Physiotherapy for Cyclists - Cyclone Challenge 

May 2, 2022

Long distance cycling endurance events like the Cyclone Challenge are becoming ever more popular and at Physiotherapy Matters we love to support those who are pushing their boundaries by trying to help them look after their bodies. This year, we are once again sponsoring and offering our support to the Cyclone festival of cycling. We will be at the Cyclone Challenge event on the 25th of June providing physiotherapy for cyclists in the form of 15-minute massages for the bargain price of just £10 so if you’re taking part, don’t be shy, come in and say hello! If you’re a keen cyclist and would like to get involved; visit: https://cyclonecycling.com/ride?event=cyclone-challenge-ride-a-34miles&rideid=206

Many people use cycling as a simple mode of transport, but now more than ever fitness lovers are using cycling as an effective way to keep fit and push themselves to their limits. Fitness fanatics are forever pushing boundaries on the challenges they take on, with more and more people taking on long distance cycling endurance events to challenge their mental and physical capabilities.

The demands of cycling on the body create obvious health benefits but can also from time-to-time lead to some unwanted effects on the muscles and joints. In preparation for the Cyclone Challenge this blog talks through some of the benefits of cycling but also gives you an insight into some of the common cycling injuries. Whether you’re in the midst of a high intensity training programme or just looking forward to your weekend rides out with the family, we want to keep you covered on Physiotherapy for cyclists.

Heath Benefits:

Cycling is a great way to stay in shape and has so many benefits for you physical and mental health such as:

Improved balance and co-ordination

• Strengthening of muscles throughout the whole body
• Improved cardiovascular fitness and endurance: While cycling you’re constantly pumping blood through the whole body which improves the stamina of your heart and lungs.
• Increased activity: Cycling reduces your sedentary time. Unlike driving, commuting, watching TV it gets you active which we know is statistically linked to improved health and well-being
• Reduced stress: Most scientific research has generally supported the idea that exercise helps to ease stress. Bike commuters have reported lower stress levels than their counterparts’ using cars and mass transit
• Weight Loss: How many calories you use up whilst cycling depends on your weight, height, age and how fast you ride etc. (Very) generally speaking, cycling can burn around five calories a minute.
• Boosts the immune system: Cycling can strengthen your immune system and could protect against certain types of cancer. Researchers found that taking part in exercise can boost the number of immune system cells circulating in the body, and while the effect is only temporary, taking part in exercise regularly means that the body becomes more vigilant of viruses and bacteria that can cause conditions such as the common cold.
• Increases Longevity: Cycling is one of the best ways to increase your lifespan. Cycling improves the blood circulation in the body while the heart and lungs gets stronger in the process.
And the best bit? Cycling is a low impact exercise meaning that all of the benefits above are available to people regardless of age. Also, for those who find running/high impact sports or activities are painful/challenging, cycling is a brilliant way to exercise and maintain/improve fitness due to its low impact nature on the joints and body.

Without doubt, cycling is a great way of getting for A to B and a great form of exercise but isn’t without its risk of injuries. Without the correct warmups, recovery and supplementary exercises you could suffer with strains, muscle tightness, stiffness and other troublesome pains that can hamper your ability to continue cycling.

Common Injuries:

Accidents: Cycling accidents occur and sometimes, unfortunately, there’s not much we can do about that. However, we can be as prepared as possible. That means wearing a helmet and the correct protective clothing. Also, eating correctly, getting good sleep and complete strengthening exercises, can help keep your muscles and bones strong and healthy giving yourself the best possible chance of avoiding injury and aiding your recovery should an unfortunate injury occur.

Hip and knee injuries: Hip and knee problems are common in cyclists who maybe lack stability around one or both areas. Anterior knee pain can be associated with an excessive inward angle measured from the front of the hips to the middle of the knee, also known as the “Q-Angle”. An excessive Q-Angle is associated with the knee moving medially (inwards) during the down-stroke of cycling. It is proposed that this may be a primary indicator for either hip or knee weakness, or both, contributing to knee pain via repetitive mechanical overload.

In the same way, other common pathologies associated with hip and knee weakness are lateral hip conditions (outside of the hip) such as Gluteus Medius Tendinopathy, Trochanteric Bursitis and Iliotibial Band Syndrome as well as hip flexor (front of the hip) tendinopathy or overuse injury.
Luckily, for the most part, these conditions can easily be self-managed with a progressive hip and knee strength and stability program.
The exercises focus on strengthening the major hip and knee stabilisers such as the glutes, quads and hamstrings. You may also consider adjusting the intensity, frequency or time of training sessions to give yourself time to recover and become more resilient. But, if in doubt, seek physiotherapist advice; we’re here to help!

Ankle Injuries: Ankle overuse injuries can also commonly occur in cyclists. This may be due to muscle overuse or dysfunction, foot posture, footwear or related to saddle height and position.

Achilles Tendinopathy – a condition characterised by irritation and pain in the Achilles at the back of the heel, it can be associated with redness and ‘swelling’. Achilles Tendinopathy in cyclists is commonly a problem of overload of the Achilles which causes injury to the tendon on a microscopic level. If this problem is continuously overloaded without the correct treatment, it can lead to further damage which may lead to long-term weakening of the tendon. Rest and ice are useful in the early stages; however, an appropriate loading programme should be started alongside this to condition the tendon to manage the workload required of it to ensure that you can return to the bike. Achilles Tendinopathy in cyclists can also arise from incorrect saddle height and position causing abnormal loading through then ankle joint at the peddles.

Plantar Fasciitis – The Plantar Fascia is a thick band of connective tissue running along the bottom of the foot. Repetitive excessive stress of the Plantar Fascia can cause it to become irritated and painful. Strengthening and stretching of the surrounding muscles; particularly the calf muscles can help to ease the stress on the Plantar Fascia.

Metatarsalgia – Pain in the ball of the foot around the heads of bones in the foot (metatarsals) and be caused by excessive use of the foot on the peddles. This can be eased with the use of soft insoles and comfortable footwear.

Medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints): A common overuse injury of the lower leg that most often presents as pain along the inside of the shin bone when weight bearing. With appropriate rest and exercises this can be reduced and prevent it impacting your cycling longer term.

Head and Neck:

Neck pain can also commonly occur in cyclists, particularly those riding road bikes. This can be due to several reasons but most frequently due to the repetitive movements and prolonged positioning that is required of the body when out on long rides. Prolonged time spent with your chin poking forwards and overextending at your neck can cause compression of the joints in the neck. It may also cause injury and irritation to the muscles of the neck and upper back due to sub-optimal loading and fatigue. The extra weight of even the lightest of helmets can further add to this causing pain, stiffness and tightness of the neck and upper back.

Once you are certain that your bike is set up correctly to suit you, with the handlebars and saddle in the optimal position, you’ve got to look after the most important bit of equipment you have, your body. Alongside adequate rest and recovery, you need to be performing the correct strengthening exercises to supplement your cycling to avoid some of the injuries above. Massage, stretching and relaxation can also give you great benefits to recover between sessions.
If you have any specific questions about physiotherapy for cyclists or would like some exercises that can help you, get in touch. Give us a call on 0333 2200 238, our physiotherapists are more than happy to help. For tips on how to best optimise your recovery following long distance events, read our blog on long distance running recovery.

If you are taking part in this year’s cyclone challenge, good luck and we hope to see you in June.

For further information about the cyclone challenge: https://cyclonecycling.com/ride?event=cyclone-challenge-ride-a-34miles&rideid=206

No matter whether your condition was caused by a sport, work accident or otherwise, we welcome the chance to serve you.

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