3 Steps to Proper Bike Fitting

The summer months are upon us and I’m sure that many of you are out riding your bikes to enjoy the beautiful weather. I’m going to give you a few easy steps on proper fit for your bike to make sure your bike riding is enjoyable and comfortable.

 

First of all, proper seat height is very important. When you’re sitting on the seat with your feet on the pedals, you should only have a slight bend in your knee when the pedal is at the bottom position.1 I usually tell my patients when standing next to the bike, their greater trochanter or hip bone should be about even with the seat. If you can sit on your seat and plant your feet on the ground your seat is too low. If you have to rock your hips side to side while pedaling, your seat is too high.2 When having to stop, you should have to get off the seat or be on your tip toes when seated. 1

 

Second, your seat should be level. Try to avoid tilting it too far forward or backward. You should feel like you are sitting on the same spots on your bottom that you do while sitting upright in a chair, often referred to as your “sit bones”.1,2 On most bikes you can also move the seat forward or backward  allowing you to make sure that you are centering your weight over the bike.1 Also, in this process make sure that you can still reach the handlebars. Your elbows should not be locked and you should not feel like you have to shift forward on the seat to reach the handlebars.2

 

The third step is adjusting the handlebar position to avoid having any strain on your back, neck, shoulders, or wrists.1 You should never feel like your arms are falling asleep or your upper body is too heavy to hold up. If you are feeling that way, try adjusting your handlebar position. This will vary depending on the type of bike you are riding, your body type, and just personal preference. Here are the three main types of bikes and you can experiment with what you like the best.

 

  1. Road Bike (skinny tires): Handlebars about 1-2 inches lower than the seat allowing you to lean forward and be more aerodynamic.1
  2. Mountain Bike (rugged tires): Handlebars often 3-4 inches lower than the seat allowing for a lower center of gravity to better negotiate obstacles you might find on trails or in the woods.1
  3. Cruisers: Handlebars about 1-2 inches higher than the seat allowing the rider to sit more upright and take a more leisurely ride.1

 

A good rule of thumb is that if you’re having increased back, neck, shoulder, or wrist pain, your handlebars are likely too low.2 If you’re feeling every bump on the road and your bottom is hurting, your handlebars are likely too high.2

 

Hopefully these few easy steps will make your bike riding experiences this summer more fun and long-lasting. If you’re having pain while riding your bike and you don’t have any previous aliments, you’re likely just not positioned correctly on the bike. Hope you have a safe and fun summer! Please share any exciting bike riding experiences with us.

 

P90X: Great Way to Lose Weight or Just Hurt Yourself?

P90X is a series of 12 exercise DVDs that bases its success on “muscle confusion.” 1 It is thought that by changing up the exercise routine daily, your body does not get a chance to adapt. Therefore, the body burns more fat and builds more muscle.1 Each DVD starts with a warm up, followed by a circuit training routine, and then finishes with a cool down. One of the key things to remember is that these DVDs are intended for a healthy population that has already been working out. If you have not worked out in years and have spent the last several months having more of a sedentary lifestyle, this is NOT the workout series you want to jump into. Doing so would likely result in injury.

 

Unfortunately, as physical therapists, we see many people at our clinics that come to us after doing P90X. Some reasons include doing too much too soon, poor body mechanics, or aggravation of an old injury. First, as mentioned above, this is meant for a population that has been exercising, so you need to do the intro fitness test before starting the DVDs that is included with this series. If you can’t pass the fitness test, you likely need to do other exercise to prepare your body for P90X. Second, you need to be aware of your body mechanics and posture during all of the movements. If you don’t have a good understanding of a proper squat, lunge, push-up, etc., you could end up hurting yourself.

 

                    

                 Improper Squat                                                          Proper Squat

 

Since this is a circuit series, the repetitive nature of this type of exercise can cause aggravation to old injuries or even cause new injuries if not completed correctly. This would be a great opportunity to contact your physical therapist to review these mechanics to assure that you are in the correct position. Lastly, you need to listen to your body. Do NOT push through pain or push past the point where you cannot maintain good form; this can lead to joint pain, tendonitis, or muscle strains which, in turn, will result in you not being able to tolerate any kind of exercise for an extended period of time.

 

Although P90X is not for everyone, it does have great potential to burn calories and help the already active and exercising individual get into better shape. A 2011 study took 16 healthy subjects 19-26 years old that exercised regularly through four of the P90X DVDs over several weeks. The results showed that P90X, in combination with a healthy diet, meets or in some instances exceeds fitness standards for losing weight and improving cardiorespiratory fitness.

 

Obviously, there are a million different ways to exercise: P90X, yoga, zumba, machines, weights, jogging, Tai Chi, and the list can go on and on. You need to find the best way to exercise with the least detrimental effects on your body. Some people are in good enough shape and have a good understanding of proper form with exercise positions, so P90X is a great challenge and addition to your workout regimen. However, for those of you on the other end of the spectrum, you might want to try a less intense workout DVD and progress to P90X over time to prevent injury. If you want to learn about proper mechanics with exercise you should come visit us and we will be able to show you the correct way to exercise to avoid injury.

