Cyclists and Neck Pain

Today I was talking to my partner in TriggerPoint Yoga. Ana is an athlete and her favorite sport is cycling, in fact she and her husband Scott have been doing quite a few long-distance rides lately. We were talking about the muscles that pull your head back so you can be in the aerodynamic position and see the road. If you are a cyclist, put yourself into that position, and then stand up straight. You’ll see that your head is pulled all the way back and you are looking at the ceiling.

The muscles are the splenius capitis and splenius cervicis muscles. They both originate along your spinal column, and the first then inserts into the base of your skull, while the second inserts into the first two cervical vertebrae. They not only can cause major headaches, but they can get so contracted that they can no longer pull your head back anymore so your head drops down.

This was so clearly demonstrated to me when I became friends with Allen Larsen, the 2003 winner of the Race Across America (RAAM). Allen is an AMAZING athlete! He was the crew chief when I had the honor and privilege to be the massage therapist for Marko Baloh in RAAM 2005. Allen told me how his posterior neck muscles simply “gave out” at the very end of the 2003 RAAM and how his team worked together to set up a rig to hold his head up so he could see where he was going. These muscles became Allen’s nemesis, and they became a key muscle in my therapy routine while working with cyclists.

When I wrote my book, Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living I spent extra time describing how to self-treat these important muscles. Allen showed me how important they are to athletes, but I realized they are also at risk for anyone who works looking up for hours at a time — people like painters, or anyone whose computer monitor is above eye level. Basically you just put your fingers onto the muscles and then press hard to release the toxins that are causing the muscles to go into spasm. If you do anything that brings your head back for long periods of time, it’s definitely worthwhile to learn how to release the tension in these muscles.

All this talk about RAAM has made me miss the excitement of the race…maybe I’ll see if I can do it again!

Have a great day,


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