The Best Stationary Bike for Low Back Pain

If you have back pain, you're not alone. According to an article published in August 2016 by IOSR Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences, 60 to 90 percent of adults will experience back pain in their lifetime.

Proper positioning on a stationary bike can help with low back pain. (Image: Thomas Barwick/Taxi/GettyImages)

While most people with back pain have a sprain, ruptured disk or irritated joint, others suffer from chronic conditions such as inflammatory arthritis or a degenerative disease. Inactivity won't help back pain, and biking is good choice for low-impact exercise.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggests that keeping your back muscles strong can help relieve pain from back injury and help prevent future injuries. Consider the cause of your back pain before choosing a recumbent or upright bike for back pain.

Exercise Bike With Back Support

A stationary bike provides a no-impact workout, meaning that there's no force on your joints or spine while riding. An upright bike is designed like an ordinary road bike. You ride while sitting in an upright position or leaning forward like a racer. On an upright stationary bike, you can work sore muscles in different areas by shifting position.

Consider using an exercise bike with back support if you have pain. Recumbent exercise bikes position the rider's body in a reclined pose. Because the backrest provides lower back support, depending on the nature of your condition, this type of exercise bike may be more comfortable than using an upright bike.

Who Should Use Upright Bikes?

When considering a recumbent or upright bike for back pain, consider the underlying cause. The position of your back can either increase or decrease pain caused by specific medical conditions.

Spinal stenosis is a common condition for men and women over the age of 50 in which the spine narrows and places pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, according to Mayo Clinic. Symptoms include pain, numbness, weakness and cramping in the back and extremities. One of the nonsurgical treatments for the condition is exercise.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease caused when the cushioning tissues between bones break down. Pain caused by these two conditions can be improved by leaning forward, relieving pressure on the affected structures. An upright bike might be the best type of stationary bike for people suffering with spinal stenosis or osteoarthritis as it puts the rider in a forward-bent position.

Try Recumbent Exercise Bikes

Degenerative disc disease is a painful back condition caused when spinal discs become damaged by age or injury. Discs act as shock absorbers for the stacked bones that make up your spine. These structures help keep the back flexible and protect nerves. Acute pain associated with this condition makes normal mobility extremely difficult and the bones can become unstable.

Discs can protrude backward, putting pressure on nerves that exit the spine — a condition called disc herniation, notes the Cleveland Clinic. Bending the spine often increases pain with a herniated disc. A recumbent bike might be the best type of stationary bike for this painful back condition because it provides lower back support.

Choosing a Bike

The best stationary bike for your condition comes down to the bike that you feel most comfortable for you. If your back pain is coupled with mobility or balance problems, a recumbent bike may be your best option because you can sit in a reclined position or raise the seat so that it is semi-recumbent to reduce pressure on your back.

If you decide to use an upright bike, position the seat at hip height. You should be able to straighten your leg with the pedal in the lowest position, but not lock your knee out.

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