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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    25

    Headache & Neck Pain

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    I am a fairly new rider, been doing this for 3 months and starting almost a month ago, I got a very bad, well actually, very bad isn't even close to describing the pain I felt with this headache, that started from the base of my skull and the pain went all the way up over my head while cycling uphill, then a couple of days later, neck pain arrived along with the same hugely painful headache on almost every ride.

    I then finally realized that perhaps maybe I should get myself to a doctor and get checked out, as it also started to happen in varying levels of pain while for instance, picking up a laundry basket, or groceries, generally bending over to do something or even putting on my sports bra! I was sent off for an MRI, then to the neurosurgeon, along with a chiropractor (which I went to on my own). The neurosurgeon said my brain was fine (good to know)! and the headaches are musculoskeletal in nature, more then likely caused by cycling and I should try physical therapy.

    Haven't been to PT yet, but now, I stretch, I was stretching prior to a ride before all this, but now I am more aware of my stretching and what I need to concentrate on, namely my neck and shoulders, if that makes sense! I am now super aware of my neck, shoulders, arms and spine position on the bike, especially when going uphill and if I am going more then 8 or 10 miles, I stop halfway and stretch again. So far, for the past week since I have started stretching and being more aware of my neck, no headaches, I am more than pleased, as my neck was so sore, the headaches were a nightmare and I was really worried that I would have to give up cycling, noooooooo!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
    Posts
    14,645
    Nothing wrong with stretching, but the first money I'd spend would be on a good bike fit. Ask around for a fitter in your area who's experienced with women riders and with the type of riding you like to do (some fitters think only in racing terms, which might not be what you're after). Glad you've found a way to stop the headaches for the time being.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Western Canada-prairies, mountain & ocean
    Posts
    6,982
    I agree that you should ensure your bike or another bike properly fits you. Good bike fit should enable you to ride for several hrs. without neck /shoulder pain or having headaches. It doesn't sound quite right that you have a need to stop and stretch during a hill ride.

    Keep up stretching before and after cycling.

    Are you relaxed on your bike wherever you ride? Meaning your handlebar grip not tight? Your handlebars should be shoulder-width..
    My Personal blog on cycling & other favourite passions.
    遙知馬力日久見人心 Over a long distance, you learn about the strength of your horse; over a long period of time, you get to know whatís in a personís heart.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Posts
    6,476
    You need a bike fit. Sounds typical of being locked into a position where the bike's cockpit is not quite the right length or angle for your spine. Probably need a longer stem (attaches handlebars to bike), or perhaps need to have the handlebars lowered a bit.

    Here is a good article on bike fitting. Some bike shops do a better job than others, so I'd shop around and ask questions before committing the money.

    You might try googling bike fitters in your locale, calling around to bike shops and asking questions, and checking local bike shop websites to see what they have posted about fitting. You want someone who will take their time and check and correct your position by making adjustments in saddle height and position, pedal stroke and cleats if you use them, and handlebar height and length from the saddle. Plus, you need to have the correct width bars and things like that. Too wide bars could also cause neck pain. But I'd guess the other things first.

    The more you understand about the mechanics of fitting, the better feedback you can provide, and the more the fitter will be able to help you.

    Edit: the article I posted to covers a lot of material, but they also talk about things most fitters don't use, like the Switch It thing to check the fit of different saddles. This is something specific to that fitting service, you don't need to worry about it. Just get an idea of what should happen during a fitting, and how a fitting is supposed to correct things that lead to pain.
    Last edited by Muirenn; 07-24-2015 at 05:20 AM.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    25
    Quote Originally Posted by OakLeaf View Post
    Nothing wrong with stretching, but the first money I'd spend would be on a good bike fit. Ask around for a fitter in your area who's experienced with women riders and with the type of riding you like to do (some fitters think only in racing terms, which might not be what you're after). Glad you've found a way to stop the headaches for the time being.


