How to Protect Your Body While Cycling

Originally written and posted by the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors

Cycling in Alberta has seen a spike in popularity, trading in the car for a bicycle has become more commonplace than ever. Some cyclists strap on their helmets and ride for exercise or enjoyment while others view cycling as a way to protect the environment from unnecessary emissions.

Although cycling has many benefits, cyclists can be at risk of injury from their sport. The repetitive nature of riding a bike can cause problems with both muscles and joints due to overtraining, poor form, poorly fit bike, or many other factors.

Common biking Injuries and how to prevent them

Lower back pain

Lower Back pain (LBP) can cause problem for cyclists for a number of reasons. The easiest explanation is the prolonged bending of the backIt doesn’t take a Musculoskeletal (MSK) expert to see that cyclists spend long periods of time in a fixed position.  A poorly fit bike or bad body position on the bike can lead to lower back pain due to abnormal wear to the joints along your spine as well a number of muscular imbalances.

How to prevent LBP – There are a few tools you can use to help fight lower back pain while you hit the road on your bike.

Form - As with anything to do with the spine, posture is important.  While riding, keep a neutral spine by bending at the hips and avoid hunching your mid-back.  Your spine naturally has a curve to it, this should be maintained while riding but not overemphasized or flattened. It is often difficult to evaluate your own posture so it is worth having someone look at your body position on your bike or use a trainer in front of a mirror.

Equipment - A poorly fit bike may also be the cause of your LBP, being either too stretched out or compacted by your bike can result in abnormal stresses to your back.  Most local bike shops have trained staff that can assist you with ensuring your bike is the correct size for you as well as any minor adjustments required to fit the bike to your body.

Knee pain

Pain in your knees can be caused by several factors, most commonly it is due to poorly adjusted cleats or pedals forcing your feet out of alignment with your knees however improper seat height, prior knee injuries, poor cycling form, muscle imbalance or overtraining can cause knee pain.

How to prevent knee pain – There are a few things to look for when trying to determine the cause of your knee pain. 

Pedals/Cleats - How your feet sit on the pedalscould be the key to preventing your knee pain, especially if you are using clipless pedals that lock your feet in place. Your knee should be pointing straight ahead and your feet should be parallel to the ground while you are pedaling. Riders often have a tendency to tilt their knees out.

Seat Height – A seat height that is either too high or too low will cause stress on the knees.  Too high and you will be hyperextending the knee on every pedal stroke and too low causes a loss in power and excessive load to the knees.  Ideally, your knee should be slightly bent (not locked) at the bottom of your pedal stroke with your feet parallel to the ground.

Prior Injury

If you have had a prior injury to your knee, hip or ankles your seat height, pedal positioning and other bio-mechanics will need to adapt. If you have been cleared by a health care professional (such as your chiropractor)l to ride it is a good idea to get an assessment from a qualified bike fitter to ensure you are not causing re-injury.

Muscle Imbalance or overtraining

Muscle imbalance is quite common in cyclists since certain muscles will be strengthened by the exercise while other supporting musculature may not. It is a good idea to find an exercise to strengthen the stabilizing muscles in your leg to maintain balance.  For beginner riders it is important to start out slow and not seek massive gains in distance, speed, time or effort too quickly. Your body will need time to adjust to a change in activity.

Shoulder Pain

Pain in your shoulders while riding can be caused by carrying stress in your shoulders while riding, poor body position on the bike or a poorly fit bike.

Wrist Pain

The most common cause of wrist pain is a very aggressive cycling position that causes you to put a lot weight on your handlebars. Try to move your hand position around on your handlebars as much as possible to avoid the same position for extended periods of time.

Visit your Chiropractor

If you’re thinking about taking up cycling talk to your chiropractor before you strap on the helmet and hit the road. Together you will be able to identify potential injury concerns and ensure you get off to an injury free start.  If you are experiencing pain, numbness or tingling or other MSK problems while riding your chiropractor will also be able to provide treatment and advice to treat these problems.


