Hi, I'm Dr. Molly with Your Goals Physical Therapy. This is National Upright Posture month. It's very exciting, I love talking about posture. So this month I have been doing a series on how your posture can be affecting your sport. This week, we're gonna highlight biking. So biking is amazing. I like to bike around the neighborhood with my son, my daughter and my husband. We have a good time finding the Bayou trails around our house, but normally you don't have too much discomfort other than possibly something that happens from the seat from just tooling around your neighborhood. It does happen, but I'd say that more often than not. I get complaints of discomfort from people when they're doing miles on their bike weekly.
I thought I would talk about that. So in this video we're gonna define posture so that we're all talking about the same thing. Then I'm gonna talk about the different forces that your posture takes on and help you combat while you're biking. Then I'm gonna talk about what happens if your posture is not able to sustain the forces that we were just talking about, but because I never end on a bad note, we are gonna talk about how you move past, prevent and recover from all of those injuries.
All right so let's get started, through your posture in a very short note is how the alignment that your spine is in. So you can have a forward posture. You can have a sway back. You can have all sorts of things, you can have tilted, right? So that would be your posture. This is just how your spine is aligned. The big thing for sports is you have to be able to keep your spine stable while you're moving or something is moving you depending on what sport you're in.
So in the case of biking, you're not really hitting the ground, like you would with running or putting force against anything with another sport. You are holding onto handlebars and you’re on a seat and you’re pedaling. Even though your legs are creating some forces for you, because you have each leg doing something different. There's a pushing and a pulling and it's happening opposite on each leg.
Then of course, you know, especially if you're riding around in Houston, there's all sorts of ground forces, right? You got potholes everywhere, cracks and things like that. If you're a mountain biker, you have whatever gravel going up and down terrain, all of those things. So that is impacting you. Then your body has to be able to stay stable against that. So if you have a hard time keeping your shoulders from rounding or collapsing down while you're sitting in a chair, it's probably also hard for you to maintain that upright posture while you're on your bike. One of the most amazing things for me is even though I really don't go very far, it's very kind of sad actually that I would have any discomfort from riding my bike. But it is surprising when you're holding onto the handles and you're not used to doing that and you're leaning forward and a good portion of your weight is on the handlebar. Again, we're on trails. So you do have forces that happen from being on the trails or having to go on grass and things. It doesn't seem like it would be much, but if you're not used to it, you actually notice that your arms are tired after a while from holding you up.
You do wanna switch positions. I now know why there are multiple ways that people can hold onto handlebars. So just being able to hold yourself here and not let your shoulders kinda round forward from happening over time while you're biking is very important. So that's one of those forces. Gravity is pushing you down and your body's having to fight that. You're also having to condemn as the gravity's pushing you down. You have whatever up that you're getting from the ground basically jolting you up. So you are having to absorb impact, one's a little bit more startling than others throughout your whole bike ride. And we haven't even talked about what happens at your lower back, because at your lower back, you're having to deal with rotational things because one leg is coming up as the other one is pushing down and then vice versa.
To make that happen on one side of your hip, something is contracting and on the other side of the hip, something is having to get longer. And so all of those forces have to be working in sync, right? All the time, like each time it has to be right. So we might not think about it, but that's a lot of ways and a lot of forces that our body has to adjust and adapt to. Making sure that our posture is one an optimal alignment for what we're trying to do, and it doesn't have to be perfect. We don't have to be anatomical and be like a hundred percent right. But we have to be within a certain range so that we're not dealing with injuring ourselves later. So what would it look like if you did have an injury and it was related to biking or this could be aggravating it at the very least.
So if we talk about our upper body, we'll talk about neck pain. So I know that might seem weird because I was just complaining about wrists, shoulders and other things, which are all possibilities, but most people would see that as slightly obvious, right? They were holding onto the handlebar and now their wrist hurts or they really felt it while they were biking that their shoulder was bothering them. That's something I think people tend to be able to tell me that, but weird things that people kind of miss, especially with biking is neck pain.
Let me explain that. So if your shoulders are turned down and you're collapsing, then when you wanna look up and see where you're going, you really have to extend your neck. Whereas if you are able to keep your shoulders down and then go, it's not as much of a torque on your neck. So you don't really think about that. And while you're riding, it's not like you're staring at yourself in a mirror. So sometimes it's hard to tell if you are falling forward. So the other thing that people complain about is like mid back back pain. That is also from that curving. I will say that that is oftentimes also associated with people who have very tight hamstrings and very tight chest muscles and other things. So when they're trying to get into that position, the place that ends up being the most flexible for them is that like mid back, like almost directly in the center of their spine and that's just where they can flex.
So while they're biking that just puts a lot of stress on that part of their spine, and so that's where some people really do complain about. They have some severe pain in the middle of their back and that is directly related to how they're able to hold their spine and how stable it is.
So if we're talking about lower legs and we go a little bit lower, we're talking about injuries there. So what would be a common injury, hamstring pools. I know most people want to blame tight hamstrings on that and that can play a part in it. If your spine is moving, then that means your pelvis is not stable. Because if the thing that it's attached to is moving all over the place, then the thing below it is also gonna be moving, because it doesn't have a strong support system. So if your hamstrings do have a tendency to be a little bit tight, now you have a spine that's moving too much things just go wrong.
So being able to keep your lower back stable while one leg is doing one thing and the other leg is doing another thing, is key to keeping you from pulling your hamstring or having an overworked hip flexor. So both of those are very, very common to have hip flexor pain. So it hurts at the top of your hip right underneath your pelvic bone. Or you just feel like you just gave yourself a massive Charlie horse or something. It just pulls all of a sudden and it's very sharp, it's sudden, it feels like, well, it feels like you pulled your hamstring. So both of those are directly related to how stable you can keep your lower back. That being said, if your hamstrings are super tight, that will also play into that. So stretching is always a good thing and it takes a little stress off your low back as well.
So now how do you combat all those things? I just talked about a whole lot of negative things that happen if your spine isn't great. And I know everybody beats on posture and we all work at a desk. So the big thing is, obviously stretching is wonderful. If you're gonna be at a desk job and you have to be pulled forward all day, then when you're training, part of your training for being on that bike should be exercises that help pull you back exercises that help your upper back muscles, help your rotator cuff, help your overall arm strength and endurance. So that you don't get so tired that you're creating new ways to hold yourself up so that you can make it that distance that you'd like to make it.
Abs abs abs, everybody should be doing more AB work. Planks are amazing. Dynamic planks are even better. There are so many great AB workouts out there and those things really do help you. They truly help prevent injuries. The stronger you are, the more stable you will be, the less injuries you will have specifically with this sport. So if you're having a hard time navigating any of that, by all means, reach out! Because I would love to help you problem solve what's going on with you specifically. And if we need to work together or if you need to do something different then we can work through that process and get you back to biking at the level that you want to.
Well, I Hope this helps and you're having a great day. Bye.
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WE HELP ACTIVE ADULTS OVERCOME THEIR ACHES AND PAINS TO GET THEM BACK TO THEIR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES WITHOUT MEDICATION, INJECTIONS OR SURGERIES.
Dr. Molly McDonald