Last week we looked at pain associated with cycling and how a well fitting bike and good posture can help. Today I’ll talk you through a simple stretching routine for pain prevention, and when you should seek treatment.
Regular Stretching to Help Prevent Pain
Wrist and Hand Pain and Tingling
Two nice easy ones to help with wrist pain:
Neck and Shoulder Tension
Low Back, Knee and Hip Pain
Try these two stretches to relieve back, hip and thigh pain.
It’s also important to have strong back and tummy muscles, otherwise you’ll start to slouch and get aches and pains. There are lots of core strength exercises but this is one of my favourites:
Back Strengthening Exercise: Pelvic Tilt – Full instructions
Feeling stiff and achy after a long ride is pretty normal but pain shouldn’t get in the way of cycling. If you have to cut short a ride due to pain or you feel achy for more than a day or so after riding, you should consider getting some treatment.
Give me a call on 020 8520 5268 to book an appointment.
*As with all stretches, move slowly and gently. If a stretch hurts, stop doing it.*
Backpacks are great. I love them and think you can learn to love them too.
Backpacks distribute weight across both shoulders. This is MUCH better for your back than using a hand bag or satchel, especially if you are carrying around more than just your purse and keys.
When you use a bag on just one shoulder, the weight bearing side will tend to drop down. You may tilt your body to the opposite side in order to balance out the weight of the bag. This can contribute to muscle imbalance in your neck shoulders, back and even hips. If you use a backpack instead, the weight of the bag will be evenly placed across both shoulders, helping you maintain a balanced posture.
Secondly, many bags come with long straps or are designed to be hand held. The further the weight is from your body, the harder your muscles have to work to support it. When you wear a backpack the weight is held nice and close to your body which makes things a lot easier for your muscles.
Lastly, I love backpacks because they keep both hands free so you can eat, drink, text, read a book or whatever you fancy without your bag getting in the way.
How to Choose a Backpack
Now that I’ve convinced you on the merits of using a backpack, how do you go about buying one?
Firstly have a think about what you need to carry on a day to day basis. You’ll need to make sure your new bag is large enough and strong enough for all the essentials. This is particularly important if you carry a laptop or lots of paperwork around.
When you are looking at backpacks try to choose one which is fairly strong and sturdy looking. A lot of high street clothing brands stock pathetically flimsy bags – don’t waste your money on something that’ll wear out in a few months.
I like bags with a couple of internal pockets so I can keep my lunch away from my laptop. Bags with lots of pockets just encourage you to fill it up with unnecessary items so a good middle ground is needed here.
Sturdy padded straps are a must. They make things so much more comfortable. If you know you’ll be carrying very heavy things around, a chest strap can be handy. This helps keep the weight close to your body.
Finally, try the bag on. Does it feel comfortable? Do the straps dig into your shoulders? Does it fit neatly against your back or hang away from your body?
Brands to try:
Quicksilver. My current backpack is from quicksilver via T K Maxx and I love it! Much better than the Primark one I was using before.
Fjallraven. I’ve not tried Fjallraven myself but lots of people love their high quality bags.
Animal. A little cheaper than the other two but still decent quality, and they come in lots of snazzy designs.
This is a very nice stretch for the early stages of frozen shoulder, rotator cuff injury and other shoulder problems. It stretches the back of the shoulder joint.
1. Sit or stand upright.
2. Cross your ‘bad’ arm in front of your body.
3. Bend your other arm around the first arm’s elbow as shown above.
4. Use your good arm to bring the stiff arm closer to your body.
5. You should feel a stretch across the back of your shoulder.
6. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
- Keep breathing normally while you stretch. Do not hold your breath.
- Stretch gently and slowly. You should be able to feel a stretching sensation but it should not hurt.
- If a stretch becomes painful, stop immediately and seek advice from your therapist.
- Only perform stretches which have been prescribed or approved by a qualified individual such as your GP, physiotherapist or osteopath.
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What I’ve Been Up To
Outside of work I seem to have been mostly going for walks on the marshes and eating ice cream!
