Pinched nerves from saddles

Nerve damage from cycling
By James Roland, LIVESTRONG

“Nerve damage from bicycle riding makes for more than just a painful ride. It can lead to serious physical problems. It is important to understand what causes nerve damage when riding and how to address the problem.

The nerve damage that results from bicycle riding is usually temporary. Your doctor will likely advise you to stop cycling until your symptoms have resolved. A study by doctors in Norway published in the April 1997 issue of “Acta Neurologica Scandinavica” found that symptoms can last from one week to eight months. A few simple fixes to your bicycle may be all it takes to resolve the issue and prevent further damage.”

The ‘perineum’
The perineum is in direct line for potential problems when you ride a bicycle. It is the area between your ischial tuberosities, the sit bones that contact the saddle. For men, it is located between the testicles and rectum. For women, it is located between the vagina and rectum. The perineum is the junction of major nerves and arteries. These nerves and arteries control the lower half of your body, including sexual function and urination.

The problem
In placing all of your weight on a skinny bike saddle you are likely placing too much pressure on the perineum. As a result, you are compressing the nerves in the perineal area, chiefly the pudendal nerve. This can cause genital numbness, incontinence, prostate problems and sexual dysfunction. In fact, a study in the July 2010 issue of “The Journal of Sexual Medicine” found an association between cycling and sexual dysfunction for both male and female cyclists. Researchers, however, did not demonstrate a clear cause-and-effect relationship.

Sciatic nerve
The sciatic nerve starts in the spine and runs down the back of each leg. It controls the muscles in the back of the knees and lower legs. Riding on a bike saddle that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve can leave your back and one or both of your legs numb or in pain. Testing different types of saddles can help you find a seat that is comfortable and does not strain your sciatic nerve.

Upper body nerves
While most of the concerns about nerves and muscles related to cycling have to do with the legs, you can experience discomfort due to strained nerves in the upper body, too. Usually, troubles in the neck and shoulders are related to poor positioning or posture while riding. Nerves in the wrist also can feel pressure when not in their optimal position. The wrists should be in line with the forearms as much as possible.

Help for lower body problems
Change your bike saddle to relieve pressure on your perineum while riding a bicycle. A study published in the September 2005 issue of “The Journal of Sexual Medicine” recommends using a special pressure-relieving saddle in a noseless or bullnose shape with a gel filling. Pressure-relieving saddles also come in a number of other shapes, such as crescent moons and two separate pads, one for each sit bone. Tilt your saddle forward slightly to increase pressure relief. Also, make sure your saddle is at the proper height. It should allow you to bend your leg slightly at the bottom of a pedal stroke.


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Pelvic Pain & Bike Riding
By Rachel Nall, LIVESTRONG

“Cycling is not only a cost-effective way to travel, it’s a killer workout – a vigorous hour-long bike ride can get your heart pumping and scorch a whopping 500 calories. Unfortunately, bike riding also puts a lot of excess pressure on your behind. If you ride a bike that doesn’t fit your body or you ride with poor posture, your bike ride can result in a pinched nerve.

Pinching your nerve
Your nerves are bundles of fibers that use signals, either chemical or electrical, to send messages throughout the body. A pinched nerve occurs when a nerve gets compressed, such as from a swollen muscle. This interferes with proper nerve signaling and may result in physical symptoms. There are several reasons you may develop a pinched nerve from sitting on a bicycle seat. Poor cycling posture combined with a less-than-ideal bicycle seat can cause a pinched nerve. Overuse of a specific nerve and muscle group, which happens with repetitive movement like pedaling, can also cause a pinched nerve. In some cases, your age and genetics may predispose you to pinched nerves.

What it feels like
Your nerves spread out throughout your entire body, and because of this, a pinched nerve can occur anywhere. Because of the way your nerves work, you may not feel the symptoms at the actual site of the pinched nerve, but rather dispersed throughout the body. A pinched nerve usually manifests as pain and abnormal sensations like tingling or numbness. You may also feel weak and unable to move certain muscles, which can make riding a bicycle difficult.


Cyclist’s Syndrome: You Can Prevent Pudendal Nerve Entrapment’
By Lisette Webre, PT, BCB-PMD

“Most people are unfamiliar with the Pudendal Nerve and what it does. Those who suffer from “Cyclist’s Syndrome” are often painfully aware of its effect.”

The Pudendal Nerve leaves the spinal cord at the level of the sacrum, which is near the tailbone. It takes a twisting path down through the pelvis. It provides sensation to the skin around the anus and perineum, and provides motor control to the urethral and anal sphincter muscles. Due to its location at the bottom of the pelvis, it can become compressed with prolonged sitting. This happens to cyclists and triathletes quite often, due to the amount of time they spend in the bike saddle.

Pudendal Nerve Entrapment symptoms
Include: pain with urination or bowel movements; urinary urgency and frequency; pain and/or numbness with prolonged sitting in the perineum, buttocks, inner thigh, groin, or genitalia; pain with intercourse in females and erectile dysfunction in males

This condition can be prevented by making the following changes:

– Change the design and position of your saddle. A wider saddle with an absent or flexible nose can be obtained and will decrease pressure to the Pudendal Nerve where your pelvis meets the seat. Gel saddles can be helpful, as can tilting the saddle downward.

– Change your riding position. A more upright posture while riding will shift the pressure from the front of the perineum to the ischial tuberosities, or the “sits” bones. Keeping your hip flexors and hamstrings flexible with regular stretching will make this easier.

– Change your riding schedule. Prolonged pressure from sitting in the bike saddle can cause stretching, compression, and decreased blood flow to the Pudendal Nerve. Decreasing your time in the saddle can be done by altering your training schedule, or simply rising out of the saddle for 20-30 seconds every 20 minutes.

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