How Do I Stop My Shoulders From Hurting When Cycling?

Do you love to cycle, but find that your shoulders start to ache after a while?

If so, you are not alone.

Many cyclists experience shoulder pain when they ride their bikes, and it can be debilitating.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent and relieve shoulder pain associated with cycling.

In this article, we will discuss why cycling can cause shoulder pain, how to avoid it in the first place, as well as exercises that you can do to help treat existing shoulder injuries from cycling.

So if you’re ready to get out on your bike without the worry of shoulder pain, let’s get started!

Can Cycling Cause Shoulder Pain? Is Biking Bad For Shoulders?

It’s a valid question, especially for those who enjoy cycling or are considering taking up the activity.

The truth is that riding a bike can put pressure on your shoulders and neck muscles, leading to discomfort or even injury if not careful.

First of all, it’s important to understand why cycling puts strain on the body.

When you’re in an upright position with both arms stretched out, this creates stress on the joints and muscles in your upper back and shoulders.

man cyclist with should pain

Also, as you turn side-to-side while steering the handlebars, there is increased tension on these same parts of the body.

When you look at the body position typically taken up when cycling, 40% of the rider’s weight is placed on the upper limbs.

And when you lean forward into an aerodynamic posture during long rides, more strain is placed onto your neck and shoulders due to gravity pulling down from above.

This places considerable strain on the shoulders and can cause pain or damage due to overexertion or incorrect technique.

How Do I Prevent Shoulder Pain While Cycling?

The first step in preventing shoulder injury from cycling is to make sure your bike fits properly.

Having a correctly fitted bicycle will ensure that your arms and shoulders are in an ergonomically correct position when riding for extended periods of time.

Look into purchasing padded handlebars or gloves which help absorb some of the shock and vibration that comes along with cycling on rough roads.

Next, be aware of your posture while cycling. Try to keep your hands in a neutral position throughout the ride.

young female cyclist is experiencing should cram

Also, make sure not to hunch over or have an aggressive position for long periods of time as this can put unnecessary stress on your trapezius muscles and thoracic spine.

Ensure you are taking regular breaks throughout the ride so that you’re not putting too much strain on your body for extended periods of time.

Even if it’s just stopping for water or snacks every half hour or so – these little pauses will add up.

Finally, strengthen your core muscles with exercises such as planks and crunches – this will give you more stability when riding and help prevent bad posture which can lead to shoulder issues over time.

Overuse Cycling Injuries Are Avoidable

Prevention is always better than cure.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for cyclists to experience shoulder pain due to overuse injuries.

But don’t worry! Overuse cycling injuries are avoidable when you take the necessary precautions.

Here’s how.

Preventative Steps:

  • Warm Up & Cool Down Properly: Warming up before each ride is essential for preventing injury. It helps your body prepare for exercise by increasing blood flow and loosening tight muscles. Likewise, cooling down after each ride allows your body to slowly transition back into rest mode and prevents lactic acid buildup in the muscles.
  • Modify Your Technique: Adopting proper cycling techniques is key to reducing the risk of injury while riding. Make sure that you keep your upper body relaxed and your elbows bent at all times, as this will help reduce tension in the shoulders while also improving balance on the bike. Additionally, focus on using smooth pedaling motions rather than pushing hard with every stroke of the pedal.
woman getting shoulder pain after cycling

Strength Training Exercises:

  • Shoulder Mobility Drills: Regularly incorporating mobility drills into your workout routine can help improve flexibility in the shoulders and prevent strain from long rides or repetitive movements. Some examples include neck flexion and extension and wide rows. We dive deep into these exercises in the next section.
  • Core Strengthening Exercises: Building strength in your core muscles has numerous benefits to protecting your spine during intense physical activity and stabilizing the torso. Plank exercises, Russian twist variations, bird dogs, and deadlifts are some good options for strengthening your core muscles.

Exercises To Treat Shoulder And Neck Pain From Cycling

Most cyclists have experienced neck and shoulder pain from time to time, especially when riding for extended periods.

The best way to address this problem is with a proper bike fit.

However, for those who don’t experience pain cycling for short periods of time but start to feel discomfort after riding for more than four hours, it probably means that their muscles aren’t strong enough to support the weight of their head.

The trapezius muscles along the side of the neck and shoulders become tense when they are overworked due to how long they are being used continuously without rest.

Fortunately, there are exercises you can do to alleviate or prevent these types of pains associated with long rides.

Let’s dive deep into these exercises.

1. Flexion & Extension

To do a flexion stretch, sit or stand with an upright posture and slowly lower the chin toward the chest until you feel a gentle stretch at the back of your neck.

Hold this position for 5 seconds before returning to an upright position. Repeat this process five times as needed throughout the day.

To perform the extension head tilt, start by sitting in an upright position with your chin slightly tucked in towards your chest.

Then, tip your head back, elongating the neck in the opposite direction of flexion (bending) until your nose is pointed towards the sky.

Hold this position for five seconds before returning to your original upright posture.

Repeat this sequence five times for a complete extension head tilt stretch.

When done properly, this movement should be comfortable and gentle enough to allow you to relax while stretching out any tension built up in your upper back, shoulders, and neck muscles.

Be sure not to force the motion or move too quickly as both of these could lead to injury or discomfort.

Regularly doing this simple exercise can help reduce soreness in your neck muscles, improve your posture, and provide much-needed relaxation throughout the day.

2. Right And Left Rotation

Right and left rotation exercises help to promote mobility in the neck, which is beneficial for a range of movement, posture, and comfort.

