ATC: Why Did I Get Lower Back Pain After a Bike Fit?
Q. I got a bike fit and the next day went out on a ride. The day after my ride my lower back was so sore that I could barely get out of bed. What did the bike fitter do to me? – B.B., Santa Ana
The pain your experiencing is not uncommon with cyclists who ride immediately after a bike fit without much time to acclimate. Take it easy and allow your body to adjust to the new fit before you over do it.
There are a couple possibilities for why you are dealing with lower back pain after a fit, depending on how many changes were made and how radical they were, the bike fitter should have told you to take it easy for several rides so that your body has time to acclimate itself to your new (and now correct) position. Your body was used to being in a position in which you sacrificed power, safety and had a higher risk for injury. Since it takes a little time for your body to get used to a new position, give it several weeks of easy cycling after a fit. Give it a little time, soon you should be ready to apply full power!
A Similar Scenario
Once, I had a bike fit client that came back to me with the same sore back complaint. The story goes that he originally had a bad bike fit from another fitter which resulted in chronic knee pain. After a year went by and his knee pain got getting worse and worse, he looked me up, gave me a call and we scheduled his bike re-fit for a Friday. We made some pretty substantial changes during his bike fit and afterwards I told him to take it easy for a week or two. He called me that Sunday and informed me that his lower back was hurting so bad he could barely walk, let alone get out of bed. He even asked “what did you do to me to mess me up?” As I tried to get to the bottom of the situation he mentioned that he had been doing hills the day before.He said he rode from his home in Irvine down the coast to Las Pulgas (Camp Pendleton). On his way home, he said he had felt really good, so he decided to do some hills. The hills he chose are pretty substantial in Laguna Beach, most over 13% and one topping out over 23% grade. He climbed Nyes Place, Alta Vista, Bluebird Canyon, Park Ave, and finished with Newport Coast. His ride turned out to be 90 miles with almost 5,500 feet of climbing. To make matters worse, most of the climbing was in the last 20 miles, and this was the ride I told him to go easy on.
I asked this client how much climbing he had been doing the past year, his response was “none since his knees hurt so much.” There was the problem. Climbing stresses the lower back muscles since you are pulling on the bars a lot harder than on the flats. And since he hadn’t been stretching, his hamstrings were tight which caused more pulling on the lower back. With no hill conditioning and doing 5,500 feet of climbing, it’s no wonder his back hurt. I told him to rest and see a physical therapist if his back was as bad as he said it was. A couple weeks later, he called and said he was back on his bike and taking it easy. Moral of the story after a bike fit? Don’t over-do it.
Coach Rick Schultz is an avid cyclist who trains, races and coaches in Southern California. He’s a bike fitter and USA Cycling Level 2 coach. Check his product review website and his coaching site. Rick is now working with Jax Bicycles as their premier bike fitter using the new state of the art Trek Fit System. Come on by and give it a try.
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