Biking Injury Prevention and Treatment

Bike riding is immensely popular in the United States, with more than 54 million people engaging in the sport recreationally. The pandemic led to a cycling boom and the increase in biking has been largely maintained in the aftermath. There are quite a few potential reasons for the growth of biking, an increase in the availability and popularity of new bikes—including e-bikes, gravel bikes, and more, cities creating safer environments for bike riding, commuter cycling, and even biking-related destination travel. With all this fun biking going on and the many health benefits of riding, we invite everyone to get involved safely. Speaking of safety, we encourage you to ride in groups, share your route with someone who is not riding with you, follow all traffic laws, wear bright clothing, ride defensively, plan your routes to use safer roads with less traffic, carry a mobile device, identification, and a health insurance card.

The Health Benefits of Biking

Bike riding is an excellent form of exercise for people of all ages, contributing to overall health and fitness while being a low-impact and enjoyable activity. Here’s a list of some of the health benefits of biking. Many of these are directly linked to orthopedic health.

  • Improved cardiovascular fitness: Cycling is an aerobic activity that strengthens the heart, blood vessels, and lungs, improving overall cardiovascular health.
  • Increased muscle strength and flexibility: Biking works major muscle groups, particularly in the legs, improving strength and flexibility.
  • Better joint mobility: As a low-impact exercise, cycling improves joint mobility without putting excessive stress on joints.
  • Weight management: Regular cycling can help with weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight by burning calories and increasing metabolism.
  • Reduced risk of diseases: Cycling can help protect against serious diseases like stroke, heart attack, some cancers, depression, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis.
  • Enhanced mental health and lowered stress levels: Biking outdoors can improve cognitive function, boost mood, and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression by promoting the release of endorphins and providing a form of active meditation.
  • Improved posture and coordination: Regular cycling can enhance overall body posture and coordination.
  • Strengthened bones: Biking, as a weight-bearing exercise, can help strengthen bones.
  • Better sleep: Regular physical activity like biking can contribute to improved sleep quality.
  • Increased energy and stamina: Consistent cycling improves overall energy levels and endurance.
  • Enhanced immune system: Moderate, regular exercise like cycling can strengthen the immune system.

Overuse Injuries

  • Knee Pain – The most common overuse injury, often due to improper bike fit or repetitive stress. Watch for tendonitis of the patella and quadriceps as well as IT Band syndrome.
  • Lower Back Pain – This is often caused by prolonged sitting and leaning forward, which can strain the spine and the sacroiliac joint.
  • Neck Pain – This often comes as a result of holding the head in a fixed position for extended periods, often due to low handlebars or poor posture.
  • Wrist and Hand Pain – Biking-related hand and wrist pain is frequently attributed to prolonged pressure on the wrists and improper hand position.
  • Foot Numbness and Tingling – Often resulting from riding in shoes that are too tight or improper cleat positioning, leading to nerve compression.
  • Achilles Tendonitis – Inflammation from repetitive stress of the Achilles tendon

Injury Prevention: Tips and Stretches for Bike Riding

Biking is a lot more enjoyable when you’re healthy and able to participate. So, avoiding the risk of injury is important. Here are some ways to stay healthy and in the saddle all season long:

Injury Prevention Tips

  • Ensure Proper Bike Fit – Get your bike professionally fitted to your body to reduce strain on joints and muscles.
  • Wear Proper Gear – Wear a helmet, padded shorts, and gloves to protect against impacts and friction.
  • Move Around on the Bike – Change positions occasionally to avoid staying in one static posture for too long.
  • Engage in Strength Training – Build muscle groups that translate effectively to cycling by focusing on squats, lunges, and core work for cycle-specific strength.
  • Allow for Recovery – Even though the riding season may feel short, don’t do hard rides every day. Incorporate rest days and easy rides into your training.
  • Warm Up Before Riding – Even the most elite riders competing in races that take many hours and cover more than 100 miles warm up. Start with 5-10 minutes of light cycling at a slow pace to gradually increase your heart rate and warm up the muscles. Add some dynamic stretches such as leg swings and arm and hip circles.
  • Cool Down After Riding – Again, even riders in Tour de France end five grueling hours in the saddle with a cool down. Gradually decrease the intensity of your cycling for the last 5-10 minutes of your ride. When you get off the bike, do some light walking to transition your body. Perform post-ride static stretches, holding each stretch for 15-30 seconds without bouncing. Focus on the major muscle groups used in cycling, including the legs, hips, lower back, and shoulders.

Bike Injury Treatment

If you encounter pain or injury from biking, it’s important to take appropriate steps immediately. The appropriate steps are determined by the severity of the injury. In some instances, that means an ambulance and a trip to the closest emergency room. For others, rest and at-home treatment may be sufficient. Here are some recommendations on steps you can take:

For Muscle Strains and Soreness

  • Rest the affected muscles
  • Use ice and heat therapy alternately
  • Consider over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Gentle stretching and foam rolling after the pain subsides
  • Commit to proper rest and recovery
  • Make a gradual return to activity
  • Address any bike fit issues that may have contributed to the injury

Nutrition for Recovery

  • Increase protein intake for muscle repair
  • Ensure adequate hydration
  • Consider food rich in anti-inflammatory compounds

Seek Medical Attention as Needed

  • Head injuries or suspected concussions
  • Broken bones
  • Severe pain or swelling
  • Any injury that doesn’t improve with home treatment

Enjoy the Ride

Bike riding is a great way to stay active and make the most of time in the outdoors by riding safely and following our injury prevention tips. No matter what kind of biking you are doing, the MOSH team is here to be your support crew. If you or a loved one need an orthopedic assessment at any point in the riding season, we’re here for you. It’s as easy as visiting one of our convenient Ortho Walk-In Clinics. In these clinics you can be seen without a referral and no appointment is necessary. We wish you a great season and hope you enjoy every ride.