How to Enjoy Biking if You Have Back Problems

Bicycling, or biking, is a fun way to stay in shape, especially when the weather is nice. However, any sport is more challenging if you suffer from back problems, and you’ll want to be very careful to protect your back and ride in comfort.
People with back pain enjoy biking for a variety of reasons. As far as aerobic exercise goes, biking is much less jarring than other sports like jogging or taking an aerobic class. One popular option is stationary biking because it is even gentler on the spine than riding outdoors. However, if you are itching to get outside and enjoy your sport, use the following tips for a smoother bike ride.
Select the best bike for your back. Depending on your back condition, you may feel more comfortable in the forward-leaning position of sitting on the bike seat and leaning your weight into the handlebars. For example, those suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis often feel better in this position. Traditional road bikes (not mountain bikes) tend to allow the body to sit in the forward-leaning position.
However, some people would feel better in a reclining position, especially if they have low back pain. Those with lumbar degenerative disc disease need to shift their weight to a backward-leaning position instead. In this case, a recumbent bike will help keep your spine in this more comfortable, reclining position.
If you plan to ride very casually, and are just concerned about spine health overall (and don’t already have a spine condition), you might want to consider a mountain bike. These bikes allow you to sit upright, and their wider tires can absorb shock better. However, you might want to avoid rough terrain. Although these bikes are built for it, riding on rough terrain increases jarring and compression to the spine.
No matter which bike you choose, another option is to adjust the bicycle to fit your body. An experienced professional at a bike shop can help you customize your bike to your needs. These adjustments can help prevent additional strain caused by a bike that is “too tall” for you, etc.
Finally, use proper form when biking to alleviate stress to the spine. Distribute some of your weight to your arms and keep your chest up. Shift positions periodically to move the stress off of one side, for example. Gently lift and lower your head, every now and then, to loosen the neck and avoid neck strain.
Of course, before you begin any new sport or exercise program, be sure to consult with Dr. Sharma. As long as you are healthy enough for biking, it can be a wonderful way to keep fit while keeping your back comfortable.
Image credit:  Gary Lauzon