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Lower neck / shoulder pain during cycling

Hi all, I'm just after some advice, although after I give you some of the information, I can guess what most people will say.    I'm 5 ft 10 ish and have an off the shelf Halfords tdf road bike (Large - 58cm)  I have never been fitted to this bike.

On rides over 20k I start to get stiffening at the base of my neck and between my shoulder blades.  I can continue, but around the 40k mark it becomes slightly more painful.  If I turn my head left, everything is fine, if I twist right to see what traffic is behind me , then it feels like I've been stabbed in the neck.

I went for a 60K bike ride a few weeks ago and thought I could live though it.  I did, but paid the price of being in discomfort for a couple of days.

I've tried moving my seat backwards and forwards to see if it was an over reach problem, but it doesn't help.  Today I raised the seat up a little, and to be honest, this appeared to make things worse as I got sore well before the 20k mark. (Although my average speed was a lot better!)

During the rides, if I tuck my chin to my chest for a period it can give me some relief, and also sitting upright to take a drink helps, but it's soon back.

I really want to do an Ironman or Half Ironman, but now I'm worried I won't be able to make the distance without a whole load of pain.

Any idea's of things I could try?


  • risris Posts: 1,002

    hi rob... tough one as neck/back issues can be hard to track down for some people and even harder to solve.

    my first thought, and i think you'll hate this, is that the bike sounds like it is too big for you. this is purely on your height and that the bike is a 58. everyone is different though, and you might be spot on for it (i'm 6' and ride a 54, which 'conventionally' is a bit small, but i've ridden a 56 and it wasn't great for me). 

    some of your problems might not be the bike but the position and how used to a road bike you are. often back/neck issues are a result of the arms being too straight/locked and the hands gripping too tightly - ideally your hands should be lightly resting on the bars with most of your weight going to the saddle rather than your arms/shoulders. elbows slightly bend and able to act as shock absorption.

    if the bike is too long then you might be struggling with this as you'll be reaching and unable to keep the elbows relaxed. another result will be that you are looking 'up' a bit and lifting your head to compensate for being stretched out. that dipping your head down gives you some respite might suggest this isn't far wrong.

    working on the assumption that the bike is a bit 'long' then you probably need to make it as small as you can without jiggering the handling too much. there are limits to what you can do, though, and it might be that if you have a bike fit done they'd only get you so far, too. if the frame is too big and you can't adjust it well enough then you are sadly looking at trying to find one that will fit you better.

    in terms of making it 'small' - are you able to flip or raise the stem at all to bring the bars a bit closer to your hands? you could try and find a smaller stem, or one with a bigger rise (degrees), but both of these may affect handling. similarly, can you slide the saddle as far forward as possible? 

    sorry, only about 2% useful..

  • HarryDHarryD Posts: 425

    As Ris indicates your bike may not be the right size. I'm 5'11" and ride a 56cm which is OK but my 55cm is better.

    Stiffness in the neck on a bike is often related to shoulder stability and usually comes on as your body tires during a ride. Basically your shoulders need to be stable to ride effectively. If they are held in a neutral position they are stabilised by your core (chest & abdominal) muscles which are pretty strong. If they are hunched (up by your ears) they try to stabilise by using neck muscles which are pretty weak.

    If your bike is on the big size it may also be a bit long so you will be stretched and your shoulders easily pulled into that hunched position. So if you can, get a bike fit. Also remember to reset your shoulders during a ride - simply roll them a couple of times and leave them at the bottom part of the roll.

    Hope this helps


  • Neck pain is one of the most common complaints from cyclists. There are plenty exercises the cyclists can do to sort out neck niggles and shoulder pain. It will be better to properly warm up the shoulder and neck muscles before long riding. Incorporate some stretching and strengthening exercise routine to prevent and treat neck and shoulder pain. Taking help from a registered physiotherapist from anywhere near Mississauga will be good. I believe massage will help you to alleviate the pain.


  • I may be unusual, but I use my aerobars on my road bike a lot because I find it much more comfortable position. I have clip on aerobars, with saddle set well forward. When in the aero position, your weight goes vertically down from your shoulders to elbow, as a result relieves a lot of weight from your lower back to support your body.

    I agree with the other comments, your bike sounds too big for you. I am 5'9'' and ride a 54cm road bike and 52cm TT bike

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