Whether outdoors on a trail or indoors at a spin class, bicycling is a fun way for people to stay fit. It's a safer alternative to high-impact exercises like jogging; however, biking is not without its risks. Terrebonne General Medical Center orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lawrence Haydel discusses orthopedic issues that can arise from bike riding and shares tips to help keep cyclists in the saddle.
aWhat are advantages of biking compared to other forms of exercise?
Cycling is much better for your joints than jogging or using a treadmill, and it is a good exercise for mobility and muscle strengthening. In addition to being better for your joints, it's also good cardiovascular exercise. It has been known to help patients with diabetes and high blood pressure.
Do you recommend biking for older patients or those with problems like arthritis?
I recommend biking because it puts less stress or impact across the joints. It's a good exercise for patients with arthritis. It's used very frequently in rehabilitation of our knee patients as one of the early forms of physical therapy. Biking increases the leg strength and range of motion without putting a lot of pressure on the legs. It's very good for mobility of the joints.
What kind of orthopedic issues do you see among bike riders?
Among competitive bikers, a lot of injuries are from accidents: Broken legs, fractures, scrapes and bruising are the major injuries. Among more routine riders, if they are not positioned right on the bike, they can have pain. If they bike excessively — and it's hard to define excessive, because it's different for everyone — they can get knee pain, knee injuries such as torn cartilege and tendonitis. Muscle sprains are common, and patients are more prone to injury when they start off biking.
How can cyclists prevent injury?
We recommend adequate stretching before (biking), which helps reduce the risk of injury to muscles and joints. Other types of strengthening, like using light weights, is always good and any other type of exercise will help because you're trying to condition your muscles. A crouched posture and uncomfortable position can increase the risk of back pain from riding a bike.
How can people be sure they have proper posture when riding a bike?
A lot of it has to do with seat height and the handlebars' position. Everyone is going to be a little different as far as what is comfortable for them. Put the seat at the right height so you don't have to overflex the knee or lean too far forward while riding the bike. You want to have a comfortable position without extreme flexion of the back.
Are recumbent bikes a good option for people with back pain?
They are easier on the back because you aren't hunched over like on a regular bike, but I think most people aren't real excited about recumbent. Most people ride conventional bikes where they sit up and ride forward.
What should you do if you sustain an injury?
Any injury should be treated with rest and anti-inflammatories. You should let it heal before riding, because you can be more susceptible to re-injuring the joints. Time is the best way to get things to heal. But biking is a safe sport, and we don't see a lot of injuries because it is a low-impact type exercise.