Shoulder and upper back tightness

Colin Watts
Colin Watts Posts: 53
edited June 2007 in Road beginners
Since I started riding to work this year I have found that I end up with tight shoulders and upper back, lots of knots that need (and kneed) loosening up. I do try to massage these while I am sitting at my desk in work, but idealy I'd like any tips that people can give me about avoiding it happening.
I do try to keep my shoulders relaxed during my ride but over the 1.5 hours they tend to creep up and I periodically have to make a point of relaxing them again.
Other than trying to remember to relax my shoulders while riding can people recommend any stretches that I should do when I finish, I do some for my legs and I need to do something similar of my shoulders.

Thanks for any advice.



  • crackle
    crackle Posts: 216
    If you're suffering with tight shoulders and neck I'd suggest your position needs adjusting. Have you tried adjusting it? For instance raising the bars slightly. Sounds like you're a tadge stretched. I also get this on my mountain bike where the bars are wider and I'm stetched forward as well. The position used to suit me some years ago but doesn't anymore. Whereas on my road bike, recently bought, I don't get it at all.

    Other than that, the usual suggestion are vary your hand positions to relieve pressure etc.. but that only works if the initial position is correct for you in the first place.

  • morgs2001
    morgs2001 Posts: 159
    I suffered from the same problems ,
    it is most likely positioning.
    I flipped the stem over to raise the handlebars a touch and played about with saddle height .Now I dont have any problems .Doing decent distances without back problems.
    I suggest going to your lbs and ask them if they will fit you for your bike.

    all the best
  • McBain_v1
    McBain_v1 Posts: 5,237
    It does sound as though you are riding around like a tortoise that is retreating into its shell, hence the stiff shoulders and upper back (trapezius muscles I bet). Try and keep your elbows down and tweak your saddle height, if too much weight is being thrown forward onto your arms you will try and straighten them a bit to ease the load, but this leads to your shoulders being pushed together, hence stiffness.

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  • Chris James
    Chris James Posts: 1,040
    It does sound like you are stretched out a bit, but then again you said that you started cycling to work THIS YEAR.

    Sometimes it takes a while for your body to get used to the strange position taken up when cycling. If you haven't done any cycling before, or at least for a while, then this can also give you back / neck ache.

    If so, then your body will get used to it in time. However, raising your handlebars a bit will almost certainly help.
  • pw1brown
    pw1brown Posts: 243
    Keep trying to relax too, as you are doing, and maybe sit up and have a stretch now and then while you're riding. And vary your position on the bike if you can.
  • Colin Watts
    Colin Watts Posts: 53
    Thanks for the responses, I think I'll have to visit my local bike shop to get my position sorted. From what you have all said it does seem the most likely.
    I need to get this sorted out before June when I am undertaking a 500 mile ride between the 3 Peaks., if anyone wants to join me for a cycle or running leg, my outline maps and dates of each stage are on there. The maps may take a bit of time to load.

    Chris, I think it is unacceptable for my body to not do what I want stright away ;-) that's why within the same year of getting my bike I have my plan of a short ride and a few runs over hills!

  • father_jack
    father_jack Posts: 3,509
    My back aches, have thought it was reach (OCR-1 stem is quite long) might have to get it changed.

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  • Colin Watts
    Colin Watts Posts: 53
    The consensus seems to be that I am stretching and reaching too far?
    What would happen if I was too cramped, I guess I would ache somewhere different?

  • father_jack
    father_jack Posts: 3,509
    Lower back perhaps? My shoulder muscles ache after 30 or so miles.

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  • freddered
    freddered Posts: 391
    cramps in the back of my neck and between my shoulder blades can blight my longer rides.

    As suggested before -

    1) raise bars a touch
    2) make sure bars are not too narrow or too wide (shoulder width)
    3) keep that area warm (cold air blowing over my shoulders is the MAIN problem I think)
    4) keep stretching as you ride, before the onset of pain. Rotate arms, stretch neck down...etc.

    Hope this helps, I know it can be bad news.
  • julk
    julk Posts: 55
    I second the comments by freddered, especially the effect of cold air blowing around and down your neck/shoulders/back.

    A comprehensive book on stretching is 'Bob Anderson - Stretching', it contains lots of material and includes a section with specific stretches for before and after cycling. It is available online from a company with a name derived from a south american rainforest.
  • Colin Watts
    Colin Watts Posts: 53
    After the advice yesterday, I made more concerted efforts to relax and stretch on the bike (26 miles)this morning and it certainly does not feel quite as bad as other days.
    I will raise the bars at the weekend, 1cm?

    I'll look into getting the book on stretching as well.


  • Buggi
    Buggi Posts: 674
    i used to get this so got the stem shortened so i wasn't reaching so far. seemed to do the trick.

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  • JWSurrey
    JWSurrey Posts: 1,173
    I roll my shoulders, tilt my neck side to side, and lift my head away from my neck at the same time, plus look left/right. This seems to do the trick.
    I do it every so-often even though I rarely get tightness these days (since buying a jig-fitted bike).

    I have a pair of ITM Marathon handlebars - seem to be frowned upon by the racers - The tops bend backwards, thereby creating a greater range of positions and the ability to sit up at different amounts when riding on the tops.

    I read that if you can see your front hub when riding along, you're probably not riding the right sized bike. It should be obscured by the handlebars/stem.
    This would ring true - My MTB rides long, and I can see the front hub - My road bike is fanastically comfortable, and from similar positions, I can't.
  • Just wanted to let you all know that I did my run, cycle, run, cycle, run of the 3 Peaks last week over 6 days, 20 miles running over the hills, 540 miles cycling and as a result of the advice I had on here and getting my bike correctly set up I had/have no upper back shoulder pain.

    So thanks for the advice. John's Bikes, in Bath, turned the handle bar extension tube thing upside down ( in effect raised the handlebars ) and made some adjustments to my saddle height.

    6 days - 540 miles cycling and running the over 3 Peaks was hard, but enjoyable.
    After the initial rain, wind and cloud over Snowdon the weather improved and most of the time was sunny but not too warm.
    Early starts and long days, averaging 11 hours from morning to evening each day for 6 days.
    No mechanical problems.
    I was accompanied on some running and cycling sections by various friends.
    Some friends provided support through accommodation and food.

    Full report on


  • Chris James
    Chris James Posts: 1,040
    Congratulations Colin, it sounds a great effort.