Tell me about your back pain experience

Forums Mountain Bike Forum Tell me about your back pain experience

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    • #589307

      I’ve been dealing with back pain for the past several years — muscular, not spinal. I’ve gone to acupuncture, seen a chiropractor, worked with a physical therapist, gotten multiple professional bike fits, and now I’m doing Foundation Training to really focus in on strengthening those muscles.

      No one tells me the same thing. I get different messages on stretching, foam rolling, strengthening, movement training, and equipment. I’ve put in a huge amount of time, effort, and money trying to fix this, and at best it’s a bit better for a while.

      I’m doing my best to stay positive and keep working on my back (and general core) muscles in the hopes that I can ride for more than an hour without those muscles getting super sore or locking up. But it’s getting harder and harder to imagine myself overcoming this pain.

      Have you overcome back pain? Do you deal with it all the time? Does it happen early in the year and then fade out as you get stronger? How do you deal with your back pain? I just want to hear stories from other riders out there to help me keep some perspective.

      Stay safe out there!

    • #589343

      If you are building up your core muscles, that should help. It worked for me. What bike do you ride? Are you sure it is set up correctly for you and it is the right size for you? You may want to try and raise your handle bars a bit so your body is more upright.

      Good luck

    • #589364

      I’m currently on a size 4 GG Pedalhead (I’m 6’2″ with long legs) and a Giant Contend XL on the road. I’ve had back pain on numerous bikes over the past few years. Now that I think about it, though, the last time I felt solid on a bike was when I was on a road bike that was maybe a little too small for me. Interesting. The Pedalhead has a riser stem and bars, so I’m about as upright as I can be on it. The Giant is set up that way too, but since it’s a road bike, it’s definitely more leaned over.

      Any particular core exercises that worked well for you?

      Thanks for your response!

    • #589383

      After years of chronic back pain, here are somethings that I think help.

      1. This is probably the most important thing on my list and that is “WALKING”. Human beings have evolved to be walking machines otherwise known as hunter-gathers. A human body needs to be walked. Any day you’re not bike riding you should be walking for at least one hour. This is the most fundamental way to strengthen your core.

      2. Lose the gut. A body isn’t made to have 10, 20, 30+ pounds of weight hanging off the front.

      3. Ride a full-sus, progressive-geo 29er Mountain bike with wide low-pressure tires. Most important is that the bike comes with at 76* or steeper seattube. This keeps you from being bent at the waist. You might also want to shove the seat all the way forward which effectively steepens the seatube even more. Having full-sus and wide low-pressure tires reduces the pounding and vibration. I have a full-sus bike with 29×2.6 tires at 17psi with the seat pushed all the way forward. I bought the bike a size too large and then shoved the seat all the way forward and put on shorter stem with the handlebars raised as high as they will go. However, you don’t want to be cramped. Make sure your reaching forward not down. You want your body to be stretched out. I also use a full-sus XC bike with 700×43 gravel tires as my road/gravel bike. It also has the seat forward and the bars raised. The unsuspended slack-seatube cramped-up aero-position of a road bike is a sure recipe for back pain!

      • #589485

        Interesting! I hadn’t thought of walking as a core exercise, but that makes perfect sense. I’ve been trying to move more in general, but I’ll try to up the walking!

        The seat tube angle on my Pedalhead is 74º, which is definitely slacker than most modern progressive bikes. I wonder if I can rent something with a steeper STA to see if it feels better right away. Could also slam the seat forward — I’m not sure how much of a horizontal difference a couple degrees makes. I might be able to simulate a bit of a steeper seat tube that way.

        I’ve been doing a lot of lower back strengthening, but backed off a bit on the abdominal stuff (leg lifts, planks, dead bug, etc.). Maybe I’ll try putting that back in, too.

        Thanks for the tips! It definitely gives me hope that I can conquer this pain.

    • #589409

      Leg lifts and sit ups mostly. Also, you may want try try some yoga exercises that focus on your lower back muscles.  As Bike Nerd suggested, weight loss around the midsection will help too.

    • #589488

      Another quick question; is the real benefit of a steeper seat tube angle (in this instance, not overall) a shorter effective top tube? I’d love to figure out how to ride a road bike comfortably, and going to a smaller size would basically shorten the ETT . . . I think.

