Cycling is a great low-impact sport that works many of the large muscle groups, however it is not without issues. One common ailment if not done correctly is neck pain. Neck pain is most often caused by neck hypertension, usually caused by the position of your body while riding and the lack of flexibility.
The Cause of Neck Pain
The main set of muscles that helps support your head are the deep neck flexors. If they become weak, then it is up to the trapezius muscles that run from the base of your skull to the shoulder to support your head. If the trapezius muscles become fatigued and can no longer work to support your head, it shows up as neck pain.
To relieve neck pain for the long-term, it is necessary to strengthen the deep neck flexors so the trapezius doesn’t have to work so hard. To do this, lie on the floor on your back with the back of your head touching the floor. With knees bent, focus your eyes (without moving your head yet) on a point just above your knees. Now slowly start to move your head (without raising your head off of the ground) to the point where your eyes are focused – much like a slow nodding gesture. Hold the head downward stretch for 5-10 seconds; then return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times per day.
Stretch Before and After Riding
To help keep the neck muscles strong, perform some stretching before and after each ride – much like warming up and cooling down before and after other forms of exercising. To stretch the neck, perform a range-of-motion exercises by:
- moving your head up and down as in a nodding motion.
- Rotating your head side to side ensuring you are twisting it as far as it will go both left and right.
- Tilting your head so that your right ear touches your right shoulder. Do the same with your left ear.
Do these three exercises until your neck muscles feel loose.
The position of your head and neck can contribute to having neck pain. Try to maintain a straight line from your hips to your head. If your head is too far forward, it puts strain on your neck muscles trying to support it.
If your handlebars are too low, so that you have to tilt your head up to see, try turning your handlebars over so they end up being higher up. This will allow you to see without causing excessive strain on your neck. If that doesn’t work, you may have to get a longer handlebar stem.
By riding in the correct position, stretching before and after riding, and building up the deep neck flexor muscles, you should have very little, if any, neck pain. If after doing these steps neck pain persists, see your healthcare professional to search out other causes of your neck pain.