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advice about bad backs and bikes

tozi1tozi1 Posts: 119
edited February 2009 in Road beginners
just returned to cycling after a break of four years or so ( my kids had my old 40 year old road bike restored and upgraded as a christmas present!!-wow or what!!)- my wife would love to come out for the odd gentle jaunt,but as a nurse she has had a lot of back trouble over the years,and we are worried about getting the wrong bike,the more i think about it I'm thinking something with an upright riding position?Anyone had a similar problem?

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  • snakehipssnakehips Posts: 2,272
    I have had various types of back pain over the years and I have never aggravated it by cycling. There was a time when I commuted on a road bike even with a bad back. I think the way your back arches when you lean forward actually relieves the back.

    Good luck

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  • thiscocksthiscocks Posts: 603
    Just go for anything with a fairly upright position. No point in a full-on racer or something like that. Maybe a hybrid like: http://www.wiggle.co.uk/p/Cycle/7/Felt_ ... 360038869/ for example...
  • JGSJGS Posts: 180
    If you are concerned about bike fit and a bad back it might be worth paying for a proper bike fit session? The money spent earlier on getting it right in the first place would save you a lot a trouble, pain and money later on if the bike aggravates anything?
  • I have degenerative discs in my lower back which a very painful. I ride mountain bike and it hurts for the first few minutes each ride then seems to clear up. Painkillers help but make me drowsy so it depends on how they affect you. I also ride a steel framed bike xc (and On-one Inbred)which supposedly takes a bit of the sting out and use a USE shockpost to soak up some of the bigger bumps. I try to set my bikes so I'm a bit more upright which also takes some of the pressure off my lower back.

    I'ts also worth speaking to a good sports physio, mine has given me a lot of exercises and stretches to strengthen my core muscles and loosen my hamstrings. Pilates and yoga are also supposed to be good for this.

    Hope this helps.
  • tozi1tozi1 Posts: 119
    Thanks for all the helpfull advice-it certainly looks as though a bad back needn't prevent you getting on a bike.
  • andrewjosephandrewjoseph Posts: 2,165
    as all the others have said, bike fit is important. then get an adjustable angle stem and be prepared to spend time getting optimum comfort.
    --
    Burls Ti Tourer for Tarmac, Saracen aluminium full suss for trails
  • I find the reach to the bars crucial. many people have the stem far too long, (including me until I tried a shorter one which helped hugely).
  • NuggsNuggs Posts: 1,804
    thiscocks wrote:
    Just go for anything with a fairly upright position. No point in a full-on racer or something like that. Maybe a hybrid like: http://www.wiggle.co.uk/p/Cycle/7/Felt_ ... 360038869/ for example...
    I couldn't agree with you less.

    I punctured a disc in my lumbar region a couple of years ago. Coupled to that are a number of degenerated discs.

    I find a more stretched out riding position really helps take the pressure off the sensitive parts. It also helps the muscles around my spine loosen up. I can be almost pain-free for a whole day after a decent ride.

    The huge advantage with drops is that there are so many different hand positions, which helps take pressure off sensitive parts and keep things nice and loose.

    An upright position on a hybrid would destroy me in minutes.
  • tozi1tozi1 Posts: 119
    This is all very very interesting-I really hadn't thought it through-when Christine's back is bad any jarring is a killer-steps-uneven surfaces etc-but the only relief comes from lying on her side in a slightly curled up position-so perhaps a more stretched forward position might help-and of course either; suspension seat post,full susp.,or...brooks do some amazing looking sprung saddles aimed-I think- at places where the roads are bad-I guess we need to try some alternatives- but gently! Thanks everyone for the help
  • kingrollokingrollo Posts: 3,148
    Stetching or pilates helped my back problems no end - as did a bio racer fitting profile. - Would recommend a fitting session.

