Why is cycling bad

Tips from the orthopedic surgeon : How do you protect your spine and joints when cycling?

Mr. Alquiza, is cycling good for your back?

It's good for your back, at least it's not bad for your back. Of course, you have to pay attention to a few things: the seating position, the right size of the bike and which bike you ride. We generally recommend bicycles with full suspension for patients with back problems. The suspensions absorb axial shocks. We know that this reduces the forces that act on the back when you hit the back by 30 to 40 percent. And then you have to relieve the back accordingly by means of the correct sitting position.

Is there a type of bike that is particularly suitable for this?
Nowadays the ideal sitting position is on a trekking or city bike. With them, the body's center of gravity is at the level of the pedal line. The upper body is then inclined slightly forward, around 15 to 20 degrees. You should then sit in a position where the angle between your torso and arms is around 90 degrees. Then the back is the least stressed.

Many people find it particularly comfortable to ride a classic Dutch bike and to sit particularly upright.

This sitting position is not ideal. If the spine is too straight, the axial thrusts are transmitted directly. In addition, the body's center of gravity is then behind the pedal line, which means you lose energy. You don't have perfect power transmission to the pedals. This leads to compensatory movements, which in turn damage the back.

What can you do wrong with the seat height?

The seat height is extremely important. A saddle that is set too high puts a strain on the spine. If it is too low, the knee joints are affected.

How do you set the saddle height correctly?

At the lowest point of the pedals, the leg must not be fully stretched. And you have to make sure that the pelvis does not move with it. If someone has to work from the pelvis to get to the pedals below, the saddle is too high. Many think: “The higher the saddle, the more power I can put on the pedals.” That may be true, but if the pelvis swings sideways, to the right and left, it is unfortunately unfavorable for the spine. It should always be stable. And when the pedals are at their highest point, your knee joint shouldn't be bent more than 90 degrees. If it is angled too much and you want to draw strength from this position, that goes for the meniscus.

Sometimes people complain of numb wrists while cycling. What went wrong?

The problem is common. Deaf wrists are related to the carpal tunnel on the inside of the wrist. The median nerve runs through it and controls the movements of the fingers and thumb. In the event of muscle tension and vibrations, it reports itself and then it comes to numb fingers and hands. This can be counteracted by riding a sprung bike to reduce wrist bumps. And you should only rest your upper body moderately on your arms. The further you lean forward, the more pressure you put on your hands. With an ideal upper body incline of 15 to 20 degrees, however, the pressure is usually low.

What if you feel neck pain while cycling?

Neck pain is usually a chronic problem, and not just when cycling. They arise from permanent bad posture, the patients often already have hyperkyphosis in the upper thoracic spine area - a hunched back. That is, the spine is strongly curved forward, and accordingly, patients have to lift their heads to look straight ahead. We advise such patients to sit a little more upright so that they do not have to stretch their necks so much.

It is said that many back problems come from sitting too much. Is it better to sit on a bike?

It's a different way of sitting. You have a straight back on the bike and the deep back muscles are tensed by bending forward slightly. This is why cycling has a very good training effect on the back muscles. Sitting in a chair is different. The problem is not actually sitting, but that 90 percent of people sit incorrectly. If you were to adapt the desk chair and internalize ergonomic sitting, there would be far fewer problems.

Recently, old racing bikes have become fashionable. How back-friendly are they?

The racing bike posture per se is a posture in which you place the center of gravity far in front of the pedal level in order to be able to exert more force on the pedals. The problem is: You can only exercise such a posture correctly if you have a well trained back. If you don't have that, I wouldn't recommend riding a road bike. You should first get your back muscles used to it slowly and then move forward with the incline. You can quickly find out for yourself if you sit on such a racing bike and simply ride 50 kilometers without being trained. Then you have back pain. But that is mainly sore muscles and doesn't have to be dangerous.

On the subject of gear shifting: should you drive in high or low gears?

You should rather choose a low gear and a higher number of revolutions of the pedals. For the joints, high gears, where you need a lot of strength, are much less favorable.

With the correct sitting position, is cycling safe in the long run?

Cycling is very healthy and, as with any sporting activity, it's important to keep it right. You have to protect yourself from overload. But, in and of itself, you can't go wrong with cycling.

Miguel Alquiza is chief physician at the Center for Spinal Surgery at the Evangelical Forest Hospital Spandau and rides a trekking bike himself.

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