Professional Bike Fit Service
Cycling pain is a potential problem for all the fun and enjoyment of a good ride on your bike. While cycling is known for its fractures from nasty high speed falls, repetitive cycling injuries cause most cyclists’ pain unnecessarily.
As a cyclist myself, I am personally aware of knee pain, back pain, hip pain, sciatica and neck pain from a poor bike setup and too many kilometres in the wrong position.
In this article, I hope to keep your cycling fun by discovering how to prevent common injuries impacting your ride. Whether you are interested in road cycling, triathlons, mountain biking, velodrome cycling or just the commute to work, the cycling injury prevention principles are similar. Still, they do vary depending on the performance you want out of yourself and your bike.
Cycling – Power Phases
As you can see from the infographic above, cycling incorporates all of your major leg muscle groups at different phases. This can be wonderful for strengthening, but overuse or compensation for a weak zone may cause an imbalance leading to cycling pain.
A cycling physiotherapist will identify if you have any lack of motion and strength deficits and help you address these possible sources of injury.
Bike Setup – How to Setup Your Bike
While we are happy to provide you with general bike set-up guidelines, we have observed that these guidelines will help some cyclists but not all.
We highly recommend a professional bike fit if you are suffering pain or discomfort while cycling or would seriously like to optimise your cycling efficiency.
More information: Bike Fit Brisbane
General Bike Set-Up Guidelines
Riding Position Set Up
A comfortable and efficient riding position is vital. Your bike must be properly set up and adjusted. If your bike is adjusted to suit your particular body size and shape, you will then feel more relaxed and will be able to ride longer distances with less effort. The notes below are the most common settings that work.
- The ball of your foot should be centred over the pedal axle.
- Small feet and high cadence pedlars place the ball of your foot slightly behind the centre.
- If you have clip-less pedals, you can adjust your shoes into the pedal and adjust the cleat fixing bolts.
Set the saddle height the following way:
- Sit on the saddle with the crank arm perpendicular to the ground and heel (shoes on) on the top of the pedal.
- Your leg should be in the straight “locked” position.
- Allow for oversized shoe heels or extra-thick soles.
- Your saddle top surface should be parallel with the road surface.
Saddle Front/Back Adjustment
- Sit on your bike in your normal riding position with the cranks in the 3 and 9 o’clock positions.
- Your saddle is correctly positioned when your tibial tuberosity (the bump at the top of the shin bone) is 1cm behind the pedal axle.
- You may need a plumb line and a helper to make this adjustment, and you may have to readjust saddle height if you move the saddle significantly.
Stem and Handlebars
- Correct stem height can be somewhere between the saddle height or as much as 6 cm below. The preferred range is 2.5 to 4.5 lower.
- Check to ensure that your knee clears your elbow when seated on your bike with the cranks in the 3/9 o’clock position.
- To ensure good chest expansion and breathing, your handlebars should be as wide as your shoulders.
- Some riders may prefer a more upright riding position on a mountain or a hybrid bike with a higher stem position.
- Extra-wide flat-type mountain bike handlebars may give more stable control on unsealed roads, but you may find them uncomfortable on long rides over sealed roads.
- Bar extensions and narrower handlebars will give you a greater variety of comfortable hand positions and place your upper body in a slightly lower position to reduce your overall resistance to the wind.
- If the handlebars are too far away, you will be very uncomfortable.
- Sit on your bike in your normal riding position, and your arms should be at 90 degrees to your torso.
Adjusting to Your New Position
It takes time to settle into the new position, and you may still have to do some fine-tuning. Overall you should feel much better when you ride and less strained when you arrive back home.
What if None of this Works?
If you can’t get comfortable after making these adjustments and riding for a while, it is possible that your bike is not the right size. Considering visiting a physiotherapist with a special interest in bike setup or a cycling store professional.
More information: Bike Fit Brisbane
Elite Sports Injury Management
You probably already know that a sports injury can affect not only your performance but also your lifestyle. The latest research continues to change sports injury management considerably. Our challenge is to keep up to date with the latest research and put them to work for you.
How we treated you last year could vary significantly from how we treat you this year. The good news is that you can benefit considerably from our professional knowledge.
What Should You Do When You Suffer a Sports Injury?
Rest from painful exercise or a movement is essential in the early injury stage. "No pain. No gain." does not apply in most cases. The rule of thumb is - don't do anything that reproduces your pain for the initial two or three days. After that, you need to get it moving, or other problems will develop.
Ice or Heat?
We usually recommend avoiding heat (and heat rubs) in the first 48 hours of injury. The heat encourages bleeding, which could be detrimental if used too early. In traumatic injuries, such as ligament sprains, muscle tears or bruising, ice should help reduce your pain and swelling.
Once the "heat" has come out of your injury, you can use heat packs. We recommend 20-minute applications a few times a day to increase the blood flow and hasten your healing rate. The heat will also help your muscles relax and ease your pain. If you're not sure what to do, please call us to discuss your situation specifically.
