Lower back pain

11 replies [Last post]
Anonymous's picture

Recently, I have begun feeling a constant pain in my lower back, particularly during long rides. The pain seems to subside if I arch my back, but then comes back when I relax my posture.

I have tried stretching but have not noticed any difference. I am also considering another bike fit, but I've been riding the same bike for a while and the back pain is a recent thing. Any ideas as to what I might do?

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Strengthen deep core muscles

The iliopsoas is a repeat offender.

Even (or especially) if you have strong ab muscles, the inner stabilizers can turn flaccid. Stability ball type exercises and free weights. Doesn't have to be heavy, light may be preferable to improve form.

See a physical therapist. If this is indeed the problem and you wait too long to address it, it can weaken your iliosacral joint such that your hips start moving independently. It can be excruciatingly painful.

Maybe Dr. Claudette will weigh in on this one -- although of course none of us can diagnose your problem. You have to see a physician.

Anonymous's picture
Sam AA (not verified)

"I think a common mistake a lot of cyclists make is not exercising upper body: back, abdomen, shoulders, arms, chest, etc. If these parts are not trained they are going to pain.
This may not be your problem but I am making a general observation.

Anonymous's picture
JHL (not verified)
flip the stem - to a higher rise (nm)
Anonymous's picture
Yogi (not verified)
Pain in the back

The pain can be caused by any number of factors, as you fatigue during long rides, the erector spinae (your lower back muscles), will have a tougher time keeping your spine neutral. The pain MIGHT be from compression of the anterior lumber spine when you lose your form, that is why pressure is reduced when you arch your back.

Not know anything about your shape, riding position, or average mileage. It’s hard to tell what’ll alleviate the pain. Safe stretching always helps. Just be aware that the more flexible your hamstrings are, you‘ll have a easier time rolling your pelvis forward to get more aero (torso approaches the top tube/ horizontal spine). The flip side is that, the more aero you get, the more strain will be on your lower back when you ride.

Work on strengthening your mid-section (abs, obliques, and lower back muscles) when you’re off the bike and pain free. Cyclists usually have strong but tight sosas, so try to stretch those if you can. The SI joint is usually not a problem if you’re a dude.

Other things that will help is to take shorter rides in the off-season and built up the distance slowly in the spring. If you have to ride long distances in the winter, cut down the pace a bit.

Good Luck

Anonymous's picture
Betsy (not verified)
Hip flexors

I agree that iliopsoas is a very common problem when dealing with low back pain. However, as it's a hip flexor (along with rectus femoris - the one quad that crosses both the hip and the knee), cycling tends to make it tight and short. This will cause an anterior pelvic tilt (slight forward bend at the hips) when standing causing you to arch your back in order to stand up straight. If this becomes chronic it can cause low back pain. Of course, as Carol said, it's impossible to diagnose or assess this online, but try doing stretches for the front of the hip.

Anonymous's picture
DR (not verified)

Thanks for all your advice. I guess the best thing to do is go to a physical therapist and see what they say.

Anonymous's picture
Bill Vojtech (not verified)

I've always found that when my hamstrings are tight, I can't lean forward to the bars without rounding out my lower back, which puts strain on it. With properly stretched hamstrings, I can rotate my hips forward and not strain my lower back.

Better to see a physical therapist, (one who uses the McKenzie Method), before you get full blown sciatica or other damage.

Anonymous's picture
mike p (not verified)

ditto on the pt and the hamstrings, find one that is a serious cyclist if you can
good luck

Anonymous's picture
Fendergal (not verified)

Maybe you don't actually need to see a PT.

How about embarking on a six-month program of core strength, strength training in general, and other self-care (massage, hot soaks, yoga)? If things haven't improved, then go see a PT or other structural health professional. (Disclosure: I'm a massage therapist.)

Anonymous's picture
Betsy (not verified)
Me too

Hi Fendergal. I'm an LMT also. Maybe we can trade. :-)

Anonymous's picture
Claudette (not verified)
Many possibilities

Hi, sorry it's taken so long for me to see this one.

SO many reasons for low back pain. However, when we ride in a crouched position for a long time, we stress our sacro-iliac joints (where the spine meets the pelvis). There are ligaments there which can become inflamed.

The iliopsoas can become tight and cause very deep lower back and pelvic pain. The muscle runs along the inside of the spine to attach to the lesser trochanter of the femur and moves when we pedal. However, arching your back would not change the feeling of pain. Agreed that we all need to STRETCH, especially our hip flexors, ilio-tibial bands and hamstrings.

Therapy or massage are good options. We ought not neglect our upper body and core when we train. Also, a course of an anti-inflammatory medicine (like ibuprofen or naprosyn) for 2 weeks if you can tolerate these may help calm any inflammation that is there.

These are my two cents. Obviously this is no substitute for a medical examination but it might get you started in the right direction.

cycling trips