We went to visit a friend in Copenhagen for the weekend and had a great time! I expected it to be a ‘nice’ city but it was much lovelier than I imagined. We also took a day trip to Malmo and Lund in Sweden, which are a short train ride away.
This weekend I am off to IndieTracks festival to enjoy ales, indie music and steam trains. I’ll be back at work on Wednesday at 3pm.
What have you done this month?
Every month I’m testing a health and fitness app so you don’t have to. This month I’m reviewing Habitbull which helps you develop good habits by keeping track of what you do.
App Name: HabitBull
Platform: Android (Google Play)
Cost: Free on Android
Size: Varies with device
Tested on: Google Nexus 5 running Android 5.0 (Lollipop)
What they say:
“Habits are no more than routines which you perform subconsciously. To build one – train yourself. To break one, find another one which is similar, yet different and nicer, and repeat it until it sticks.
To assist you with this HabitBull lets you set reminders for each habit and displays them on days when you need to be successful. This is especially useful if you have a to do list with repeating tasks or if you want to be reminded to do the same thing every day. It can also be used as a calendar planning tool or checklist, but also as a very effective repeating reminder (e.g. to drink water every 2 hours).”
What I say:
+ Reminders help you stick to new habits and record them.
+ Visual representation of successful days is very encouraging!
+ Colour coding each habit makes it easy to keep track of your progress
+ Very flexible – you can pretty much set this to record anything.
– I couldn’t get it to link up with Google Fit so had to put in my number of steps manually.
– Too many options when setting up a new habit. It’s a bit confusing at first.
The bottom line:
Once you get started this is a handy app. It’s been helping me stay on top of my emails and Spanish practice, but sadly I need to try a bit harder to relax every day. They say it takes 21 days to make a new habit. Give it a go for 3 weeks and see how you get on.
Download it from Google Play.
Do you cycle? It’s a great way to get around town, a fun pastime and excellent exercise. I love feeling the wind in my hair when I’m whizzing down the road or around Walthamstow marshes.
However, cycling can lead to muscle and joint problems. I’ve been seeing a lot of patients with bike related pains this summer so it seems a good time to share a few tips.
Common problems associated with cycling are knee pain, low back and hip pain, neck & shoulder tension, wrist & hand pain and tingling.
These can all be managed by:
1. making sure your bike fits.
2. maintaining good posture on your bike.
3. stretching regularly and strengthening your core muscles.
4. seeking treatment where necessary.
Making Sure your Bike Fits
We have 3 contact points with a bike; our hands on the handlebars, bottom on the seat and feet on the pedals. These three points need to be in the right position for a comfortable ride.
The ‘right’ position will depend on your body shape, the style of your bike and the sort of riding that you do. There are lots of things you can change in your bike but it is usually best to start with the position of your saddle and handlebars.
As a general rule:
Knee and foot pain is down to your saddle being too low, using the wrong gear or poor positioning of your feet on the pedals.
Hip and back pain is down to your saddle being too high above the handlebars or at the wrong angle. You may notice wobbling from side to side when you pedal.
Hand pain is down to leaning on the handlebars too much or gripping too hard.
If you decide to adjust your bike yourself, change one thing at a time. See how you get on over a couple of rides before you make any other changes. You may find it easier to book a fitting at your local bike shop, where they will be able to assess you and your bike and suggest relevant adjustments.
Maintaining Good Posture on your Bike
There’s no point having a perfect bike if you sit on it badly. While riding try to:
– Sit fairly upright. Only about 20% of your weight should be going through your hands, with the rest placed on your hips and feet. There should be a gentle hollow in the small of your back.
– Try to keep your shoulders and hands relaxed.
– Pedal with the ball of your foot, not your toes or heels.
– Gently engage the muscles of your back and tummy to hold yourself upright.
– If your wrists and hands hurt, try wearing padded gloves.
I also recommend breaking up long rides with short walking breaks as this gives your muscles some time to recover.
Check back next week when I’ll be discussing stretches for cyclists and when to seek treatment. In the meantime you can read the Ergotec guide to adjusting your bike and book a cycling lesson (FREE if you live or work in Waltham Forest).