Member Question: Road Position Hurts, Tri Position Doesn't

author : FitWerx
comments : 0

On my road bike after 45 minutes, I develop pain between my shoulder blades. It still persists unless I am on my tri bike.

Question from Trinewby
I started cycling in February, 2008. I purchased a Look 555 and was fitted by the local bike shop (LBS). I really enjoyed the bike and quickly began pushing the miles out from 15-18 to 30-35 per ride with no pain issues. I even did a local charity ride that was 46 miles, and later a 55 mile casual ride with some other riders, again with no pain problems.

 

Later in the summer, I began to have significant lower back pain and pain between my shoulder blades. The lower back pain was a dull ache that felt like it was caused by sore muscles. The pain between my shoulder blades was a sharp pain like someone was stabbing me in the back. I went back to the LBS with my problems and they said my fit to the bike still looked good, but they did replace the stem with a slightly shorter one. Regardless, I still suffer the same pains after only 45 minutes to an hour, requiring me to stop and take a break.

 

For a 51-year old guy, I think my upper body is reasonably strong and I have been doing a lot more core exercises to try to address the problem. However, it still persists unless I am on my tri bike. No problems there. This has really disappointed me because I enjoy long rides. Tell me how to get back to the comfort level I had before.
 

Answer

This is a tough question to answer without being able to properly assess your body and riding position on the bike, but it sounds like you may have a pinched nerve in your back while riding in your road position.

There are many factors that can influence this condition, so only a doctor or physical therapist can diagnose this correctly. My first recommendation is to consult a medical professional that can properly diagnose your problem and give you the best advice for addressing it.

That being said, I have worked with several cyclists in the past who have suffered similar symptoms, and I can pass on some potentially helpful things to try. If it is a pinched nerve – commonly characterized by that “stabbing pain” sensation that’s often reported – I recommend trying some minor adjustments that change the way your weight is supported through your back. The fact that it doesn’t bother you on your tri bike in aerobars points toward the different support means on the road bike as the culprit.

 

Try a different handlebar width

I recommend trying a wider handlebar which will place your hands wider and will adjust the support muscles in your back. Some muscles will relax while others will pick up the load. If this doesn’t help, then trying a narrower handlebar might help/hurt the condition. You can even test this on the bike by riding with your elbows wider and narrower and seeing if there’s any difference in your back pain.

Adjust your stem length

The other area I’d experiment with is reach. Try a slightly shorter and/or longer stem on your bike. Just a single centimeter difference in stem length will cause your shoulders to adjust forward or back and could potentially relieve that area of your back that’s getting pinched. A pinched nerve can be very irritating, but sometimes a minor adjustment in support can relieve that area of your back.

Again, my best advice is to consult a medical professional, or seek out a reputable bike fitter that has a good reputation at working with these problems. My recommendations can give you several things to try in the meantime.

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date: February 3, 2009

FitWerx

Fit Werx offers the most scientific and complete bicycle fitting services in New England, the Northeast and beyond. Regardless of where you are from (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Australia, Macau...) a Fit Werx' bike fit is guaranteed to be worth the trip.

avatarFitWerx

Fit Werx offers the most scientific and complete bicycle fitting services in New England, the Northeast and beyond. Regardless of where you are from (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Australia, Macau...) a Fit Werx' bike fit is guaranteed to be worth the trip.

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