
You should learn to adjust your handlebar that is proper to you. The handlebar should be in the range of 6-8 cm below your saddle and the variance depends on your height and the flexibility of your legs, pelvis and lower back. This can be determined by checking whether you can touch your toes with your fingers.
After you set your saddle, you can measure the height of the saddle from the floor and set the handlebar 6-8 cm drop from the top of the handlebar. If you don’t know how to fit or how tight the bolts need to be, you can ask a shop for help.
3. Saddle position
If your saddle is tilted too down, it will lead you to slide off the front of your saddle and you have to place more weight on your hands to hold yourself up. Your upper trapezius and shoulder muscles will be required to support your weight, causing the early fatigue and pain.
If your saddle is leaned too up, it will cause your pelvis and back to go into a poor posture and lead to discomfort in the crotch area. The poor back position will continue up the entire spine and cause a poking chin, which in turn will strain the neck.
Make sure your correct height of the saddle. Your saddle should be tilted down 1 degree or level, which can be good for a more upright rider. You sit on your bike with wearing the socks. Putting your heels on the pedals and using the walls steady yourself. When the pedal reaches the lowest point, your feet should be straight. If your body needs to lean forward or pelvis needs to tip the side to reach the pedal, it means your saddle is too high. Make sure your saddle is nearly as horizontal as possible. If it’s tilted forward, it will lean your weight toward onto your arms.
4. Frame size
If your bike is too long, it can also be a question to your neck. An improper frame can stretch your body too much and tighten from your shoulders to your neck. Don’t go much shorter than 100 mm or your bike may ride squirrelly and give you problems.
If the saddle needs you to look at a bike to set the lowest position where you can climb, it means the frame is too big for you. It refers that the top tube will be too long for you, lengthening your reach. This is the key way to measure the frame. You can seek advice in your bike shop. The following is a rough guide to frame size:
If you’re around 5’5” to 5’7”, pick a 50-52cm top tube length;
If you’re around 5’7” to 5’9”, pick a 52-54cm top tube length;
If you’re around 5’9” to 5’11”, pick a 54-56cm top tube length.
5. Neck exercises
In order to want the neck muscle relaxed and it is strong enough to support your riding, you should also take some neck exercise before and after your riding. Warming up the muscle in the neck can help prevent the pain and stretching can help release tension after riding.
Before your cycling
a. Drop your chin slightly from looking straight ahead and rotate your head slowly so that you look your right shoulder then down at the floor at the point about 2m away. Stay for 10 seconds and repeat 2 times.
b. Roll your shoulders backward for 30 seconds.
c. Standing and looking forward. Raise your head back slightly and hold 10 seconds and repeat 2 times.
After your cycling
a. Standing and looking down 45 degrees and turn your head to on side. Place your hand on your head and use the weight of your hand to pull your head a little with dropping the opposite shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds then do on the other side. Repeat 2 times.
b. When you’re taking a shower, you can use your fingers to massage any tight muscle in your neck. Let the shower pour onto the muscle of the neck.