Cycling levels in the UK have increased by up to 200% as a result of the Covid19 lockdown, according to Secretary for Transport Grant Shapps who made the announcement in June.
200% increase in cycling
He told the daily coronavirus briefing that there had been a 100% increase in weekday cycling and a 200% increase in cycling at weekends, compared to pre-Covid levels, and the government pledged to permanently change the way the UK travels.
Since then there have been a number of initiatives to encourage more cycling, such as the government’s £50 bike maintenance voucher, introduced at the end of June and a greater focus on the existing cycle to work scheme. Retailers have reported record demand for bikes and many major cities, including Liverpool and Manchester, have introduced new plans for cycling infrastructure or prioritised existing plans.
Increase in cycling injuries
The huge increase in cycling is good news on many levels – for people’s physical fitness and mental wellbeing, for health of the environment and for supporting Covid-safe commuting to work and school. However, alongside this increase, private orthopaedic clinics like ours are seeing a growing number of cycling injuries. It’s unsurprising, as people who may not have cycled for many years are now using this as their main mode of transport and the resulting strain on their joints and soft tissues can cause problems.
Preventing common cycling injuries
The most common injuries among cyclist include:
- Knee pain which may occur at the front of the knee (anterior knee pain), the back (posterior knee pain) or deep to the patella (kneecap). There can be a number of causes including tightness of the IT band, which is a band of fibrous tissue that runs from the outer thigh to the knee and can put strain on the knee soft tissues if it is too tight. An incorrectly positioned saddle can also put pressure on the patella (kneecap part of the joint) if it is too low or the hamstrings if it is too high. Tears to the menisci (knee joint cartilages) can also occur from repetitive stresses.
- Impact injuries can occur if you have a crash. These may range from fractures to concussion. A fractured collarbone is particularly common among cyclists and this can take up to six weeks to heal, during which time you will need to avoid cycling.
- Muscle strain is another common cycling injury, particularly the calf muscles which work hard during a bike ride. Read about the symptoms you have damaged your calf muscles (these include severe sharp or burning pain) and what to expect in terms of treatment and recovery.
- Lower back pain is becoming particularly common as the number of cycling commuters increases. The back muscles may be unaccustomed to the position adopted by cyclists, curling over the handlebars, and this can be exacerbated if your job involves sitting at a computer screen all day long. Once you develop pain in your lower back, changes in your posture may then impact other muscles, such as the piriformis which is found behind the hip joint and is very close to the sciatic nerve which can also be irritated. This can cause hip or lower leg pain.
- Neck, arm and wrist pain can occur if your handlebars position is causing you to hold your wrists at an awkward angle or they are too low so you need to overextend your neck to see what is ahead.
Preventing cycling injuries
While it’s not possible to prevent all types of problems, such as impact injuries caused by an accident, there are many things you can do to avoid other types of injury. Here are our top tips for avoiding cycling injuries:
- Correct positioning on the bike is key. If you are buying a new bike, ask a cycling specialist to help you choose the optimum position for your seat and handlebars for a comfortable ride that does not cause undue pressure on your muscles and joints. If you’re not buying a new bike, consider adjusting your seat and/or handlebars if you are experiencing muscle pain after cycling.
- Working on your core strength is crucial to strengthen your legs and lower back. It will improve your posture on the bike and help you improve your bike handling skills. Working with a trainer is a good idea as it can help you build abdominal strength as well as greater strength and flexibility in the hips, pelvis and gluteal muscles.
- Improve your posture at work. Many more of us are working at home but whether you are commuting into the office all or some of the week or working at home, it’s important to ensure you have a good posture at your desk so that you are not overextending your neck or twisting awkwardly.
- Warming up properly before jumping on your bike can help you to avoid injuries. Stretching and strengthening exercises can help to condition your muscles and loosen up your IT band which may help to prevent injuries.
If you have a collision, particularly if you suspect a fracture or concussion, it is important to seek medical advice. If you are experiencing muscle strains and sprains try using the RICE method at home – rest, ice, compression, elevation (above your heart) and taking anti-inflammatories or pain killers. However, if the problems persist for more than a few days it’s important to consult an orthopaedic specialist and to stop cycling as you could exacerbate the problem or create more serious injuries.
Carrothers Orthopaedics Consultations – Cambridge
Carrothers Orthopaedics is currently open and scheduling clinic appointments, as well as surgery. The safety of patients and staff remains our number one priority at all times. We are happy to discuss fully the risks and benefits of any proposed orthopaedic surgery, in the context of the ongoing UK Covid-19 pandemic.
Our consultation fees are clearly presented here.
For your convenience, we offer appointments at both Nuffield Hospital Cambridge and Spire Cambridge Lea Hospital.