7 tips to reduce motorcycle pain
It’s been a long ride and, unless you spend your whole life on your motorbike, your body will not be used to it.
The worst part is the backache that came back with you, the pain in your arms, that strange tension on your legs or that numbness in the finger that you can’t manage to ‘wake up’. Dr. Rafael Román offers some tips for a speedy recovery:
1. Neck pains on your motorcycle
Wind pressure on your helmet, tension and grinding your teeth while you ride can cause cervicals. This pain comes and goes in the base of your neck, preventing you from moving it from side to side.
It can be mitigated with some simple stretching exercises plus heat or heating cream containing ibuprofen, as they increase blood flow in the area as well as dilating the muscle, helping it to heal. This pain generally means you have been too stiff while riding. To prevent it in future, move your head around while you’re riding.
Exercise to reduce neck pain:
Move your head towards your shoulder, smoothly but continuously. Breathe out along the movement and exhale completely as you finish it.
You should notice how your neck muscles stretch and strengthen. It is typical to hear your cervical vertebrae adjusting themselves along the movement; it is an unmistakable signal that you are producing the desired result.
Repeat this exercise several times while still.
2. I can’t lift my arms above my head!
Should you feel a pain that stops you from moving or raising your arm, and you can’t even take your helmet off after getting off your bike, you could be facing tendonitis in your shoulder – an inflammation in one of your tendons.
As soon as you get off your bike get something cold – a frozen bottle or a bag of frozen peas. Put it on the area and the inflammation will go down immediately. After the first few hours applying cold, if it improves, apply heat and go to a professional for an evaluation.
You should also review your bike’s handlebar position. Adjusting the position, or changing your existing bars for ones more suited to your height and riding position,
can help to stop this annoying sharp pain from returning.
Exercises to help stiff arms:
Gently swing your elbow, supported by your right hand, in order to strengthen your shoulder.
Repeat on the other arm. Put both hands behind and stretch gently.
Repeat several times.
3. Lower back pain after riding
You’ve just stopped on your way home, parked up and then realised you can’t get off your bike! Don’t worry – you are one of 99 per cent of riders who suffer lower back pain (lumbalgia).
Tips to prevent lower back pain:
• You should improve your riding position. Adapt your bike to your ergonomics, not the other way around.
• Check your bike’s seat.
• Check the suspension and tune it to your riding conditions.
• Take regular breaks off your bike.
• Pay special attention to cold wind; stop it from reaching your lower back.
• Gently stretch yourself while holding the left handlebar grip with your left hand and with your right hand on the back seat (facing right), then do it the other way around (facing left); repeat it several times. This is a quite a relaxing exercise for your lower back.
4. Sharp pain in your upper back or shoulders
If you have a sharp pain in your upper back and shoulder blades, you are facing a trapeze contracture.
If the pain has just begun, apply cold for the first hours, applying heat afterwards. Do it this way, not the other way around. If there is inflammation and the pain doesn’t go away, seek out a good massage therapist.
Tips to reduce upper back pain:
• Buy a light and protective helmet, with good aerodynamics and not too many air entries. • If you have a windshield and it is producing turbulence when you ride, try a lower or higher screen, or even riding without it.
• Try not to keep the same position on your bike for a long time – turn your head from time to time and let your shoulders have some rest.
• If you’ve had contractures in the past, do some exercises. A contracture not properly recovered can produce muscle fibrosis (hardening of fibres in the muscles) which is difficult to cure.
• Stress is a problem as it produces metabolic waste within our muscles, slowing down their movements. Go for a ride on your bike, it will help to relax you!
• Carrying a backpack can be the root of the problem and make it worse.
• Warm water showers and warm baths will relieve symptoms immediately.
• If you already have the problem, your doctor can advise you on the use of muscle relaxants, ultrasonic treatments, TENS, infrared and massages.
• Combining zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 will increase the creation of ATP, the fuel of our muscles. An expert can advise you on its use.
• Wearing a scarf or bandana is a great way of preventing contractures on your back.
• Stretch the back of your neck with your hands, open your arms widely and swing them gently. Repeat the exercise several times.
5. Numbness or pain in your legs
Be careful if you notice that the lower back pain (lumbalgia) mentioned before is going down your leg (left or right), either through the front or the back side.
If there’s a pain that stops you from moving, as well as a numbness in that leg, you are facing sciatica (neuralgia along the sciatic nerve). It is a vague constant pain that will bother you more if you’re still or standing up.
If you rode for many miles, your position was rigid and you had to fight against wind, your lower back will be affected.
Tips to reduce leg numbness or pain:
• Put yourself in the hands of a good professional and follow his/her advice.
• Depending on the degree of pain and lack of strength, rest may be mandatory.
• If pain stops you from normal day-today activity you will probably have to resort to analgesics, muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories.
• Use of a vitamin B complex or B12 can be quite positive in recuperation. Ask a good professional nutritionist.
• Gently stretch your foot upwards; repeat the movement with the other leg until you feel your sciatic nerve is relaxing a bit.
6. Preventing numbness in your hands and fingers when riding
Constant pressure on handlebar grips, as well as on clutch and brake levers, is our enemy. Many manufacturers have approached this problem by developing lighter clutches and brakes.
Tips to reduce numb hands:
• Relax while riding and make corrections to your posture from time to time; try not to lean excessively on the grips.
• Don’t ride with your arms too high or too straightened. • Check the angle of your handlebar and adjust it to fit your style and needs.
• Watch excessive grip vibration – this could be producing the numbness. Check your handlebars’ counterweights if they are installed.
• Pay attention to excessive pressure in your gloves: it can interfere with the irrigation of nerves in your hands, subsequently irritating and inflaming the median nerve.
• Stretch your arms and cross both hands’ fingers, stretch gently, relax and repeat several times.
7. Tiredness after riding
Tiredness after hundreds of miles?! You don’t say! Don’t play down the importance of this, even if it seems rather obvious. One of my colleagues – a motorcyclist –was down for three days after a big trip.
The symptoms are: blood pressure fall, extreme tiredness, lack of appetite and even fever. Here, we are facing a tiredness syndrome due to the excess of kilometres.
Tips for motorcycle fatigue:
Having rest is mandatory, as well as good hydration. Watch alcohol, it's not recommended – I would like to emphasise this. Alcohol causes dehydration. It steals our water so it can be metabolised, so it’s not just our enemy when riding. If you are really tired after a long route, have some rest, drink fruit juices in order to top up your vitamins and minerals, water, and, of course, more fruit. By doing this you will be able to improve your awareness and to have a safer ride.