Cycling and Lower Back Pain.

I did a survey recently on the shop’s facebook site ( with regard to what hurts when people cycle. The two most common areas of pain mentioned were lower back pain, and hand numbness.

Thank you to all who responded. With this in mind, I want to write two blogs on this, starting with….

Lower Back Pain.     lower back pain

Potential causes:

  1. Riding a bike that is too big for you.
    There are a few things you can do in this regard such as shortening the stem. However, in future make sure you buy your bike from a specialist bike shop that has a reputation for doing good bike setups. I have seen many cyclists buy bikes at bargain prices from non specialist shops or buy a second hand bike, only to discover that the bike is the wrong size. Suddenly the bargain turns out to be a really expensive mistake. Generally speaking, the larger the shop, the less the expertise.
  2. Lack of flexibility:
    Cycling shortens a number of muscles. Some of these muscles include:
    Hamstrings. Your hamstrings are a group of muscles behind your upper leg. They attach to the back part of your hip. Tight hamstrings place pressure on the hips and ultimately change the shape of the curve of your back. Remember to stretch your hamstrings out regularly.
    Psoas muscles. The  psoas muscle helps lift your leg whilst cycling. The muscle is attached to the lower spine. A tight muscle will place tremendous pressure on your lumbar spine. Below is an example of how to stretch the muscle out. psoas Riding in a big chain ring will cause you to pull the rear leg upwards with more force than in an easier gear. This in turn will increase the work load on the psoas muscle. You might want to consider pedalling with a higher cadence up hills if you are prone to lower back pain.
  3. Lack of core strength regarding the muscles that stabilize your hips:
    Cyclists with a saddle set too high, or that have a leg length discrepancy, can place pressure on their lower backs. The obliques and quadratus lumborum muscles might be brought into play, as they attempt to stabilize the body. Stand with your hands on your hips. Now move your hands upwards until they are placed between your hips and lower rib. You have your hands on your obliques. Now stretch out your thumbs toward your back, they should be touching a rounded muscle on both sides. Those are your quadratus lumborum muscles.  Cyclists who rock on their saddles will overuse these muscles. Cyclists with a leg length discrepancy might also put these structures under strain.
  4. Incorrect stack height:
    The height of your handle bar will determined by the position of your stem, and also how high the stem is placed above your top tube. You should be able to ride in your drops for extended periods of time. If not, your bike might have been set up too aggressively.

What to do:

  1. Make sure that you are riding on the right size bike.
  2. Get a proper bike set up. We do these at SBR Sport.
  3. Make sure that your core is strong.
  4. Make sure that you stretch from time to time.
  5. Remember to stand and pedal on the hills from time to time.
  6. Go to your physio or GP if your back does not get better. You might have a more serious condition that requires medical help.


Mike Roscoe.

Mike Roscoe


About sbrsport

SBR Sport specialises in Swimming, Biking and Running. On the medical side we are able to do intensive bike setups, leg assessments and soft tissue release. Follow us on twitter - and/or facebook -
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2 Responses to Cycling and Lower Back Pain.

  1. To someone who doesn’t do this stuff for a living, setting a road bike up correctly can seem like some kind of dark art. I recently enlisted the help of a guy who knew what he was doing and my bike now feels like exactly that…my bike. Once the bike feels like it fits you, it’s a pleasure to sit on it and pedal, and a multitude of aches and pains (back pain included) can just melt away.

    Really good post, thanks, lots of decent tips and advice here – well worth following to improve the riding experience.

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