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Pelvic Pain & Bike Riding

By Rachel Nall

Cycling can serve as a low-impact exercise outlet if you want to stay in shape. However, pelvic pain and pressure can sometimes limit you from going on lengthier rides or even riding comfortably. If you experience pelvic pain while cycling, you do not have to give up cycling entirely -- there are steps you can take to reduce painful symptoms.

Compressed Nerve

Although mostly bony, your pelvis does have a nerve known as the pudendal nerve that sits on the pelvic floor. When you ride a bike, particularly for a long period of time, this nerve can become compressed, which can result in painful symptoms.

Cyclist's Syndrome

Pelvic pain following a bicycle ride is known as “Cyclists Syndrome.” This condition is characterized by genital numbness, aching in the pelvic region, urinary frequency or urgency, impotence and/or painful intercourse.

Make Adjustments

Finding the right bicycle fit can help to alleviate some of the pelvic pain that is associated with cycling. If you ride a road bike, ensure that you have enough distance between the saddle and handlebars. If you experience pelvic pain, try adjusting your saddle height in order to reduce pain. Also, check the leg extension -- if your leg is fully extended on your down-stroke and your hips do not rock while doing so, your seat is the right height. If not, adjust it to be taller or shorter.

Comfort Counts

In addition to fit considerations, it’s important to cycle on a comfortable bicycle seat. Even if your bicycle is a high-end model, you may not be cycling on the right type of seat for your pelvis. If you ride for speed, a narrower seat is more appropriate. Leisurely bicycle riders can consider a wider seat. Adding a suspension seat-post also may help to reduce the shock to the pelvis when riding over bumps.

The Next Step

In some instances, pelvic pain while cycling is not because of a fit issue, but instead is the result of a biomechanical issue related to how you bike or your muscles. If adjustments to fit and saddle do not alleviate pain, consider seeing a physician for an evaluation.

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