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Upper back, shoulder pains among cyclists

When riding a bike you will probably start to feel a fierce burning in your shoulders along with a tight neck. Maybe even a little numbness travels down your arms, hands, and fingers. Cyclists tend to have neck and upper back problems for several reasons which I will highlight. Cyclists ride in a hunched over position.

Unfortunately, if you love to cycle, that is the position you will find yourself in. We contort our bodies forward, crimped at the waist. To see where we are going, we need to bend our necks up for up to several hours. Having the neck bent like this is called cervical hyper-extension in professional terms. A prolonged hyper-extension of the neck can lead to a lot of chronic discomfort and pain.

When a cyclist logs many hours of riding, there is repetitive loading on the upper back and neck which leads to damage. When a muscle has a sustained contraction for a long period of time, the circulation of blood into that muscle becomes compromised. This is because the muscle contraction puts pressure on the blood vessels where the blood vessels are squeezing themselves shut, thus reducing blood supply. This is not a problem when a muscle is alternating between contracting and relaxing such as the muscles in the leg do when a cyclist is pedaling. When the muscles in our upper back and neck are contracted for lengthy periods of time, the blood circulation in this area is greatly reduced. This means muscles are asked to perform a continual workload but without adequate oxygen and nutrients. This typically will lead to painful muscle spasms and trigger points.

Often, professionals prescribe a few stretches and maneuvers to help combat neck and upper back tightness or injuries. The movements and stretches are mostly forgotten or never used by the patients when trigger points and the problems they cause are not described adequately to the cyclist. But, if you are given a basic understanding of the problem of sustained contraction, and the lack of adequate circulation that occurs when muscles in the problem area are under load, you are more likely to follow what needs to be done to correct or avoid issues altogether.

You probably already know that stretching is advantageous to avoiding muscle related injuries. In addition to the stretching the neck and upper back muscles, you can also vastly benefit from two exercises: reverse shoulder shrugs and elbow presses.

Reverse shoulder shrugs are great because they make the muscles in the neck and upper back region alternate between full contraction and full relaxation. Doing this exercise properly and regularly will get the muscles in the upper back and neck pumping and cyclists will notice a positive difference within a few times of performing the exercise.

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