Five small bones at the very bottom of your spine may become painful after prolonged exercise on a stationary bicycle. Your coccyx, or tailbone, is not always in a comfortable position on a small seat of an exercise bike. Doctors do not have a way to cast this area if you do injure it, so prevention is important.
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Your spinal column begins at the atlas and axis bones in your neck. Below this, you have the cervical vertebrae, then the thoracic vertebrae, and your lower back contains the lumbar vertebrae. Your sacrum follow the lumbar vertebrae and contains five fused bones in the shape of a triangle. At the very bottom of the spine are the five smaller bones of your coccyx or tailbone. Typically this area is protected by your gluteal muscles, but when you sit on a narrow exercise bike seat, you apply pressure directly to your tailbone.
If indoor cycling is an activity you enjoy, you probably spend a few hours a week on the bike. This repetitive action could lead to a tailbone injury. While numerous websites and blogs have personal stories regarding pain from bicycle seats, clinical documentation is quite limited. In 2006, the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation reported on a 70-year-old woman who incurred tailbone pain from repetitively sitting on a narrow stationary bicycle seat. She continued to feel pain whenever seated, even after stopping her cycling routine.
Injuries to the tailbone may present themselves as fractures, sprains, infections, tumors or degenerative changes. Injuries that result from an exercise bike appear to be an overuse injury. Even when your body is positioned far back on the seat so that your sit bones bear most of the weight, pressure can still occur on your tailbone.
If you suffer a tailbone injury from indoor cycling, rest from cycling will be required. Some sufferers may opt for chiropractic manipulation, using supportive pillows or pain injections. On the bike, you do have seat options that are designed so you feel no pressure in your tailbone. These seats have a cut out area underneath your tailbone. A wider seat that distributes your weight evenly across your rear may also be helpful.
Once your tailbone has healed and you are ready to resume your exercise program, you might enjoy a cross-training workout. Instead of indoor cycling every day, choose a standing exercise such as walking or stairclimbing for one of your workouts. Swimming is another option that will not cause any pressure on your tailbone area. When you cross train with various types of workouts, you avoid overuse injuries.