Long Term Back Pain

Great, thanks for the videos! They look helpful, I’m going to start them today. And the out-of-the-saddle advice is good too – I’ve noticed that the more of it I do the less irritated the back gets.

I thought of a few other things… You have a dropper seat post? Even standing up I think some hits aren’t avoidable without slowing down a lot (and in some steep sections not at all) without it. Tire pressure and size. On a hardtail, a bigger rear tire at lower pressure does help soften the hits. If you’re not good at a pump track, spend some time there – sometimes it is more efficient to stand up and pump a section vs. sitting and pedaling.

Do you sit a lot for your job or commuting? Do you do any core/strength work?

I solved all of my back and neck issues when I discovered the concept of muscle imbalance. 10 minutes a day of strength and stretching has kept me pain free for a few years now and that is with 6-13 hours a week on the bike all year.

Lower crossed syndrome is the basic imbalance for the back. Look for other videos/web sites as to which exercises to do. A really good sports medicine doc would know about this stuff. Regular docs will just go straight to muscle relaxants and pain killers or PT. It’s even hit or miss with PTs on whether they know this stuff.

This imbalance can be exacerbated by cycling because we end up with over developed quads. Hitting the posterior chain with weights can also help.


Yep the lower back overall problems are often linked to systemic postural issues like super short hip flexors (that basically yank on the lower spine from the inside). Couch stretches (brutal, look it up) help for such things. It isn’t really that difficult to grasp the body mechanics on how the whole posterior chain is linked together, it’s a pretty simple mechanical system that will do just about anything to keep its functionality short term, with sometimes very poor long term outcomes.

Kelly Starrett’s Supple Leopard book is the best resource on this subject I know of, but you can piece it together from youtube videos and such.

I have a herniated disc in my lower back. Sneezing used to cause it to seize up and I’d be stiff for a week. I started rock climbing again (5 years ago) and it really really helped. That said, a consistent core workout is the one thing that I recommend.
I’d try a simple 5 minute core workout every day or couple days. Lots of them on YouTube. Worked wonders for me. Sneeze with ease.

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Over the last 4 years I’ve had constant discomfort and sometimes hard pains not only in lower back but in general in all my spine upto the neck. About 2 months ago I’ve started doing coach Chad core strength exercises and after those I streach my back using in some exercises a foam roller. I’ve noticed some big improvements. My back is not hammering me all day long anymore. Only some ocasional smal disconfort due to posture while working at my office desk.
This improvement may also be related to the changes I’ve made in my nutrition over the last semester of 2019. Going almost exclusively on a vegan diet that clames to decrease tissue and nerves inflammation when compared to eating a lot of meat and other animal proteins has I did before.

I don’t know exactly which change has contributed the most but I’ll keep on betting on this two fields nutrition and exercises.

Hope your problem can be solved either way without needing a cirurgicall intervention. Both my orthopedic doctor and my osteopathic doctor haven’t been able so far of solving my problem.

No dropper, but I do stick with some larger tires (29x4), more as an attempt to make up for my lack of skill descending. But they the low back for sure, a friend of mine talked me into some 29x2.2s for an XC race and I had a bad time.
Pump track’s a good idea. I moved to a new town last summer that has a skills course and I’m amazed at the difference some work there can make. Finally starting to learn how ride my mountain bike for real.

Have you tried a chiropractor? They have helped me.

I do sit a lot for work (I try to take frequent breaks to walk around but who knows how consistent that actually is), and I also do a fair amount of core work (weights and martial arts stuff). But given the stories from everyone here I’m starting to think I don’t do enough to strengthen the low back and posterior chain (because I basically do nothing for it except stretch).
I like the Starrett’s podcast a lot, I’m ordering his book today.

I’ve had low back pain on the bike for years and basic core work and stretching helped some. But i’m just getting to the end of a pretty intense 12 week weight lifting program and my back has never felt better. I was doing mostly lower body stuff (squats, leg press etc) plus the Foundation routine mentioned above and a ton of core work. I feel more comfortable on the bike than I have in years.


Do you use a camelback on your mtb?

We do short videos on various topics related to pain. Your question inspired this one:

I have the same problem, but more advanced. I’ve been fighting with it on and off for 20 years. About 5 years ago I asked a sports medicine doctor about it and, rather than suggest any plan of action, he just ordered an x-ray. That’s something the paramedical practitioners don’t usually start with, but real doctors are keen on.