    I wouldn't also assume100% that upright position is good - for my back problem I was advised to do some 'gapping' excercises - and was told that leaning forward helped this process.
  • HeadhuunterHeadhuunter Posts: 6,494
    Nuggs wrote:
    thiscocks wrote:
    Just go for anything with a fairly upright position. No point in a full-on racer or something like that. Maybe a hybrid like: http://www.wiggle.co.uk/p/Cycle/7/Felt_ ... 360038869/ for example...
    I couldn't agree with you less.

    I punctured a disc in my lumbar region a couple of years ago. Coupled to that are a number of degenerated discs.

    I find a more stretched out riding position really helps take the pressure off the sensitive parts. It also helps the muscles around my spine loosen up. I can be almost pain-free for a whole day after a decent ride.

    The huge advantage with drops is that there are so many different hand positions, which helps take pressure off sensitive parts and keep things nice and loose.

    An upright position on a hybrid would destroy me in minutes.

    I'm not an expert by I would say that an upright position would be much worse for your back. Every little bump and pothole in the road would send shocks up your spine, whereas if you're in a more stretched out position, shocks are spread more evenly through your back, hands and feet.
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  • neil²neil² Posts: 337
    Nuggs wrote:
    thiscocks wrote:
    Just go for anything with a fairly upright position. No point in a full-on racer or something like that. Maybe a hybrid like: http://www.wiggle.co.uk/p/Cycle/7/Felt_ ... 360038869/ for example...
    I couldn't agree with you less.

    I punctured a disc in my lumbar region a couple of years ago. Coupled to that are a number of degenerated discs.

    I find a more stretched out riding position really helps take the pressure off the sensitive parts. It also helps the muscles around my spine loosen up. I can be almost pain-free for a whole day after a decent ride.

    The huge advantage with drops is that there are so many different hand positions, which helps take pressure off sensitive parts and keep things nice and loose.

    An upright position on a hybrid would destroy me in minutes.

    I'm not an expert by I would say that an upright position would be much worse for your back. Every little bump and pothole in the road would send shocks up your spine, whereas if you're in a more stretched out position, shocks are spread more evenly through your back, hands and feet.

    When you are upright (standing / walking) the back forms a series of curves which act as a shock-absorber. The centre of mass should be directly above the pelvis, which means that muscles and ligaments dont need to counterbalance the weight of the torso. The spine is very good at coping with shocks (e.g. running, walking, escaping from sabre toothed tigers) in that position, precisely due to the curvature.

    If you are susceptible to back pain what you want to avoid is stretching muscles and ligaments to their limits statically, and then adding the shocks and jolts from riding. It is better to have unstretched muscles and ligaments so that they have a bit of give - hence the more upright position which is usually more comfortable.

    One thing to remember, though, is that back pain sufferers often adapt to protect their back and so the muscles might not be very strong, and you might need a bit of gentle exercise to get them into shape. This means that you might get some muscle soreness, just like any exercise and your weaker muscles get a bit sore.

    Take it easy at first and build it up. There are a lot of back-pain sufferers who ride without problems and so it can be done!
  • NuggsNuggs Posts: 1,804
    neil² wrote:
    Nuggs wrote:
    thiscocks wrote:
    Just go for anything with a fairly upright position. No point in a full-on racer or something like that. Maybe a hybrid like: http://www.wiggle.co.uk/p/Cycle/7/Felt_ ... 360038869/ for example...
    I couldn't agree with you less.

    I punctured a disc in my lumbar region a couple of years ago. Coupled to that are a number of degenerated discs.

    I find a more stretched out riding position really helps take the pressure off the sensitive parts. It also helps the muscles around my spine loosen up. I can be almost pain-free for a whole day after a decent ride.

    The huge advantage with drops is that there are so many different hand positions, which helps take pressure off sensitive parts and keep things nice and loose.

    An upright position on a hybrid would destroy me in minutes.

    I'm not an expert by I would say that an upright position would be much worse for your back. Every little bump and pothole in the road would send shocks up your spine, whereas if you're in a more stretched out position, shocks are spread more evenly through your back, hands and feet.

