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Why is Cycling such a pain in the neck?

Tanya Bell-Jenje (Msc physio) June 20, 2018 0 comments

Studies show that 45 per cent of cyclists suffer from chronic neck pain, which is often worse after a ride (Wilber et al, 1995). Many complain of bilateral upper trapezius (shoulder) pain after cycling for more than 20 minutes and the resulting headache is often compared to a hangover. Traditional neck stretches don’t seem to help, so read on to understand the biomechanical causes of neck overload and to learn some exercises to correct the aggravating muscle imbalances. A lordosis is the optimal curvature of the cervical spine (the neck) when it is in a neutral position. If it were possible to ride a bike with the vertebrae in this optimal position, there would be no load on the neck facet joints, and no likelihood of pain. Alas, this ideal neck alignment doesn’t exist in cyclists, who mostly like to ride with the thoracic (middle) spine flexed and the neck extended so they can look at the road ahead looking is an important aspect of survival on the road or mountain track after all). This sustained chin-poke and cervical extension compresses and overloads the facet joints and each facet joint (found between every two vertebrae and to the sides of the disc) can be likened to a knee joint – each is capable of causing pain, as they are rich in pain-generating nerve endings.

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