    • #589540

      Your core is a key factor.  If  your not into walking you can do the same on the bike bike by weighting the pedals so your pretty much not holding the bars but just guiding them. Its  not that easy but in time you’ll ride and feel better by not being so tense in the shoulders from hanging on to tight.

    • #589592

      Pushing the saddle forward is not to get a shorter effective top tube. If you push your saddle forward and raise your handlebars, you will likely need to use a longer stem to get your fit right. Fit is the distance from the saddle to your handlebars. The goal here is to make it so that your back is straighter and less bent. If your fit is too short or too long, then you are making your back bend more. An old school XC bike with a slack seattube and very low handle bars makes you very bent over. A modern Enduro bike with a steep seatube and very high bars makes your back very straight even though the fit on both bikes could be the same.

    • #595334

      People who have to be in a static position for a long time, which leads to overstrain of the muscles that support this posture, are most often subjected to this pathology. Examples include office workers who sit for long periods at a computer in the same position, or people after a long flight. After that, all it takes is one awkward movement for the back to give itself away.

    • #595897

      Scoliosis… Takes its toll but have good days and bad days.

    • #596544

      I had backpain for several years and no doctors or chiropractors helped.  I couldn’t even carry a standard backpack for more than 10 minutes without paying for it the rest of the day and next day.

      What solved it finally is just doing some full body exercises with some reasonably heavy dumbells (heaviest you can use without losing your form).   This is the best way to strengthen your entire system from your legs, to core to forearms.    For example, even when doing standing curls, your back and stomach muscles still have to support you to maintain form.    Just find some dumbell exercises on youtube that hit every major muscle group in your body.    Keep it simple.  You don’t need anything fancy or equipment beyond the dumbells.  My workout takes only 20-25 minutes and they are simple enough that I have them memorized.    After several months, your backpain will just magically disappear as long as you make sure your form is good.

      Now I can ride a hardtail in singletrack endurance races (50 miles plus) with an aggressive cockpit position (negative rise stem) and my back is the least of my worries.

    • #596701

      A little late to post but I also have been suffering from a ridiculous amount of back pain in the last few months.

      It is soft tissue and to the right of my T7. That back pain improved with foam rolling and basically jamming a protein shake bottle and/or a racquetball right into the painful area and feeling the rib relocate.

      The other back pain is sacroiliitis. Lower back, soft tissue and absolutely nothing reduces the pain. Kettlebell swings with regular Olympic weights have improved the back pain by increasing the time in the saddle. It was worse on a medium hardtail and is now better on a large dual suspension. I have also lost a few pounds are the belly area, but all in all. Kettlebell swings.

      I have also noticed that stretching my hamstrings reduces the discomfort and sitting on the ground to eat has benefitted me instead of walking, which I detest.

    • #597704

      49 Yr old cyclist who has been Mt biking since 1986, over the last few years my back issues have been taking longer to go away.  After a great season of mostly gravel miles with a large push back to mt biking in the fall I wrapped up 2020 with 5K miles.  Once the snow fell I hopped on my fatbike and had some of my fastest times ever, but my back pain worsened and by the time the snow was gone after 600 miles into 2021 I could no longer ride as my back pain was intense.  Spent  March/April/May walking and increasing flexibility.  Tried the chiropractor route, and finally in June I pulled out the big guns and visited ortho…Xray showed no danger signs, but I got a stern lecture from the doc that even tho the engine was still strong, the rest of me was having trouble keeping up.  AKA Start managing your efforts, not every day can be flat out.  So next step was an MRI which revealed an annular tear on my spine, quite common, but they can act up and healing time is long.  So elected to go for an epidural.  Boom 6 weeks later I am still riding [lot less than I used too], and the reduction in pain has allowed me to work on my core.  That combined with shifting my lifestyle to add more cross training [less cycling load] and stretching has helped as well.   Good luck, I was so frustrated when the season started…hoping to be back together again for fatbike season.

    • #597815

      In my 30-40s I had awful lower back pain often. A physical therapist taught me an easy adjustment for hip dysplasia that I can do in a second or two, even while riding. Start sitting on the edge of your bed or anywhere you can let your legs hang at a right angle and compare your heals. Whichever one is lower twist your torso towards the lower heal and then check the alignment. This easy adjustment changed my life and now I don’t have back pain and don’t see a chiropractor 20+ times a year, maybe once every 2 years!

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