Biking and Back Pain

Exercise has long been a double-edged sword for people suffering from back pain. Movement is known to ease discomfort, strengthen core muscles and increase flexibility, but some exercises can exacerbate already-existing issues. When you combine the question of right and wrong types of exercise with the limitations on exercise options imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are in a quandary as to what to do. One answer that works for many is working out on a stationary bike.

As people have increasingly opted for staying at home during the pandemic, sales of Peloton, Nordic Track and similar bikes have skyrocketed. Biking is a great exercise that boosts the cardiovascular system as well as the musculoskeletal system, and it has much less of an impact on your joints. Though that makes biking a good answer for some, it’s important to check with your physician to make sure that it will work for you … especially before investing in an expensive piece of equipment.

A visit to our lumbar spine specialty practice in New Jersey is the best place to start before starting a new exercise regimen. That’s because our physicians can identify the cause of your pain. Knowing what your medical issue is can make a very big difference, as some back pain issues will benefit from cycling and others will be made worse.

If your back pain is caused by arthritis, degeneration, or wear and tear, biking is likely to prove helpful. That’s because leaning forward as you ride can open up the spinal column, providing relief to compressed nerves that lead to back and leg pain. Alternatively, if your issue is vertebrae that are unstable or that have slipped out of place, that forward bend can actually make things worse – something most people prefer to avoid in the midst of a pandemic. That’s why identifying your particular condition is so important.

Coming in to see our lumbar spine specialists will give you a wealth of helpful information. We will conduct a comprehensive physical exam that may include sending you for diagnostic imaging such as an MRI or CT scan. These will give us a much better sense of what is causing your back pain. If we’ve determined that cycling is a good choice for you, here is what we’d like you to know about exercising safely:

  • Always take the time to stretch and warm up your muscles before getting too active. This is true for any form of exercise, but when it comes to biking it means stretching your back. You should also make sure that you have the bike’s seat and handles set appropriately for your height and le length – otherwise you risk additional discomfort. Remember to take some time to cool down at the end of the ride.
  • Don’t try to go “all-out” all at once. No matter how inspiring the instructors or how appealing the program that you’re following, take your time to get used to the exercise and work up to a distance or time goal slowly and methodically.

You may find that introducing stationary cycling provides you with significant relief from your back pain. If not, and you’d like to discuss other options, reach out to us and learn how we can help.

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