Turned out to be degenerative disc disease at L4/L5. That’s where it started, and it’s a pretty common problem in western populations that tend to overweight and sit a lot all day. After not really doing much about it for 17 years, it’s now facet joint syndrome. None of this is directly treatable; the tissues are gone and they don’t re-generate. So get an x-ray ASAP and someone who really knows what to look for when evaluating it. Get the images on media if you can; I did and it was very useful.

To ameliorate the problem, since it can’t be fixed, I almost always ride full suspension. A hard whack on my CX bike during training took me out for three weeks last year, so a hardtail is pretty much out. Techniques from Kelly Starrett’s “Supple Leopard” are the most helpful thing I’ve come across. The muscles back there will involuntarily contract to guard any spinal injury site, and they benefit from regular smash and floss maintenance.

That and regular core strength work (TVA, hip flexors, glutes) should keep me racing into my fifties at least.

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I use a camelbak on about one in five-ish rides. Since I’m usually only riding for about an hour, I can get away with bottles on the bike. Longer rides definitely have a camelbak, but they’re pretty rare.

I’ve had back surgery twice now and wrote the following up for someone who was asking about training after sciatica.
While it doesn’t sound like you have it, it’s a worthwhile read:

The biggest thing is 1) making sure you have the right fit, and 2) working mobility
They go hand in hand, and as mobility increases you should have your fit reassessed. Even since I wrote the original post i’ve been able to change some things due to increased mobility and better muscle activation.

Back pain is rarely due to the back itself. If your back is actually messed up you’re likely going to have leg issues (ie sciatica). Back pain is generally the result of muscle activation issues which causes some to tire before others and then all of that pulling into the muscles in your back which then fatigue and give you the “sore back” feeling. So when @TLRozzle was saying that they get pain hammering on CX bike I am very sure that’s muscle activation (likely glutes) not happening properly. Glutes tire, they in turn then start pulling on lower back muscles to pick up the slack…bam sore back. CX can do this because big power and slower cadence combined really can tire out your glutes quick if fit is not accurate.

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I’m currently getting to the bottom of a medical issue which should have been sorted a long time ago myself.
Go to see a medical professional who knows their stuff. Self analysis and friendly advice can take you down the wrong path.
Good luck

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, I would recommend seeing a physiatrist, (PM&R), MD, who specializes
in treating nonoperative spine disorders. First, is getting a proper diagnosis.
After a proper diagnosis than a treatment can be recommended. Common problems in the low back, L5S1 area are facet pain, with associated degenerative disc disease. Other etiologies can be myofascial trigger points, sacroiliac mediated pain. Treatment often includes therapeutic injections , which serve diagnostic purposes to establish the pain generator, and hopefully therapeutic in alleviating pain. Always a therapeutic exercise program is part of the long term management. Hope this is helpful.

Exercise helps a lot and careful with your sitting posture. I sit for over 8+ in front of the desk but I do stretch between working hours. and I go to Vancouver osteopath two days a week and yoga two days a week as well. It helps me a lot, I won’t say osteopath do nothing or exercise doesn’t help. But when both of them work together perfectly, it helps my lower the pain of my back.

That might sound crazy, but for my back lying on the floor is really helpful. It doesn’t matter if it is a low back or neck area, the moment when I feel something hard underneath my back, I feel no tension. Sometimes I even take a pack small ping-pong balls (like this) put them in a sack under the most tensed zones, feels like cheap simple massage.

Hi There, may I suggest a couple of non-cycling related books that may be useful the first is the Back Mechanic by Stuart McGill. He is “The Man” for rehabilitating cranky backs! The second is one Coach Chad has mentioned Advances in Functional Training by Mike Boyle. The first is very useful for helping the layman understand their back problems and the latter how to strengthen it well. Kelly Starretts Supple Leopard is also good but can be a bit too much, too soon for a tender spine.
The fact you are ok on your road bike, where you don’t change position or have a “relatively stable platform” even when cranking out of the saddle suggests your core isn’t too bad. The mountain bike and other off-road bikes require much more “Core”. Look at Nino Schurters S&C videos so much more that planks and glutei. Its the difference between flying a plane and a helicopter. One is relatively linear and the other is 3D. Its a simpler task to strengthen a road core as the surface is regular and within reason repetitive. A full suspension MTB is unstable before you even pedal, this needs extra energy to deal with which means the tight and weaker muscles are fatiguing prematurely. This will cause you to adopt a Lower Crossed posture as mentioned above and consequently overload the facet joints. Which are a poorly acknowledged, but significant pain generator in the lower back.

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