Author Topic: Neck and shoulder pain  (Read 4290 times)

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Offline klaus schmidt

Neck and shoulder pain
« on: September 19, 2009, 08:48:06 am »
I am new to cycling and have just purchased a barely used 2008 trek 520. I want to get into shape and do some touring. I had myself sized before I bought a bike and was told by my local bike shop what size to purchase - so I started looking for a nice 1 to 2 year old bike in an effort to save some money. I found one my size and had it shipped in & assembled and fit to me by the LBS. The guy at the shop said the bike fit me -but I'm not sure if he really wanted to do buisness with me because I didn't buy the bike from him.
After riding some 8-10 miles, my neck and sometimes my shoulders start hurting. I took the bike back to the shop - they added a "stem lenghtener" this added approx 2''. This felt somewhat better - but I still feel "heavy on my hands" and still get some shoulder and neck discomfort. I 've been riding approx 1 month and going 17-20 miles every other day and I would like to go farther, but the neck and shoulder pain make it uncomfortable enough were I've had enough. What can I do?  I really like riding - I even went 60 miles on a Saturday with the discomfort,  but i cant imagine doing this day in/out with the neck/shoulder pain. Please help me.  I want to go touring   

Offline windrath

Re: Neck and shoulder pain
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2009, 11:11:47 am »
Hi -

How leaned over are you?  If the LBS guy put a lengthener on your stem, sounds like it puts more weight on your hands and leans you over more.

For touring, it is much better to be sitting more upright so less weight goes on your shoulders and hands.

Good luck

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Neck and shoulder pain
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2009, 12:30:01 pm »
You need to go to a bike shop that has someone trained to fit people on bikes.  If you keep riding with this kind of pain, you may get injured to the point where you'll be out for a long time.  These issues can usually be fixed if you go to someone who knows what they're doing.  Call around to bike shops and ask if they have someone trained to fit people on bikes.  Most of us who have ridden a lot have faced these and other aches and pains.  The worst thing is to ignore it, keep riding, and hope it goes away. 

Good luck.  You can get this worked out and get on with the touring! 
May the wind be at your back!

Offline mikedirectory2

Re: Neck and shoulder pain
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2009, 12:54:50 am »
You need to go to a bike shop that has someone trained to fit people on bikes.  If you keep riding with this kind of pain, you may get injured to the point where you'll be out for a long time.  These issues can usually be fixed if you go to someone who knows what they're doing.  Call around to bike shops and ask if they have someone trained to fit people on bikes.  Most of us who have ridden a lot have faced these and other aches and pains.  The worst thing is to ignore it, keep riding, and hope it goes away. 

Good luck.  You can get this worked out and get on with the touring! 

Definately go get a professional to help you.  You dont want to get hurt and not be able to ride for any period of time. 
May the skies be blue and the road be flat... Happy Riding.

Offline MTNGator

Re: Neck and shoulder pain
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2009, 08:47:30 am »
Welcome to the forum.

As the saying goes, I feel your pain. First of all, your choice of a Trek 520, if the frame is the right size, was a good one. You will probably need to change the stem in order to get a more upright position and take some of the weight off your hands. I'm curious - when you said the bike shop installed a stem extension, was that to raise the handlebars higher or move them further away from you?

If you haven't already done so, I would suggest reading Peter White's on-line article on bike fit available at http://www.peterwhitecycles.com. You will see in the article that proper bike fit is a series of compromises so that once you change your position enough to make your upper body more comfortable, you have probably transferred enough weight to your seat to make the current saddle uncomfortable. I have been working out the same problem since I returned to cycling after a long illness. I no longer have anywhere near the flexibility I had three years ago so I have had to raise the handlebars on my Cannondale T2000 above the original bike shop setting of almost two inches below the saddle (they cut the steerer tube too short when assembling the bike prior to my picking it up). This change has involved trying several different lengths of 17-degree rise stems from Velo Orange and a new fork that had the steerer tube cut 45 mm longer than the steerer tube on the original Cannondale fork. I think I am now near where I want to be - but I will probably need to change out the current Brooks saddle for a wider model to accommodate the more upright riding position.

Finally, I agree with the other posts here - get to a bike shop that is knowledgeable about touring bike fit. Good luck.


