Neck pain is one of the most common complaints from cyclists – and it’s no wonder! We cyclists spend a lot of waking hours in the same position with our backs bent in a forward position, placing great demands on the neck. We sit bent over driving, we sit bent over at our desks, and we sit bent over our handlebars, spinning pedal strokes down the road.
Over time, all those hours in that forward-leaning position, on and off the bike, can lead to increased load and stress on muscles, ligaments, and joints of the spine. If the upper thoracic spine is tight, it can create extra stress on the cervical spine and increase neck muscle tension, which can often lead to neck pain.
So, what do we do to ensure a pain-free ride? The key thing is to incorporate movements and stretches that reverse the cycling posture. For example, posture-reversal stretches such as back bends that extend the back are a great antidote to the ﬂexed, forward-leaning position on the bike.
Here are four stretches that are especially useful post-cycling to improve your flexibility and mobility and reduce neck muscle strain.
Chest and Bicep Stretch
Clasp your hands behind your back and straighten your arms, then slowly raise them toward the ceiling. Hold when you feel a stretch in your chest and the front of your arms. Hold the gentle stretch for 30 seconds.
TIP: Make sure to keep your back straight during the exercise.
Repeat 3 times.
Seated Thoracic Extension
Begin sitting upright in a chair with your hands clasped behind your neck. Slowly bend your head and neck backward, curving your upper back. Hold briefly, then return to the starting position and repeat. TIP: Try to only bend your upper back and keep your lower back still during the exercise.
TIP: Try to only bend your upper back and keep your lower back still during the exercise.
Complete 10-20 repetitions.
Open Book Stretch
Begin lying on your side with both legs bent at a 90-degree angle, and your arms together straight in front of you on the ground. Slowly move your top arm away from your other arm, toward the floor on your other side, while rotating your trunk at the same time. Try to touch your shoulder blade to the floor while keeping your hips facing straight forward. Bring your arm back and repeat.
Complete 10 repetitions on each side.
Lumbar Extension Back Bends
Begin in a standing upright position with your hands resting on your hips. Slowly arch your trunk backwards and hold briefly, then return to the starting position. Make sure to maintain your balance during the exercise and do not bend your knees.
Complete 10-20 repetitions.
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