 

Have you ever tried P90X before? If so, what was your experience?

 

The Sacroiliac Joint Rarely Gets the Credit for the Back Pain It Causes

Back pain is one of the most common complaints of patient’s coming in for physical therapy. The sacroiliac joint (SIJ) can be a contributor to back pain. Interestingly enough, I was fairly oblivious of this sneaky cause of back pain until a senior clinician and women’s health practitioner opened my eyes and started my fascination with this joint.

 

The sacroiliac joint consists of 3 bones — the 2 ilium and the sacrum. The sacrum wedges snugly between the 2, serving as a keystone. Even though this is a “snug” joint, there is still a fair amount of movement that occurs here.

 

Common mechanisms of injury are:

  • a sudden jar to the body
  • falling on your buttocks
  • a possible lift and twist maneuver

 

Common symptoms of SIJ pain are pain at the belt level and pain that radiates into the buttocks, hip, and/or thigh. Your physical therapist can diagnose SIJ dysfunction through observation, palpation, and special tests.

 

Treatment of SIJ dysfunction may entail:

  • soft tissue mobilization of muscles, which may be in spasm or are short/tight
  • muscle energy techniques to correct the malposition of the joint
  • joint mobilization to decrease pain and/or improve the mobility of the joint
  • strengthening of the muscles surrounding the joint, including the pelvic floor muscles
  • stretching to decrease abnormal stress on the bones of the pelvis
  • taping or the use of a brace to help stabilize the SIJ

 

The SIJ is a “snug” joint that experiences small amounts of movements, but has the ability to cause a large amount of back pain. If you suspect you are experiencing SIJ dysfunction, consult with your physician or physical therapist for a full evaluation.

 

Gardening Tips to Prevent Injury

 

Now that we find ourselves in the middle of gardening season, we want to make sure that you are thinking about proper body mechanics to take your garden from seeds/seedlings to blooms and veggies without injury. Below are a few easy tips to follow to help prevent injury during gardening:

 

1. Never bend straight over – this puts tremendous stress on your low back.

  • Squat Down: Keep your back straight, feet a little more than shoulder width apart, push your hips back and squat down. Do NOT push your knees forward over your toes.
  • Half-Kneel: If your knees will tolerate this position, place one leg in front and one leg behind you to kneel on the ground. Push your hips backward, letting your knees bend and keep your back straight as you lean down toward your garden.
  • Tall-Kneel: Again, if your knees can tolerate this position, kneel on both knees, keep your back straight and push your hips back toward your heels as you move closer to the soil.
  • Sit on a Stool: Sitting will decrease the stress to your legs and back. Keep your back straight, knees a little more than shoulder width apart and hinge at your hips to get movement toward the soil.
  • Hands and Knees: Get on your hands and knees with the plants off to one side. Keep your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. This is a great position to move around mulch or pull weeds.
  • All of these positions are a safe way to plant, weed, and move soil or mulch.
  • You always want to make sure that you are not being a “lazy” gardener. Take a few extra minutes to figure out what position is most comfortable for you. Then make sure you are keeping your stomach and gluteal muscles contracted. Don’t forget about keeping a gentle squeeze of your shoulder blade muscles as well, you can do this by squeezing your shoulder blades together and down toward your back pockets. Activating these muscles will help you keep your spine in a good position.

 

2. When raking, never stand still.

  • Take steps and walk to what you are trying to rake. Keep your strokes small and never lean to the items you are raking.
  • Keep the rake or yard tool close to you – you should never be farther than an arms length away from what you are raking.
  • Do not twist – this can be avoided by always moving toward the object you are raking and keeping your body squared off to the object.

 

3. Lifting plants.

  • Keep the plants close to you when lifting. Remember to keep your stomach and gluteal muscles contracted.
  • Make sure to always move your feet when turning, never twist.
  • You can use a squat or half-kneel technique when lifting to avoid injury.                                                                                                                                                                              Squat: Keep the plants close to your body. Have your feet a little more than shoulder width apart, hinge through your hips to push your butt back and keep your back straight. Place the plants on the ground.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Half-Kneel: Keep the plants close to your body. Start with your feet shoulder width apart. Take a step forward with one leg, begin to bend both knees, and let the knee behind you touch the ground. Then you can push your hips back, keeping your back straight and place the plants on the ground.

 

Make sure that you get to enjoy the ENTIRE gardening season this year by following some of the guidelines listed above. If you are unsure about your gardening mechanics and proper positions, you should come visit us. We would be happy to review these with you and help you achieve an injury-free gardening season. Please let us know how these gardening positions worked for you!