Get rid of biking hip pain and lower back pain

Posted on March 5, 2018

(Last Updated On: March 5, 2018)

Why does biking hip pain happen?

We will first cover the front of the hip.


Not all hips bend the same

What we want to look at here is the ability to bend the hips. This is called hip flexion, where we bring the knee towards our chest.

hip extension

Similar to how some can do a split while others cannot, some can bend their hips a great deal while others cannot. Not only because of muscular stiffness, but because of joint. Most have an intuition when they see a gymnast bend there is something genetically different about them. They aren’t that flexible merely because they stretch a lot.

What can happen is the hip bones are shaped differently. Notice how this hip pinches the pelvis once the thigh raises up a certain degree:

Pelvis on left; thigh bone (femur) on right. Pinch happening between them.

This can happen for all sorts of reasons:

  • The top of the hip is wider than usual
  • The hip socket is deeper than normal
    • You may be more familiar with the opposite of this: very shallow sockets. We call that hip dysplasia. Just think about a joint which dislocates easily. It’s not snug in the socket. It can move too easily. (More mobility isn’t always beneficial.)
  • The head or neck of the thigh (femur) is wider than typical

Some examples. We’re looking down at the hip, where the femur is on the left in each photo; the pelvis is right:

Some may have come across the term femoroacetabular impingement, FAI. That’s partially what we’re talking about here. The femur and acetabulum impinge against each other, for one reason or another.

For more technical discussions on bony differences in the hips:

Note this does not automatically mean something structural or bony is going on. This can happen because the muscles which hold the femoral head in the socket aren’t working like they should. Therefore, the head moves around more than it should, causing a pinching sensation, but it’s important to appreciate mobility isn’t always a muscle tightness issue.

This is relevant with biking because many cyclists lean over the handles a good deal. For some, it’s habit. Others it’s a means of being more aerodynamic. This brings their chest closer to their knees, which increases hip flexion.


Biking lower back pain

If one hip cannot bend like the other, then it’s common to compensate at the lower back. For example, if the right hip cannot flex straight up as much as the left one, then the person may rotate their back to try and get that movement. Because they can’t move the hip enough, they move somewhere else to try and help.

Notice how this woman sits into her left hip more than her right (think of her as in a horizontal seated position):

Her right hip can’t bend like her left, so it pokes up in the air i.e. the lower back rotates to compensate. See how her back isn’t flat anymore. It’s tilting.

Rotation is a two way street. If one side pokes upwards, the other side downwards. (If one side moves backwards, the other side forwards.)

Or notice this guy. When he rocks back past a certain point, his lower back rounds:

He has no more hip range of motion, so his back starts to round to compensate. He also has a difference between sides though:

You can see his hips aren’t going straight back.

This hip rocking position on all fours is similar to a bike, because the knees are close into the chest. All a bike is doing differently is bringing the hips in one at a time. Look what happens if one hip can’t bend enough:

Notice how when the right knee comes up (hip flexion), the back rotates:

You can even see how the shirt has wrinkles in it when the right knee is up, but not when the left knee is up.

It’s either move the back, or pinch the hip.

Moving the back isn’t a deal breaker. At least not initially. However, the back is a column. As such, it handles compression much better than rotation.

Think about playing Jenga. Compressing the pieces is no big deal, regardless how high you go. Twist those blocks just a tad though? It comes tumbling down.

Why the back of the hip pain while cycling?

There are nerves which run from the lower back to the hip:

By excessively bending and or twisting the lower back we also bend / twist the nerves around that area. Making it easier for them to get pinched, compressed, or rubbed on. That irritation radiates down the leg some, such as to the back of the hip, or even lower. You may get pain down the back of the thigh, knee, or even into the foot. Commonly referred to as sciatica.

Again, if you can’t bend the hip, you may bend the spine. Many of us have heard “don’t lift with a rounded back.” While biking isn’t as intense as deadlifting, you’re still resisting gravity. You’re lifting your own body weight.

What do we do about this?

First, we need to figure out is the issue functional or structural. Is it because of how our muscles and joints are working, or is it because of how we’re built?

If it’s because of how muscles are working, we can change that. We can stretch, strengthen, change our habits.

If it’s because of how our bones are put together, while we’re unlikely able to change the bone -again, some people, no matter how much they stretch, are not going to do a split- we can modify how we move, how the bike is set-up, to a point where cycling is at least comfortable. Not everyone will be able to comfortable in a position like this,

But we can at least bike and enjoy a pain free back and hip.

To get that info, check out the $12 guide.

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(You will be redirected to a PayPal page, but you do not need a PayPal account.)

Remember this guy from earlier:

He was able to do this, with little modifications:

Learn what he learned by getting the guide. It comes as a password protected link to your email.

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In it you’ll learn,

  • How to differentiate between a structural vs functional issue
  • Four exercises aimed at improving the ability of the hips to bend
    • Includes videos going over technique
    • We go over the order of progression, and recommended sets, reps, days per week
  • Bike modifications
    • Handle and seat set-up
      • Height, angle and distance
    • Tradeoffs between healthier joints vs biking performance
    • Pedal technique
    • The perfect set-up trap to avoid

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