Tuesday, September 21, 2010

BIKE FIT - answers for an aching neck!

by Dan McDonough | Revolutions In Fitness Retül Certified Bike Fitter

('07 Tour of California pro's starting Sierra climb - by Beverly Garrity)
My aching neck, why is flexibility important? 

Neck pain and many times hand numbness that comes from a pinched neck / nerve on the bike is usually a combination of:

1) The interrelationship between a person's flexibility and their bike fit.
2) The interrelationship between a person's strength in their bike fit.
3) Any existing or pre-existing problems such as: disc bulge is, nerve root encroachment, facet misalignment (neck joints).

When we are on the bike, assuming a forward bend position (usually around 45 degrees to the horizon) we must somehow get our head facing forward so that we can see the road. This can be accomplished in one of three ways.
The first is to by solely extending the neck
The second is to extend our lumbar spine and/or thoracic spine
The third is a combination of the two above.

So here's a demonstration sight unseen, to help explain these relationships.  Follow each of these directions and progressively.
1) Bend forward slowly sliding your fingers down the front of your thighs when you reach your kneecaps stop.
2) Slowly look up by just moving your neck. Do not move your back.
This is an example of the first method.  It puts great of stress all of the neck and low back. It increases pressure on the facet joints (joints in your back), nerve roots, and adds stress to the muscles that support the neck.

The second option:
1) As above, bend forward slowly sliding your fingers down the front of your thighs when you reach your kneecaps stop.
2) Slowly pull your belly button down toward the floor letting your lumbar spine extend (arch down, dip / sag toward the floor).
3) Slowly pull your shoulder blades together causing extension or arching of your mid back (thoracic spine).
4) Lastly, as needed, looked up to see the road.

Notice that most of your movement looking up needed in order to see the road can be gained from your low back and mid back. However, this takes flexibility of your hamstrings, whole spine (lumbar spine, thoracic spine and cervical), chest (pectoralis) muscles, and neck muscles. It also takes strength and ENDURANCE of these muscles: abdominals, back extensor group (multifidus erector spinae, illiocostalis, multifitis), shoulder blade muscles (mid traps, lower trapezius, serratus anterior) and the neck muscles.

If you look at your pelvis (hips) to your spine as a chain, if several of these links are still (back upper / lower or hamstrings) then the other links (in your neck) have to make up for the stiffness.

The biggest factor relative to the neck regarding bike fit is the relationship between seat height and handle bar height. The lower your handle bars are as compared to your saddle, the more you must bend forward and thus the more flexibility in strength is needed.

Thus think about stretching next time you feel that nagging ache.