Offline GeorgeC

Re: Neck and shoulder pain
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2009, 08:27:34 pm »
As everone else has suggested, get a professional bike fit. But be aware that touring fit is not the same as the fit for the typical roadie.

I have found that the top of the handlebars need to be above the top of the saddle. For the neck and shoulder pain, I try to squeeze my shoulder blades together every mile or so and look down at the cranks for a couple seconds. You will feel a pulling in the neck muscles but these two movements bring me great relief.

Don't give up - very small changes in handlebar height and reach make a big difference and even a couple day's tour is a wonderful experience. With a few minor adjustments you will soon be there.

Offline litespeed

Re: Neck and shoulder pain
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2009, 01:35:02 pm »
It's easy, even instinctive to tense up your arms and shoulders. Concentrate on keeping your arms and shoulders relaxed and your wrists straight.

My problem is hand discomfort due to having large hands. My dream would be to find anatomic handlebars 1 1/2" in diameter.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2009, 11:45:32 am by litespeed »

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Neck and shoulder pain
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2009, 02:53:45 pm »
You may have to live with neck and shoulder pain and aspirin. Almost every book I have read on touring mentioned it. On all my tours I've had it. There are various sports stretches which target the muscles and bones in those areas. They can relieve tension and stress. Many complained of pain in the lower back-spinal area, most particularly when climbing hills. Every form of transportation has its tradeoffs. Every form of refuge has its price.

Offline whittierider

Re: Neck and shoulder pain
« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2009, 03:55:45 pm »
Continuous use of aspirin is kind of hard on the joints.

I know aerobars aren't very popular with tourists partly because of the problem with handlebar-bag access, but I find that half their value is in the relief they offer for my wrists, elbows, shoulders, back, and even my rear.  They do take some conditioning of their own, and it takes time to learn to control the bike differently so you have the desired stability; but I won't do any long rides anymore without them.  For long-term comfort, it is important that they fit right, with your upper arms being nearly vertical, not stretched forward, as viewed from the side.  Get ones that have the arm pads behind the main bar, not directly over it.  Also, get ones that angle up where you hold them, so you don't have to angle your wrists down unnaturally.  I probably have 30,000 miles on them now, not just with them, but actually on them, using three separate pairs of the Syntace C2 model on different bikes.  Since that's where my hands usually are, it made sense to put my shifters there too, so I have bar-end shifters on the aerobars on the bike I ride most.  This has become my favorite set-up.

As for the neck-- it is common for people who are new to cycling to feel like they have to hold their head way up facing directly forward instead of partly down, putting quite a bend in the neck (and exposing your face to more sunburn danger).  There's no need to hold the head up so high, and you usually have to be watching for road debris right in front of you anyway.  Unfortunately many modern eyeglasses are made so small that a more normal cycling position means you look over the top of your glasses instead of through them.  That said, my neck does still get tired at the beginning of a cycling season after the winter when I've been riding very little and I'm turning up the miles again, but soon it becomes a non-issue again as my neck gets stronger.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2009, 04:02:06 pm by whittierider »

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Neck and shoulder pain
« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2009, 12:24:03 am »
You may have to live with neck and shoulder pain and aspirin. Almost every book I have read on touring mentioned it. On all my tours I've had it. There are various sports stretches which target the muscles and bones in those areas. They can relieve tension and stress. Many complained of pain in the lower back-spinal area, most particularly when climbing hills. Every form of transportation has its tradeoffs. Every form of refuge has its price.
In addition to getting the fit right, I have to do a whole series of stretches several times a week.  They seem to help a lot for the activities I do.  biking seems to be one of the hardest on the body.  I have to stretch for achilles, hamstring, lower back, and neck problems.  I seem to have reached the place where, with the fit right and the stretching, and some work with light weights, things are good.  I'm also 61 and was touring and riding a lot 30 years ago with very few of these concern. 

Another thing that really helps is to not get too obsessed with one sport--I mix it up and in that way give the critical spots a break.  There are, of course, some books on staying fit and healthy for riding.  Do your research and keep riding!   
May the wind be at your back!

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Neck and shoulder pain
« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2009, 12:39:43 pm »
For optimal fit, pay for a professional fitting.  This is around ~$150.

