Although it's usually an enjoyable way to get your exercise, sometimes cycling can be a pain in the neck. As long as your bike is properly fitted to your body and riding style, most neck pain during and after cycling is caused by poor form and weak upper-back and shoulder muscles. Concentrating on maintaining good posture on the bike and strengthening the muscles that support your neck should help reduce your pain and allow you to enjoy your ride.
Shrug It Off
Reverse shoulder shrugs work several muscles through the shoulder and upper back -- the same muscles that help support your neck and head when cycling. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your arms relaxed, slowly shrug your shoulders up, then back and then down to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
Raise Your Elbows
Lateral, or elbow, raises tone the shoulder muscles and the upper back and can be done in two different positions. In the first position, stand with a dumbbell in each hand with your elbows bent to a 90-degree angle. Maintain this angle as you slowly raise your elbows out to the side until they are in line with your shoulders. Hold the position for a count of two and then slowly lower your elbows back to your sides. Repeat 10 to 15 times. The second position works the upper back more deeply than the first. While lying face up on a bench, perform the same bent-elbow lifting motion. The bench can be flat or set at an incline.
Lift It Up
The scapular stabilization exercise looks simple but gives a deep workout to your upper back and shoulders. Lie face down on the floor with your arms stretched overhead as if you were pretending to be Superman flying. Using your back muscles, slowly lift your chest and arms off the floor. Hold the position for a count of five and then lower back down. Next, raise up, but this time hold your arms out at a 45-degree angle as if forming a Y. Hold the lift for a count of five and then lower down. In the third lift, hold your arms out to the side to make a T-shape. Hold for a count of five and then lower. Repeat the series of lifts 10 to 15 times. As you get stronger, try to hold the lifts for a count of 10.
Focus on Form
Similar to properly maintaining a yoga pose, focusing on proper form is an exercise you can do on the bike to reduce your neck pain. As you lean forward on your road bike, keep your back slightly rounded rather than forcing yourself to hold a perfectly flat back or allowing your body to sag into a swayback. Next, regardless of where your hands are on the handlebars, keep your elbows bent to allow your arm muscles to absorb road bumps. Finally, instead of holding your shoulders back as you do when standing, concentrate on rolling the shoulders forward until you feel the chest muscles supporting your upper body. Holding these positions can be a challenge at first, and you may only be able to do them for a few minutes at a time. As you get stronger, gradually increase the amount of time you stay in them until you can maintain proper form for the majority of your ride.
- Sheldon Brown: Bicycling and Pain
- American Council on Exercise: Standing Shoulder Shrugs
- Cycle Sport Coaching: Cyclists: Keep Neck and Upper Back Pain at Bay
- American Council on Exercise: Incline Reverse Lateral Dumbbell Raise
- American Council on Exercise: Prone Scapular (Shoulder) Stabilization Series - I, Y, T, W, O Formation
- Kevin Neeld Athletic Development: Bike Riding Doesn't Have to be a Pain in the Neck