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How to Cure 5 Common Bicycling Pains & Injuries

Biking Pain Explained

Learn how to cure the 5 most common bicycling pains, including lower back pain, toe numbness/foot pain, headaches, & other cycling injuries.

On one of my commutes this week, I started to notice that the toes on my right foot were going numb. It’s something that has happened to me before, but I never thought much of it, and I always attributed it to the fact that I don’t commute in real biking shoes.

As I continued to ride, I became concerned thinking about the fact that I sprained my right knee in 2009, and I wondered if the sprain had anything to do with the numbness I was experiencing. I sufficiently freaked myself out, and as soon as I got to my destination I Googled the problem.

As I searched the Web, I found a lot of questions from concerned bikers like me about the minor aches and pains they were feeling, so I ended up researching even more of the little problems. I narrowed it down to a list of five.

Five Common Cycling Pains and Their Causes

The pains I researched are ones that are not linked to a serious problem. Of course, if you think there might be something seriously wrong and you are in consistent pain, see your doctor before your next bike ride. However, the following simple explanations might help a lot.

Toe Numbness and Foot Pain

It turns out that toe-numbness is a very common problem for bikers, and it is usually caused by ill-fitting shoes or pedal straps that are too tight. I was still concerned, so I tried loosening the laces on my sneakers for the ride home. Sure enough, it’s helped, and I’ve had no numbness since.

Specifically, shoes that are too tight at the top will cause numbness in the toes because they are constricting blood flow. By making sure your shoes fit well and are on properly, you can prevent this. Also, finding pedals that fit your feet is also important so that your foot will be applying pressure properly.

Essentially, you can solve your toe numbness by making sure everything is in the right place on your foot while you ride.

Back Pain from Cycling

As someone who is 5’10, I know all about backaches. I know that anything can trigger them, and I know that they can be absolutely debilitating – especially on a lengthy tour. Many people online were asking about back pain while they ride.

If you’re biking and you notice even the slightest back pain, it is most likely caused by poor posture. When you bike with bad posture, your muscles stretch and strain in positions that they shouldn’t.

Though most people try to combat it by raising their handlebars and sitting upright on the bike, this is counterproductive. By doing so, your muscles will be absorbing less of the shock from bumps in the road.

Instead, try getting a bike with suspension, and talk with a representative at your local bike shop to make sure your bike is the right size. Back pain is typical for people with bikes that are too small.

Headache

Many things can cause a headache. If you’re biking home from a stressful day at work, the stress is probably the cause. If you’re biking home in the rain, the barometric pressure might be the cause.

However, if you are getting a headache every time you ride your bike, it’s time to assume that your biking is causing the pain. Assuming your helmet fits properly and isn’t too tight, there’s a good chance you’re getting dehydrated easily when you ride.

Some people dehydrate more easily than others, and you might be one of them. Headaches are  the most noticeable sign of dehydration. To combat this problem, drink water throughout the day before you get on your bike.

If you’re touring, you probably know that a lot of water at once can make riding more difficult. Don’t chug your water if this is an issue. Instead, just make sure you have a steady supply throughout your tour. Your headaches should go away fairly quickly.

“Burnt” Skin

This past spring, I spent a long, cloudy day riding with my boyfriend on a local trail. I practiced my usual sun protection by wearing sunscreen on my face, sunglasses and a helmet with a brim. However, when we got off the trail at the end of the day, we both felt sunburned.

My boyfriend is part Irish so he was used to it, but I rarely get sunburn, so I was surprised to have the tingling sensation and redness on my face. It turns out the sun wasn’t to blame at all, and we actually both had windburn.

We were both shocked at how similar it felt to sunburn, but it made sense sine the wind was whipping that day. To avoid this sensation, just make sure your skin is as healthy as possible before going out on windy days with a chill. Wear moisturizer on any exposed skin, stay hydrated and take B-vitamins.

Indigestion

We’ve all been there. You’re in the zone, biking hard and keeping up with the pack when suddenly indigestion hits and you need to make a pit stop. This is an extremely common problem with any cardio exercise, but particularly biking because of the intense mid-section strength required.

Luckily, as long as the indigestion isn’t caused by anything else, preventing it is as simple as timing your nutrition. Eat any large meals three hours before your ride so that you have fully digested them by the time you get on your bike.

If you need to snack on the go, make sure your snacks are not fatty or salty. Natural foods will flow through your body easier and cause less cramping or pain. If you consistently have a problem with it, you could take an antacid before long rides.

If you’re experiencing any of these problems and simple solutions are not working, see your doctor immediately. By self-diagnosing, you could be making the problem even worse. With any serious ailment, early detection is key.

However, if you’re a hypochondriac like me, keeping these easy-fixes in mind on your next ride will help you have a relaxing, enjoyable and pain-free experience.

To recap, here are five common ailments and their simple solutions:

  • Numb Toes – Make sure you shoes fit right and that you’re hitting the pedal correctly.
  • Back Pain – Focus on your posture and consider getting a bike that fits your body better.
  • Headaches – Stay hydrated.
  • Wind Burn – Keep your skin healthy by applying moisture and taking a B-vitamin.
  • Indigestion – Eat large meals no less than three hours before getting on the bike.

Do you have any other common simple bike pains you’ve found ways to cure? Let me know, I always love learning about easy-fixes!


About Leanne

Leanne is a writer and musician living in Boston. Her interest in cycling was born when she realized how convenient biking in the city was, and it has evolved from there. Whether biking down the street for dinner or across the city for band practice with a bass on her back, Leanne has become an avid urban biker.

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