Back pain is no joke, as anyone who has ever suffered from it knows. From getting out of bed on a morning to finding a comfortable position on your sofa, it interferes with every aspect of life. If you or someone you love suffers from back pain, then you will know that prevention is better than cure. This takes the form of consistent daily movement and exercise, stretching, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding back-intensive activities. In this post, we are going to look at something that can help with your prevention plan: recumbent bikes.
What is a recumbent bike?
A recumbent exercise bike is mechanically similar to a regular exercise bike. The difference lies in where the rider sits. Recumbents are built with comfort in mind, instead of a bike saddle, they have a full seat – like the seat of a chair – which provides support to the buttocks and the back. The back of the seat is usually cushioned too. There are a set of handles beneath the seat that can be held during use and some models have a second set of front handles for mounting and dismounting the bike, as well as providing another hand placement option while riding. The pedals of a recumbent bike are at the front, instead of below the rider. When in use, the rider maintains an upright position, against the bent forward position that they would be in on a standard bike. This protects against the strain that would otherwise be put on the lower back.
How can a recumbent help my back?
Back pain can become a vicious cycle of preventing you from exercising, leading to your back seizing up further, preventing you from exercising. A recumbent bike can break this loop by providing a safe way to work out because it is specifically designed to relieve back pressure. Moreover, everything on the bike is adjustable, so you can get yourself into the position that best suits your back.
On a regular bike, your spine is extensively flexed (in other words, you flatten out the lower back arch) which causes pressure to accumulate, injuring your spinal discs. If you suffer from sciatica, or indeed any spinal disc problems, then you will already know the pain that this position can lead to. A recumbent bike not only avoids this problem, but it improves sciatic pain by returning your spine to a neutral position and strengthening key muscles groups that provide support to the lower back – namely, the glutes and the abs.
Tips for using a recumbent
If you already have back pain, then the following tips will help to manage your condition while using a recumbent:
Start small and build up: anyone who begins a new exercise will experience an adaptation period while the body builds strength. If you have back pain, however, this can be unbearable. Use your bike for short sessions (about 10 minutes) while you build up your strength and figure out the position settings that suit your back. Build up to longer sessions by adding a few minutes at a time. This can be frustrating if you feel able to do more, but the cautious approach is better than triggering a back pain episode.
Seat structure: everyone’s back pain is different, so there is no universal seat to suit everybody. Seats can come with or without foam padding and mesh, and be moulded or unmoulded. Experiment to figure out which provides you with the most comfort.
Form: similarly, there is no universal comfortable form. Adjusting your recumbent bike is easy, so it is a matter of trial and error. If you hold onto the high handles while riding, many people find that a high stem (the pipe the bars are attached to) helps their back.
Do not touch the bike!: people who do not have lower back pain can use a recumbent bike too and may want to do so because it provides a more comfortable riding experience. However, as just mentioned, the adjustable settings have to be tuned to the rider to get the most out of the bike’s back protection. If two people are using the bike, the person with back pain will inevitably lose their settings and thus get less out of the bike.
Can a recumbent bike cure your lower back pain? Well, not in a technical sense, but it can certainly help with pain management and in the reduction in the intensity and frequency of flare-ups. In addition to this, we recommend that you regularly stretch out your back by doing the following:
- Hamstring stretch
- Knee to chest pull-ins
- Piriformis stretch
- Prone Quad stretch
- Calf stretch
Search YouTube for instructional videos to safely guide you through these. Opt for ones posted by physiotherapists or chiropractors.