I am of the opinion that you can get the bike ride-able, on your own.  I say that, because most of us can't afford to pay for  new fitting every time we upgrade a bike component.  It sounds like funds are tight for you, and I think there are some things you should try before you invest in a professional fitting.  If you show up cold at a bike shop for a free fitting, don't have high expectations.

I think there is a fit point that has been missed.  The saddle should be level.  If it is not level, then the saddle is probably nose down, and that will put pressure on your hands.  So start with a carpenters level, and get the saddle level.  There should be lots of web sources for how to adjust a saddle's fit.  In short, get the saddle level, get it high enough to get full extension, get the centroid of the knee over the centroid of the pedal.  Tweak to whatever is comfortable for you (I do better with my knee in front of the pedal).

You might also make sure that your handlebars are wide enough.  I am fairly short, so I end up with a small frame.  Small road frames come with 39cm wide handlebars; appropriate for an adolescent or adult female (the usual target market for small frames), but not for a barrel chested French-Canadian.  I need at least a 42cm bar.  So make sure that you have the right width bars.

Your ride posture should have your arms loose.  If you are locked at the elbow, then your posture is wrong.  If you can't get a good posture, then you need to explore how stiff you are and the rise or extension of the bars.  If you are that stiff, then the suggested stretching may help.  I suppose you could get acquainted with your local chiropractor too.  If personal stiffness is not an issue, you may need a new stem that changes how far out or how far up the handlebars are.  I have seen one that is adjustable.  I think they look ugly, but it may be right for you.  Certainly it can help you figure out what you need.  You may be able to gain some length by moving the saddle back, but this could be at the peril of having the saddle mis-fit.    You are going to have to do some test rides to get everything dialed in.

You have not said anything about your build.  For example, I have a long torso with short stubby legs.  By the time I buy a frame small enough to accommodate my legs, I could get a frame that is not long enough to accommodate my torso.  I have a friend with the same build (although he is taller),  and he needs a custom frame with a longer top tube.

Please try all of these things before you give up.  And please post your progress.

Danno

Offline BikingViking

Re: Neck and shoulder pain
« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2009, 05:42:07 pm »
This little item is spendy, but allows much more adjustment than many adjustable stems out there. I have this and I love it.

http://www.glorycycles.com/loerhscst.html

Offline hamilgs

Re: Neck and shoulder pain
« Reply #12 on: September 26, 2009, 01:12:54 am »
If you seriously try the suggestions above and still get not enough relief, it may be time to consider (dare I say it?) a recumbent.  Full disclosure-I ride a Tour Easy EX long wheel base recumbent  (www.easyracers.com).  Bents are another set of compromises that may or may not work for you.  There is more diversity in the bent world than in the upright world, and the choices can be tough to sort out-test ride a lot of styles before you buy.  Two or three wheels, long or short wheelbase, above or below seat steering- tweener bars...  Hard shell seat or mesh-well you get the idea.  They are typically heavier, some say worse climbers, but at the end of the day, the only thing that hurts is my tired legs, and some occasional "recumbutt".  I'm sitting upright in my lawn chair, head looking forward, arms unloaded, admiring the scenery, and I can put my feet down while in the saddle.  When you are ready try www.bentrideronline.com.--george
Zippered Tour Easy EX
To recline is devine

Offline geegee

Re: Neck and shoulder pain
« Reply #13 on: September 26, 2009, 09:18:05 pm »
My advice would be to get some upper body and abdominal exercises as part of your workout routine. I think too many people rely on just cycling to get themselves in shape. While cycling might seem like mostly a leg workout, it also demands quite a bit from your obliques, latissimus dorsi and trapezius muscles, which are attached to your back and neck. Sneak in some oblique crunches and a few pushups regularly, and if you have access to a gym, some lat pull downs. As you gain strength in these muscles, you'll be surprised as to how much it improves your cycling since the more force you exert on the pedals, the more your upper body has to counteract with a balancing force. In the end you may find yourself readjusting your bike to be closer to the recommended posture.

Offline MTNGator

Re: Neck and shoulder pain
« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2009, 07:14:40 am »
Several people have contributed to this thread with advice/questions but the member who originally started the thread seems to have dropped off the forum.

We all continue to offer suggestions and opinions but without feedback from the person who originally asked for advice does it make sense to guess what he should do?