Bicycling is a healthy and safe form of exercise enjoyed by tens of millions of people yearly. Unfortunately, bicycle riding does not come without risks. Falling off of a bicycle can result in severe pain in the shoulder and neck area. Because it can sometimes signal a serious injury, it is important to understand what causes bike-related pain and how it can be remedied.
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Pain as the result of a bicycle fall can affect the nerves, joints, muscles, tendons and spinal vertebrae in the neck and shoulder area. It can also be felt in other areas of the body such as the jaw, head and upper arms. Symptoms can also include soreness, pressure, tingling, weakness, stiffness, numbness and muscle spasms. You can also experience difficulty moving your neck and shoulders after a bicycle injury.
You can fall off of a bicycle as the result of environmental hazards such as loose gravel, motorist error, losing control of your bicycle, colliding with an object such as a motor vehicle, riding too fast or bicycle mechanical failure. These circumstances can all result in physical trauma, painful dislocations, sprains, strains or fractures in the shoulder or neck area.
Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat pain in the shoulders and neck due to a bicycle fall. You can also apply ice or a heating pad to the affected area for the first 72 hours after injury. Refrain from bike riding until the affected areas heal. Roll your neck and shoulders up and down and from side to side to stretch out the muscles. A doctor will need to surgically repair serious strains, dislocations and fractures.
To avoid bicycle falls, make sure that your bicycle fits you properly. Adjust your seat so that it is level and your knees are slightly bent when your legs are extended fully. Make sure that your handlebars are at the same level as your bicycle seat. Check that your tires are properly inflated and that your breaks work before every ride. In addition, always watch out for road hazards such as potholes and puddles. Always keep both hands on the handlebars -- carry additional items in a backpack or bicycle carrier.
Contact a doctor if neck or shoulder pain is accompanied by extreme tenderness, redness, sudden swelling, intense pain, joint deformity, or inability to use the affected area. In addition, you must seek immediate emergency care if you experience bleeding as the result of the fall, breathing difficulty, tightness in the chest or if a bone or tendon in the shoulder or neck area is exposed.
- "American Family Physician"; Bicycle-Related Injuries; Matthew J. Thompson, et al.; May 15, 2001
- Bicyclinginfo.org: Bicycle Crash Facts
- MedlinePlus: Neck Pain
- The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library: Approach to Sports Injuries
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Kids and Bicycle Safety