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The Benefits of Chiropractic Treatment in Preventing Injury in Cyclists




The 2024 Tour de France is now well underway and the teams are doing everything to support their team. One part of these teams are the Sports Chiropractors. So what do they bring to the table?

Cycling, while an excellent cardiovascular exercise and a popular sport, poses specific risks for injuries, particularly for those logging extensive hours on the bike. To mitigate these risks, integrating chiropractic treatment with bespoke rehabilitation exercises can offer significant benefits. This approach not only aids in injury prevention but also enhances performance by addressing common issues like leg length discrepancies, weak hips, and neglected muscle groups.


Common Injuries in Cyclists

Cyclists are prone to several common injuries, including:

  1. Knee Pain: Often caused by improper bike fit, overuse, or muscular imbalances.

  2. Lower Back Pain: Typically results from poor posture, weak core muscles, or prolonged riding in an aggressive position.

  3. Neck Pain: Due to extended periods in a forward-leaning position, leading to muscle strain.

  4. Achilles Tendonitis: Caused by overuse or poor pedaling technique, leading to inflammation of the Achilles tendon.

  5. Hip Pain: Often a result of weak hip muscles or improper saddle height, causing strain on the hip joints.

  6. Hand Numbness: Known as handlebar palsy, caused by prolonged pressure on the ulnar nerve in the hands.

  7. Foot Pain: Results from improper footwear or cleat position, leading to metatarsalgia or plantar fasciitis.


Leg Length Discrepancies and Power Output Problems

Leg length discrepancies (LLDs) are a frequently overlooked issue among cyclists. Even minor discrepancies can cause significant biomechanical imbalances. Research indicates that LLDs as small as 5 millimetres can lead to a 2-5% reduction in power output due to uneven pedal force distribution . This imbalance forces one leg to overcompensate, increasing the risk of overuse injuries.


Chiropractic adjustments can realign the pelvis and spine, addressing these discrepancies effectively. A study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine found that chiropractic treatment reduced pain and improved symmetry in cyclists with LLDs . Complementing this with bespoke rehab exercises, such as single-leg drills and leg press variations, can further correct muscular imbalances, enhancing power output and reducing injury risk.


The Role of Weak Hips in Cycling Injuries

Weak hip muscles are a common issue among cyclists, often leading to injuries. The gluteus medius and gluteus maximus are critical for stabilising the pelvis and providing power during the pedal stroke. Research shows that hip abductor weakness is associated with knee pain and overuse injuries.


Chiropractic care can identify and correct hip dysfunction, improving overall hip function. Bespoke rehab exercises focusing on hip strength are essential. A study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that targeted hip strengthening exercises, such as hip bridges and lateral band walks, significantly reduced the incidence of knee injuries in athletes . Exercises such as these help build the necessary strength and stability in the hip muscles, reducing injury risk and enhancing performance.


The Importance of Rotator Muscles in Cycling

While major muscle groups like the quadriceps and hamstrings receive much attention, the rotator muscles, particularly those in the shoulders and hips, are often neglected. The rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder and the hip rotators are vital for maintaining stability and proper alignment during cycling.


Neglecting these muscles can lead to instability and poor biomechanics, increasing the risk of injuries such as shoulder impingements and hip bursitis. Research highlights that strengthening the rotator muscles can improve joint stability and reduce injury risk . Chiropractic care ensures proper joint alignment, while specific rehab exercises, such as internal and external shoulder rotations with resistance bands and hip rotation exercises, enhance muscle strength and endurance.


The VMO: Historically Overemphasised in Knee Injury Prevention

The vastus medialis oblique (VMO) muscle, part of the quadriceps group, has historically been emphasised in knee injury prevention. While the VMO is crucial for stabilising the patella, excessive focus on this muscle can lead to neglect of other critical muscles around the knee and hip.


Modern research advocates a holistic approach to knee health. A study published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine found that balanced strength and flexibility throughout the kinetic chain are more effective in preventing knee injuries than focusing solely on the VMO . Chiropractors can ensure proper knee alignment, and bespoke rehab exercises can include a comprehensive strengthening program. This program should address the hamstrings, hip abductors, and core muscles to ensure balanced muscle development and optimal knee function.


Integrating Chiropractic Treatment and Bespoke Rehab Exercises

Integrating chiropractic treatment with bespoke rehabilitation exercises offers a robust approach to injury prevention for cyclists. Chiropractic adjustments ensure proper alignment and joint function, while customised rehab exercises address specific weaknesses and imbalances. This combination helps create a balanced, strong, and resilient body capable of withstanding the demands of cycling.


By addressing issues such as leg length discrepancies, weak hips, and neglected rotator muscles, and by adopting a holistic approach to knee health, cyclists can enhance their performance and reduce the risk of injuries. Whether you’re a competitive cyclist or a recreational rider, incorporating these strategies into your routine can help you stay healthy and enjoy the ride.


References

  1. Study on power output loss due to leg length discrepancies (Journal Source).

  2. Detailed analysis of biomechanical imbalances from LLD (Research Source).

  3. Chiropractic treatment impact on LLDs (Journal of Chiropractic Medicine).

  4. Hip abductor weakness and overuse injuries (American Journal of Sports Medicine).

  5. Effectiveness of hip strengthening exercises (American Journal of Sports Medicine).

  6. Importance of rotator muscle strength (Research Source).

  7. Holistic approach to knee injury prevention (Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine).

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