    When you are upright (standing / walking) the back forms a series of curves which act as a shock-absorber.
    When I am standing or walking, my back doubles up as an instrument of torture. The thought of riding in an upright position, however theoretically correct, fills me with dread.
  • neil²neil² Posts: 337
    edited January 2009
    Nuggs wrote:
    I punctured a disc in my lumbar region a couple of years ago. Coupled to that are a number of degenerated discs.
    ....

    When I am standing or walking, my back doubles up as an instrument of torture. The thought of riding in an upright position, however theoretically correct, fills me with dread.

    Good point, Nuggs, but I think that is a bit different - without wanting to get too medical , it seems you are unfortunate to have a chronic back condition, with a diagnosis and physical disc damage. It sounds like extending is always a problem and so the forward position could be the best position for exercise. If there is serious disc degeneration then spinal flexibility will be reduced and the 'shock absorber' won't work properly - a bit like riding with a flat tyre - and so you need to adapt to an alternative posture.

    The original post seemed to be talking about a different type of back discomfort which is very common amongst healthcare professionals who might need to manoeuvre heavy patients. This is often due to repeated slight over exertion and the damage is muscular and can often heal. Taking exercise, like cycling, or even horse riding, can be therapeutic if done with care. Unless there are other factors to consider, the best practise it to try to remain in a 'neutral' posture, avoiding excessive twisting, reaching or bending.
  • andrewjosephandrewjoseph Posts: 2,165
    I think some people are getting hung up on the 'more upright' phrase. more upright does not mean 'bolt upright'.

    I ride my mountain bike 90% of the time, i am not 'upright' by any means. from what I've seen most hybrid bikes are not going to make someone upright either.

    from what I understand, the best position on a bike is with the back slight convex to better absorb shocks, not too stretched out as this can allow the back to flex in a concave arc, this will cause a lot of problems, not too tucked up as this can cause breathing problems by not allowing the lungs to expand properly.

    I have a back problem, fused vertebrae in my lower back and constant sciatic pain in both legs. riding either type does not cause more problems because i take a lot of time to get my riding position sorted.
    --
    Burls Ti Tourer for Tarmac, Saracen aluminium full suss for trails
  • tozi1tozi1 Posts: 119
    many many thanks for all the informed and considerate advice.I think a softly softly approach is perhaps the best-perhaps we will try hiring a couple of different bikes to try-the last thing I want is to put my wife off with a bad experience first time out! Once again thanks to everyone who contributed.Mike
  • I would suggest having plenty of low gears would help prevent making a back problem worse.

    If you have to stand up and heave on the pedals and bars when going up a hill I find it puts a large strain on your lower back.
  • Also, dont relay on the proffesional bike fitting methods unless they are carried out by an experienced person who has the patience and experience to adjust the results to suit your needs.
  • rose04rose04 Posts: 17
    Hi, I had back pain for years every time I was doing any exercise, no matter what I did it gave me back pain even lifting groceries, backpack etc. I tried all sort of things: light exercise, pilates, even belly dancing and still the same pain shortly after. I even had one of those indoors exercise bicycle and hated it because … well it gave me back pain. Doctors did not found a spot on my back where the pain was coming from and felt pretty annoyed. I also use to find relief too in lying on the side in a slightly curled up position.

    Anyway when I choose my bicycle I had no idea what I was looking for in one as I did not even knew haw to ride, I just sat on many different sizes in the shop to see haw it feels.

    I sit in an upright position on my bicycle and my arms slightly bended, my back curves very little. I have seen people riding their bicycles and bend much more forward them me. I have to say I am one happy bunny because I have no back pain at all YAY. I really pushed my self riding it plenty of times and feeling great. This is the holy grail of exercise for me if I can say so lol.

    I really think you should take your wife to try different size bicycles and rent to see haw it goes.


    Good luck!
  • tozi1tozi1 Posts: 119
    Thanks for all the positive thoughts.Mike
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