Avoiding Injury While Running or Jogging

Originally written and posted by the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors.
The New Year has arrived. If you think you’re spotting more folks at your local gym or a few more people braving the elements and jogging outdoors, you’re probably right. New Year’s resolution-ers are out in full force this time of year, hoping to get their fitness goals off to a running start (pun intended).
Running or jogging is often the preferred method for those looking to trim their waistline; however, it can take its toll on your body in particular your joints, increasing your chance of injuries all the way from your feet, up to your neck. To help ensure your resolution doesn’t get halted because of injury, make sure you know the best styles and techniques for running or jogging.
Examine Your Running Style
Everyone has their own unique running style. If you were to watch a group of joggers closely, you would see each person runs differently. There is no one, correct way to run, but there are ways to fine-tune your running technique to prevent injury.
Posture – Just like in all aspects of our lives, posture is very important when we run. Good posture will help release tension and reduce strain in your neck and shoulders. This can help prevent muscle fatigue. You can improve your running posture by following some simple, key principles:
Hold your head high, centered between your shoulders and keep your back straight. We have a tendency to lean forward and slouch when we are tired, but this can lead to fatigue and tightness in the neck, as well as the shoulders, back and even your hamstrings. A good rule is to always keep your focus 30-40 yards in front of you. This will force you to keep your head up.
Keep your shoulders relaxed and parallel to the ground. Do not pull your shoulder blades together. This can increase shoulder tension. We also have a tendency to rise our shoulders near are our ears as we tire while running, much like when we are cold. Drop your arms and shake them loosely if you feel this happening.
Pay attention to your arms and hands - It’s easy to imagine that our arms and hands are just along for the ride as we run. This couldn’t be farther than the truth. Your arms and hands are just as important as your legs when you run.
Keep your hands and wrists loose. This will help you avoid tension in your hands and arms, while using less energy and decrease the chance of tension working its way up to your shoulders
Allow your arms to swing from the shoulders like a pendulum from front to back. Be careful to prevent your arms from crossing the midline of your body.
As you endurance improves and your speed increases, so should the rate at which your arms swing. Swinging your arms at a faster rate will help with your balance and will assist you with for faster leg turnover.
Don’t Over-Stride - When you extend your lead foot too far out in front of the body, it lands in front of your center of gravity creating a breaking effect, this is called over-striding. This can lead to injuries such as runner’s knee and shin splints. As runners become more experienced, their stride lengthens naturally.  This is not due to overstretching the lead leg as many new runners do, but rather from increasing the forward motion of the rear leg.
If you run on a treadmill, you will naturally shorten your movements because of the length of the treadmill’s belt.  This isn’t a problem, but in the spring, if you decide to run outside again, you may have to make adjustments to your stride.
Research has also shown that the biggest difference between healthy runners and ones that are often injured is stride variability. Your goal as a runner should be to repeat the same stride every time. In injured runners, the joint angles and motions were slightly different with each stride.
Setting Manageable Goals
New Year’s Resolution-ers and even the general, healthy, active-living crowd, can often be victims of their own lofty goals. It’s important for runners, especially new runners, to follow a training schedule that builds mileage and speed in a logical way. Starting a log to track your running successes is a good idea.  Also to find a beginners schedule so that you can learn to start conditioning properly before implementing strength or speed training
Over-training is one of the easiest ways to injure yourself.  Break your training into small goals using a calendar that extends far out. If you only ran for 20 minutes last week, don’t try to run for an hour the next. Your body isn’t equipped to handle the added stress yet.
How Your Chiropractor Can Help
If you’re gearing up to begin a new running or jogging regimen or have a concern about an injury you’ve sustained while being active, your chiropractor is a good place to start.
Many injuries can be prevented simply by being evaluated by a chiropractor.  Your chiropractor will be able to identify problem areas, such as muscle imbalances, joint dysfunctions, or anything else that could lead to pain and injury.  Running is a safe, fun and relaxing activity, that can help you trim up and condition your body.  Let your chiropractor help lead you towards a successful and injury free running program. Any time you experience pain, muscle imbalance or joint restriction, see your chiropractor.
As part of your healthcare team, your chiropractor can also tell you if a pre-existing injury could be a concern for your new running plan.