    Quote Originally Posted by shootingstar View Post
    I agree that you should ensure your bike or another bike properly fits you. Good bike fit should enable you to ride for several hrs. without neck /shoulder pain or having headaches. It doesn't sound quite right that you have a need to stop and stretch during a hill ride.

    Keep up stretching before and after cycling.

    Are you relaxed on your bike wherever you ride? Meaning your handlebar grip not tight? Your handlebars should be shoulder-width..
    My bike (Trek 7.2 wsd - straight handlebars) was fitted at the LBS, though when I would go uphill (before this all happened) I would throw my butt back off the seat and lean down and yes, I would hold the handlebars in a death grip while looking at the top, thinking omg, when will it ever end!! This, definitely un-relaxed position I would get myself in, I am assuming, had a lot to do with my neck pain, sigh. Now, when I go up hill, I look just beyond my handlebars, I don't (well try not to and if I do, I correct it) scrunch down and slide back and hold onto the bars for dear life, instead I stretch my back out long and loosen my grip, bending my arms a bit and it is making hills somewhat easier, I think...
    Hopefully I won't have to always stop halfway to work my neck and shoulders, but I think am kind of doing it as a preemptive good luck charm superstition thing, those headaches were so bad, I'll do anything to not have them come back!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    25
    Good article Muirenn, thank you, I need this info for sure! I am actually in the midst of looking on eBay for a used bike ( I am in the UK for the rest of the summer) and am going to go to several bike shops to look at bikes and find a shop that I like, as when I finally find a good used bike (that I like and that won't break my bank account) I will bring it in for a fitting/service, especially after all this going on with my neck.
    I never really thought about how my body and bike need to work together before this, just kind of thought, ok, get on the bike and pedal, I've been doing this since I was a kid, I know how to ride a bike for goodness sake! Now I do know that I need to pay attention to all of this or my body will let me know in no uncertain terms that it is not happy.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Western Canada-prairies, mountain & ocean
    Posts
    6,982
    It may help as you approach hill to do slow, deep yoga-like breathing so that while you are cycling on the hill, you are a bit more relaxed and don't get too anxious/hyperventilate in order to reach the hill top properly without getting off the bike.

    Slower breathing also helps you focus..find a centre of calm as you work harder on the bike up the hill. Again it is to relax you so that you don't get too stiff.

    Faster breathing does not help me at all ...it makes me panic.
    My Personal blog on cycling & other favourite passions.
    遙知馬力日久見人心 Over a long distance, you learn about the strength of your horse; over a long period of time, you get to know whatís in a personís heart.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    25
    Thanks shootingstar, I will try that, it is very good advice.... I would like to be in a center of calm on my bike, that sounds very pleasant to me! Much better then the vortex of frustration and pain that I am sometimes in now! ;-/

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Troutdale, OR
    Posts
    2,608
    The other aspect is you may want to focus on your riding mechanics, that is how your body is moving and what is your body doing. Do this with a good trainer. You should not be holding the handle bar in death grip. this also maybe indicative of improper fit on your bike. Another thing, is you should also not be throwing your butt off the back off the seat. another indication of improper fit. I could see how this could cause you to skrunch your shoulder and neck and give you a horrible headache.

    A good trainer or coach can see how you could improve your riding style especially going uphill. Most just don't ride uphill in an efficient manner. And some, would like you to grind away in big gears, others prefer that you go uphill by spinning. For us women, its better to spin up a hill. Our joints are too flexible to grind away in big/tall gears. We also don't have the brute strength like men to do so.

    Riding uphill requires you to conserve your oxygen use by relaxing your shoulder, arms, wrist and hands except on really steep hill where you need to be pulling on the bars. And if you look at a good climber, you will see that their face goes blank from relaxing all the facial muscles. Also you need to breath deeply from the bottom of your lungs. Deep breathing. I was also told to breath in from the nose and exhale from the mouth. Exhale should be quick almost like a cough. Don't exhale by tightening your neck and throat. Breath in slower, longer and deeper. All of this comes from practice and training. Look at some videos of pro riders on mountain stages and see how they ride. Picture yourself making the same body movement when you go uphill then talk to find a right trainer/coach. Riding technique has much to do as strength when going uphill.