Should You Use a Compressive Bandage?
Yes. A compressive bandage will help to control swelling and bleeding in the first few days. In most cases, the compressive dressing will also help support the injury as you lay down the new scar tissue. This early healing should help to reduce your pain. Some injuries will benefit from more rigid support, such as a brace or strapping tape. Would you please ask us if you are uncertain about what to do next?
Gravity will encourage swelling to settle at the lowest point. Elevation of an injury in the first few days is beneficial, especially for ankle or hand injuries. Think where your damage is and where your heart is. Try to rest your injury above your heart.
What Medication Should You Use?
Your Doctor or Pharmacist may recommend pain killers or an anti-inflammatory drug. It is best to seek professional advice as certain medications can interfere with other health conditions, especially asthmatics.
When Should You Commence Physio?
In most cases, "the early bird gets the worm". Researchers have found that the intervention of physiotherapy treatment within a few days has many benefits. These include:
- Relieving your pain quicker via joint mobility techniques, massage and electrotherapy
- Improving your scar tissue using techniques to guide the direction it forms
- Getting you back to sport or work quicker through faster healing rates
- Loosening or strengthening of your injured region with individually prescribed exercises
- Improving your performance when you return to sport - we'll detect and help you correct any biomechanical faults that may affect your technique or predispose you to injury.
What If You Do Nothing?
Research tells us that injuries left untreated take longer to heal and have lingering pain. They are also more likely to recur and leave you with either joint stiffness or muscle weakness. It's important to remember that symptoms lasting longer than three months become habitual and are much harder to solve. The sooner you get on top of your symptoms, the better your outcome.
What About Arthritis?
Previously injured joints can prematurely become arthritic through neglect. Generally, there are four main reasons why you develop arthritis:
- An inappropriately treated previous injury (e.g. old joint or ligament sprains)
- Poor joint positioning (biomechanical faults)
- Stiff joints (lack of movement diminishes joint nutrition)
- Loose joints (excessive sloppiness causes joint damage through poor control)
What About Your Return to Sport?
Your physiotherapist will guide you safely back to the level of sport at which you wish to participate. If you need guidance, ask us.
What If You Need Surgery or X-rays?
Not only will your physio diagnose your sports injury and give you the "peace of mind" associated, but they'll also refer you elsewhere if that's what's best for you. Think about it. You could be suffering needlessly from a sports injury. Would you please use our advice to guide you out of pain quicker? And for a lot longer.
If you have any questions regarding your sports injury (or any other condition), don't hesitate to get in touch with your physiotherapist to discuss. You'll find our friendly staff happy to point you in the right direction.
Acute Sports Injury Clinic
How to Best Care for Your Sports Injury?
There is never an excellent time for an injury. But we do know that most sports injuries occur over the weekend! That's why at PhysioWorks, we have established an Acute Sports Injury Clinic at a selection of our clinics on a Monday and Tuesday.
The acute sports injury consultation fee is significantly lower than a routine assessment and treatment consultation. In most cases, your private health will cover the full cost of your full acute injury physio assessment fee.
Why Use an Acute Sports Injury Clinic?
Your Acute Sports Injury Assessment Consultation allows us to provide you with:
- A quick and accurate diagnosis. One of our Sports Physiotherapist's or an experienced sports injury-focused Physiotherapist will confidently guide your new injury management.
- Early acute sports injury care, professional advice and education. What to do this week?
- Fast referral for X-rays, ultrasound or MRI scans to confirm your diagnosis.
- Prompt referral to Sports Physicians, GPs or Surgeons with whom we work if required.
- Immediate supply of walking boots, braces and rental crutches if needed.
- Low-cost professional service.
For more friendly advice or guidance, please call your nearest clinic to discuss your specific needs.
Article by Zoe Russell
Who is a Sports Physiotherapist?
Sports Physiotherapy is the specialised branch of physiotherapy which deals with injuries and issues related to spokespeople. Practitioners with additional formal training within Australia are Sports & Exercise Physiotherapists.
What is Sports Physiotherapy?
Sports injuries do differ from common everyday injuries. Athletes usually require high-level performance and demand placed upon their body, which stresses their muscles, joints and bones to the limit. Sports physiotherapists help athletes recover from sporting injuries and provide education and resources to prevent problems.
Each sports physiotherapist usually has sport-specific knowledge that addresses acute, chronic and overuse injuries. Their services are generally available to sportsmen and women of all ages engaged in sports at any level of competition.
Members of Sports Physiotherapy Australia (SPA) have experience and knowledge of the latest evidence-based practice, professional assessment and diagnosis of sports injuries, and effective hands-on management techniques and exercise protocols to assist recovery and prevent future damage. SPA members have access to the most recent advances in sports physiotherapy. You'll be pleased to know that most PhysioWorks physiotherapists and massage therapists have a particular interest in sports injury management.