Cycling is surprisingly a great exercise for many people with back pain. The way you sit on a bike typically straightens out the spine and is almost like putting your back into traction, as it widens the space between the joint and the disc. The additional cardiovascular exercise is a major bonus too! There are lots of forms of exercise that you can still do when you have back pain, but cycling is an excellent choice as long as you take a few precautions. Here’s our advice on how to get your cycling in without aggravating your pain.
Start Out Slow
To test if cycling can help you with your back pain, start on a stationary bike. Even a gentle ride on a stationary bike lengthens your spine while getting your heart pumping. Experiment with the positioning of the handlebars and seat can make it even more comfortable. If a regular stationary bike hurts too much, try a recumbent bike. You are sitting, but you are still getting a good workout. Keep in mind, that everyone’s pain is different and if you experience pain while cycling you should listen to your body.
Engage Your Core
Regardless of the type of bike you are riding, engaging your core muscles will allow you to get the best workout and build your strength. Your hands should be light on the handlebars—with very little pressure or weight on your hands. Be mindful of your posture and the angle of your back while you ride the bike. If you let your back slouch, you may be adding to your pain. These techniques will help you ensure your core muscles are engaged and strengthened, which will in turn help with back pain.
Transitioning to a Real Bike
Don’t move too quickly to getting on a real bike. Out on the street, you need to be completely comfortable to ensure you can handle whatever may pop up. If riding on a stationary bike inside is still painful, consider working out on an elliptical trainer while you build your strength. While an elliptical does not provide the same benefits of opening up the spine, it will help you heal faster and become stronger.
Cycling can be very beneficial for building up strength and opening up the back. Just make sure to take it slow and use precaution as you ride so you don’t worsen the pain. Making sure to do core strengthening exercises a few times a week will also help improve your cycling posture and overall core strength, which is crucial for overcoming back pain. If your pain worsens or persists, consult a doctor or specialist to make sure there are no underlying issues with your pain.