    Another trick of riding long hill is to make short goals going up hills. To the next telephone pole. to the rock just up ahead, to the pot hole I see 20 yards away... Life goal isn't made in big giant step. It's lot of little steps. Riding uphill is the same thing.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    25
    Err, yes, well, I had to google what "spinning" uphill means, now I also know what "mashing is too! Apparently I am not too clued up on cycling terminology :-/
    I will find some videos of cycling uphill, I like that idea, to actually see how my body should be positioned. It would be neat to have a trainer, but that is not something that is in my budget right now. Though I am in London at the moment and there is a park near me that is full of lot of really good cyclists, along with a couple of tough hills, I may just loiter in the middle of one of those hills and watch them cycle up one of these days so I can see how it is done in person. As when I am cycling my way up that same hill, all I know of them passing is the breeze I feel as they whiz by me!

    I do do the trick of "chopping up" my hills, just make it pass the road sign, then the telephone pole, etc... definitely makes it much more manageable for me then looking straight at the top.

    I am going to try that breathing technique also, I have never been very good at my breathing when working out, I tend to breath to fast or not at all, it is something I really need to work on.

    As a side note, since the last time I have posted, I've not had any headaches on the bike, I am doing neck exercises/stretching every day, along with my other stretching routine. So between being more aware of my bike posture, the chiropractor, acupuncturist, and muscle relaxants, I am pretty much "neck headache" free, so far!
    Thanks for the info smilingcat!
    Trek 7.2 fx wsd x2

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Posts
    1
    Quote Originally Posted by steppink View Post
    I am a fairly new rider, been doing this for 3 months and starting almost a month ago, I got a very bad, well actually, very bad isn't even close to describing the pain I felt with this headache, that started from the base of my skull and the pain went all the way up over my head while cycling uphill, then a couple of days later, neck pain arrived along with the same hugely painful headache on almost every ride.

    I then finally realized that perhaps maybe I should get myself to a doctor and get checked out, as it also started to happen in varying levels of pain while for instance, picking up a laundry basket, or groceries, generally bending over to do something or even putting on my sports bra! I was sent off for an MRI, then to the neurosurgeon, along with a chiropractor (which I went to on my own). The neurosurgeon said my brain was fine (good to know)! and the headaches are musculoskeletal in nature, more then likely caused by cycling and I should try physical therapy.

    Haven't been to PT yet, but now, I stretch, I was stretching prior to a ride before all this, but now I am more aware of my stretching and what I need to concentrate on, namely my neck and shoulders, if that makes sense! I am now super aware of my neck, shoulders, arms and spine position on the bike, especially when going uphill and if I am going more then 8 or 10 miles, I stop halfway and stretch again. So far, for the past week since I have started stretching and being more aware of my neck, no headaches, I am more than pleased, as my neck was so sore, the headaches were a nightmare and I was really worried that I would have to give up cycling, noooooooo!
    First make sure you are using the bike that fits you properly. Because good bike fit can make you ride the bike for several hours without any neck/shoulder pain. If you have already used bike that fits you, then the cause of the pain might be due to some other reasons. Do you stretch before riding for long? proper stretching is necessary before going for a long bike ride. Because I had similar issue with my neck while riding for long, and I consulted an orthopedic surgeon in Toronto of the AESM clinic and he told it was due to lack of stretches and exercises and suggested some regular exercises and stretches for my shoulder and neck.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Posts
    1
    I was wondering whether you use your bike in a right way, I mean sometimes I would fall down from the bike too because I didn't keep the balance. But I guess you are skilled about riding so there must be some other reasons for your problem. Best wishes

 

 

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