To do right and left rotation exercises, begin by positioning yourself in a neutral spine position meaning your head, back and pelvis are all facing forward.

Once comfortable and aligned, rotate your head slowly so that your chin faces towards each shoulder; ensuring that your chest remains facing forward.

Hold this position for at least five seconds before releasing to complete one rep on both sides (left & right).

To gain maximum benefit from this exercise repeat a total of five reps per side or continue until there’s a noticeable improvement in flexibility and the ability to move much easier without experiencing any stiffness or disconnection between your head & body when moving or exercising.

3. Right And Left Lateral Flexion

The movement helps to stretch tense muscles on the sides of the neck, ensuring that your musculoskeletal system is working properly.

To do this movement, firstly come into a neutral spine position where your ears are in line with your shoulders.

Then begin by bending the right side of the neck down towards the right shoulder so that your ear is facing down towards the shoulder.

Hold this bend for 5 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side with your left ear facing down towards your left shoulder.

This can be repeated 5 times on each side for maximum benefit.

4. Chin Tucks

Chin tucks involve bringing the chin towards the chest and holding it there for a few seconds before releasing.

This helps to stretch out tight neck muscles, which can contribute to shoulder discomfort when riding.

It also helps to reduce tension in the head and neck that may be causing pinched nerves or other issues with posture.

To perform a proper chin tuck, you should sit up straight with your shoulders pulled back slightly as if you were about to stand up.

Keeping your eyes forward, slowly bring your chin down towards your chest until you feel a slight stretch in the front of your neck.

Hold this position for five seconds before returning to the starting position and repeat five times.

5. Wide Rows

Wide Rows, also known as elbow presses, are a great exercise to strengthen the shoulders and back.

They help to improve posture while building strength and stability throughout your upper body.

The exercise is performed by holding your elbows away from your body at shoulder height and then bringing them back so that you feel a squeeze in the shoulder blades towards the spine.

It’s best to aim for 10 repetitions of this exercise and hold it for 5 seconds each time.

When performing wide rows, it’s important to pay attention to form as improper technique won’t give you any benefits and could even cause further injury.

The key is to keep your back flat during the entire movement and pull your elbows out slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

Make sure you’re not bending at the elbow or hunching over as this can lead to tension in other areas of the body.

To do these correctly, ensure that you’re using the proper rowing technique by holding both ends of the barbell firmly against your chest before beginning the exercise.

As always, be mindful of how much weight you’re using so as not to overextend yourself and risk injury.

6. Shoulder Rolls

Shoulder rolls are an effective stretch that can help release tension in the upper trapezius and deltoid muscles.

The exercise is performed by raising the shoulders up to the ears, contracting the upper trapezius, then rolling back and down.

With each roll, it is important to rotate the shoulder blades together.

To make sure you get a full range of motion for maximal benefit in releasing tension and stretching out your muscles, make sure to complete 10 full circles before stopping.

7. Neck Sit-Ups Extension

Neck sit-ups offer an excellent way to increase the strength and flexibility of your neck muscles.

Unlike traditional sit-ups or crunches, neck sit-ups are done while lying on your stomach with your head flexed off the edge of a surface such as a bed.

The goal is to use your own body weight to slowly lift your head into an extended position over a period of five seconds.

Once in the flexed position, you can then hold it there for a moment before returning your head back to its start point with control and going again.

8. Neck Sit-Ups Flexion

This particular exercise involves lying on your back with your head off the bed, then bringing your chin towards your chest.

It is important to ensure that you are performing this exercise correctly to avoid injuries while also achieving maximum benefit from them.

When beginning, it’s a good idea to limit repetition to 10 times.

Start by focusing on keeping your neck straight, with the back of your head slightly raised above the bed.

Slowly lower and raise your chin, feeling the muscles of your neck contract and relax as you do so.

Whenever possible hold for a second at each end of the range of motion for maximum effect.

Ensure that you touch your chest lightly and do not use excessive force or momentum to complete this exercise, ultimately leveraging control over power when completing these movements.

You can gradually increase repetitions once comfortable with executing proper form effectively.

Neck sit-ups are an effective way to develop mobility in the cervical spine and provide many benefits with regular practice.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to take the necessary steps to protect your shoulders when cycling.

Performing neck flexion and extension exercises outlined before and after a ride can help reduce soreness in the shoulders.

It is also essential to adjust your bike seat so that you are sitting in an upright position with good posture while cycling.

If you have previously suffered from shoulder injuries, make sure to wait long enough for them to heal properly before returning to cycling.

Frequently Asked Questions

The best stretches before cycling include dynamic stretches such as leg swings, hip circles, and ankle rotations to warm up the body.

After cycling, focus on static stretches like quadricep stretches, hamstring stretches, and calf stretches to aid recovery and increase flexibility.

Remember to hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds and avoid bouncing.

To avoid shoulder pain, it’s recommended to perform neck extension and flexion exercises as well.

To improve your posture while cycling, focus on maintaining a neutral spine, engaging your core muscles, and keeping your shoulders relaxed.

Adjust your bike’s saddle, handlebars, and cleat position for optimal comfort and alignment.

Additionally, remember to change hand positions frequently and avoid hunching over too much.

You should wait until your shoulder injury has healed and you’ve regained normal function, which can vary depending on the severity of the injury.

Consult with a medical professional for personalized advice.

Gradually resume cycling while monitoring your pain and comfort levels.

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