Hip pain from cycling is common, and many avid cyclists tend to suffer from it. If you are experiencing pain in your hips because of regular cycling, you may want to learn about its causes and ways to prevent and treat it.
Here, we will delve into what causes hip pain while cycling and tell you how to keep it at bay. We will also talk about the treatment options available so that you can find some relief and get back to your cycling routine with joy and sans the pain. Let’s dive in.
What Causes Hip Pain When Cycling?
Cycling is an endurance sport that has relatively high-risk factors for injury. It requires your muscles, joints, and ligaments to move constantly for long periods. Even if you usually maintain proper form, the continual motion can put excessive pressure on your joints and muscles when cycling for hours.
Usually, muscle imbalance, overuse, and improper bike fit are the three common culprits of hip joint pain from cycling. They cause tightness and tension in your iliopsoas muscles, a significant hip flexor that runs from the pelvis to the inner thigh.
Let’s take a closer look at three factors to help you better understand how they contribute to hip pain from cycling:
A leading cause of hip joint pain from cycling is overuse. Continuous pedal strokes for extended periods cause your iliopsoas muscles to engage in opposite directions. This means that you need to either extend those muscles to push the bike pedals or contract them to pull up the pedals.
Although simple stretches and contracting the iliopsoas muscles benefits them, continuously doing so for hours at a time and in a shortened position will only harm them. Muscles function better in their optimal length and not when they are too long or too short.
Also, if you lack muscular endurance, your hip muscles won’t be able to support your hips, pelvis, and back properly. Moreover, cycling for miles daily with barely any recovery time in between rides will cause your tired hips to become prone to injury and significant hip pain from cycling.
Whenever you stretch and contract your iliopsoas muscles in opposite directions, it can cause muscle imbalance in the pelvis and psoas (a long muscle located in the back).
It is a common occurrence that happens to almost everyone, not only in a cyclist’s body. Many people have a dominant glute or quad muscle or a hip flexor that is tighter than the other.
It may not even seem evident that you’re using one leg more than the other when walking or sitting on a chair. But when cycling, you may unknowingly put more stress on the dominant leg.
When this happens, your body may attempt to correct the muscle imbalance after you finish your ride. This may often cause excessive tightness in one leg the next day.
The tightness usually begins at the start of the pelvis, where the iliopsoas muscles and hip joints are connected. Pulling too much on the pelvis will impact the mechanics of your pelvis, hip, and spine.
You may also feel soreness in your quad muscles. They may also pull on your knee joints, resulting in stiffness and top knee pain.
Poor Bike Fit
Despite sufficient muscular endurance and balance in their hips, legs, and glutes, many cyclists still experience hip and buttock pain. Improper bike fit is another common cause of hip pain and, at times, may even be the cause of overuse, muscular discomfort, and imbalance.
If your bike is not fitted professionally to your body, it will push your posture into a compromised position. This will cause the muscles to work hard to balance the compromised, unnatural positioning. However, this, in turn, may lead to excessive contraction or uneven use of the iliopsoas muscles and cause tension and experience pain in those muscles.
Consider your pedal position and saddle width. A 90-degree pedal angle offers a wonderful range of motion and is best suited for your hip and knee joints. But if you have an improper bike fit that makes you sit in a compressed position while riding, you will have to bring up your knees past your hips and overexert the iliopsoas muscles. This makes them function in an awkward position.
On the other hand, if your bike saddle is too high, you’ll have to overextend yourself to reach the pedals. This leads to too much motion and pressure in the spine and pelvis while cycling.
As you know, prevention is better than cure. Follow these practical tips below to help you prevent hip pain and improve your bike posture and fitness:
Body Conditioning Tips
One of the first things you must do to prevent hip pain from cycling is to focus on the underlying muscle imbalances and address them. Loosening tight muscles and training and strengthening weak muscles can help you alleviate hip pain while biking.
Before every bike ride, stretch and warm up to loosen your muscles and enjoy a smooth, pain-free ride. You can also do exercises like planks, reverse planks, low lunges, bridges, squats, hip adduction and abduction, pelvic tilts, clam, and lateral walking using a resistance band to strengthen the muscles in the hip region.
Regular massage or the use of a foam roller is also helpful to alleviate any muscle soreness in and around your hip region. These tools will also improve flexibility in the glutes and hip muscles.
Having a professional analyze your bike posture is also important to prevent injury. The professional will assess how you use your muscles while biking—usually around the time of your bike fitting. They will study a heat map of how you put pressure on the pedals and if you typically use one leg more than the other. They will then help you achieve more balance to resolve your posture problems.
Tips for Setting up Your Bike
Proper bike fit and correctly using your bike’s gears are essential to prevent injury while cycling. Reduce the strain on your hips by gearing back and increasing your cadence. Also, increase the height of your bike seat to lessen the extent of anterior impingement and hip flexion.
You can also sit straighter on your seat and raise your bike’s handlebars to relieve the hip flexion. If you have bursitis, you should bring down your saddle a little when you resume your cycling routine to prevent further injury risk and pain.
Treatment of hip pain from cycling should address the condition causing pain. Your physical therapist will prescribe a specific stretching program or routine to alleviate soreness and pain and strengthen the hip flexors and the piriformis.
The hips are an important part of the pelvis. So stabilizing the pelvis is key to better biking performance and prevention of injury. To this end, physical therapy will likely help with strengthening and include core exercises and exercises targeting pelvic stability.
Your treatment may also call for icing of the hip joints. Your doctor may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, too. If they diagnose bursitis, they will administer a steroid injection to provide relief from symptoms. Nonetheless, you will still need rehabilitation to resolve the underlying cause and ensure that it does not recur.
Your physical therapist may also include acupuncture, trigger point therapy, deep tissue myofascial release, and neural mobility as part of your treatment plan. You will also need to give yourself enough time to recover from bursitis before you can hop onto your bike again without pain.
Hip pain from cycling can happen to the best of us. But don’t worry—our simple prevention tips will help you avert it early on and stay healthy and fit.
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Last Updated on May 29, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic