Is Cycling a Pain in The Butt?
Have you ever returned from a bike ride and felt excessively sore in the pelvic region? This could be a sign of a serious condition known as bicycle seat neuropathy. Although a common injury for both male and female cyclists, it is also one of the least reported to doctors. However, you can avoid the pain associated with bicycle seat neuropathy with the right equipment and preparation.
Understanding Bicycle Seat Neuropathy
Bicycle seat neuropathy is caused by constricted blood flow to the pelvic area. This occurs from the cyclist’s weight not being evenly supported on the bike seat or saddle. When sitting in a chair, your body weight is evenly distributed over a large area. However, a bike seat is much smaller and narrower and as a result, your body weight is concentrated on a more defined area, mostly made up of soft tissue. This puts increased pressure on the perineal area (between the testicles or vagina and rectum). The nerves and arteries become compressed and blood flow becomes restricted in that region. Some studies have shown that this blood flow could be restricted by up to 70%.
Preventing Bicycle Seat Neuropathy
The most important factor in alleviating this issue is that you choose a bike with the help of a professional to ensure it is suitable to your body size and cycling style. Also, tilting the nose of your bicycle seat forward or lowering its height may help relieve pressure on the pelvic region.
Another tip is to check your leg extension - if your legs are fully extended at the bottom of your pedal stroke, your seat is too high, which causes you to exert more downward pressure on tender areas as you pedal.
Increasing the height of the handlebars may also help to relieve pressure by encouraging you to sit in a more upright riding posture, which helps distribute your weight over a larger area of your pelvis.
Choose the Right Saddle
A bicycle saddle that fits your body type and riding style will make a huge difference in your comfort level. Seats with a split-nose or grooved center can relieve pressure on the perineal region and prevent riding related injuries.
If you opt for a grooved or cut-out saddle, make sure you choose one that is specifically designed for your body as a male or female. For most cyclists, a wider seat is best because it helps to distribute body weight more uniformly.
It may seem that a softer seat with thicker padding would relieve pressure on the pelvis best, however, the added cushioning could instead redistribute the body’s weight onto the soft tissue in the groin and cause additional numbness or soreness.
Padded Shorts May Help
Most bike shorts have some degree of padding – called the chamois pad – in the buttocks region. Shorts with various degrees of padding are available in both foam and gel varieties. If you do more long-distance riding, a chamois pad with thicker or denser padding is most suitable.
Many chamois pads are also gender specific; male-specific designs feature a groove through the middle of the padding, while women’s designs are more pillow-like. There are also unisex designs available.
Bicycle seat neuropathy is a common, but preventable injury. By taking a few simple precautions and ensuring that you are using the right equipment, these injuries can be avoided
Visit your local Source For Sports cycling store to get more tips on which bike is right for you, as well as care and maintenance of your ride.
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