Neck pain even after bike fitting

Hi everybody,

I have done two bike fittings in the past and for the last couple of years, every time after 2 hours of riding I get enormous neck pain and a headache. Stretching doesn’t really help and I have been doing some exercises.

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The pain is really located between the shoulders and the neck.
What could explain this issue? Too long and too low on the bike?
By adding some more stack and lowering my reach, the issue would be resolved?

Yes as you say it is most likely to be that your position is to low or to long, or both. Neck ache normally comes from having to extend the neck and lifting your head for a prolonged period e.g. just like lifting your head to look at the ceiling. I would trying bringing your reach closer, either up, shorter or both and see how you get on.

Stretching helps you adapt to a dysfunctional position and you shouldn’t have to regularly stretch to.maintain your position, as it is more based on your height and geometry rather than flexibility.

Strengthing the upper back took me from pain on every ride to zero pain on 3-4-5 hour rides. I actually run my stem 1cm lower now than I used to. This guys videos were the inspiration.

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It seems that most things come down to some form of strength training/conditioning. Think the main reason for this is our poor modern lifestyles which fail to include the types of movements we naturally do whilst young and would have done more if we were adults 70 years ago or more (conscious of my poor slouch position at the keyboard as I write this!).

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Will be following this closely. I’ve regularly struggled with upper back / low neck pain once I hit the 90min / 2hr mark.

When the first lockdown hit the UK last year I started on one of the TBMV plans (mostly outdoors) and found the regular extra time in the saddle really helped so I think there is a bit of a familiarity / training issue. This year I’m kicking off with TBMV1 and 2 (gentle return to training post-COVID19) before moving to SSB. Once I make the switch I plan to maintain a longer ride every week or two.

I agree. All of my old man aches and pains so far have been solved through increased physical fitness - weight lifting, stretching, running, yoga, calisthenics.

I used to get a sore neck after a day of downhill skiing. I finally concluded that it was the relatively heavy helmet. It was 5-6 hours of skiing though. It never occurred to me back then (decades ago now) to strength the muscles.

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Thanks for posting these, I have neck pain an his description make perfect sense - I’ll be trying these exercises!

…why is it every person with a Youtube channel who calls themselves Doctor ends up being a chiropractor?

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What a great post by @AJS914 on a practical way to deal with this. Had a long ride yesterday - first one after having Covid and now my neck and head hurt quite a bit. Perhaps my own fault for thinking I could bash out 4hrs plus (hey the weather was nice) without any backlash. :grin:

Feature request - a blog that contains all the clips that work for stretching us cyclists out. :grin:

I’ve had this on and off for years - the issue is simply that your traps are not strong enough to support the neck/head.

My physio prescribed a simple exercise which has quickly made a huge difference and strengthened those muscles really quite quickly:

stand with a light dumbell in each hand - palms facing forwards
stretch arms up so they are 45 degrees up from the ground
do neck shrugs, keeping the arms out at 45 degrees all the time
start with sets of 10 and build up, performing them about 3x per day
what really also helps is doing these immediately BEFORE and then immediately AFTER riding - this helps ‘release’ the muscles after being held in one position for a while

its not really the position thats the issue but the strength of the traps themselves. Doingt his for a week made a huge difference to me and I still do them daily now and its pretty much resolved the issue even on 6 hr rides

Good luck

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I know what shoulder shrugs are - where you lift your shoulders up towards your ears and then lower them. Is this the same? :thinking: Never heard of neck shrugs…

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I’ve had a handful of bike fits by recommended fitters and not one has ever felt any better than what I do myself.

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thats it - but really feel its the upper traps area thats doing the work rather than through the arms shoulders, if that makes sense. Having the arms at 45degs all the time really helps isolate the right area.

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…or, conversely, the exact opposite. I once tried to keep ‘good’ posture on a bike, so close to ‘head in line with spine’ and had some of the worst neck pain I’ve ever experienced afterwards! Upon thinking about it, I was forcing my neck to work too hard. If you envisage holding a moderate weight dumbell as if doing a curl - you could hold it a lot longer/more comfortably if your arm was close to completely bent rather than nearly straight.

Of course, being so low that you have to be jammed into end range of extension isn’t good either, I know that one from 3 months of pain after trying to use aero bars on a long ride with a cap (peak down) :smiley: