We're Not Just SPORTS, We're All About The CARE!

Pain In The Butt: Your Bike Saddle May Be To Blame

Written By: Carly Chiarella PT, DPT, SFMA-I, PPSC, Certified Intermediate Bike Fitter, SportsCare Stockholm Clinical Director

Have you ever been on your bike, wind in your face, enjoying the scenery when all of the sudden you get rudely interrupted by a literal pain in your butt?

Or maybe your elbow?

How about your back?

If this sounds familiar, then you may benefit from some basic bike fitting (and maybe some mobility work).

In this article, I’m going to address the basic saddle measurements and how to reduce some of your symptoms for a more enjoyable ride!

If you’re experiencing numbness/tingling in your legs or pain in your back, your saddle may be to blame.

I’m going to teach you a quick method to find your saddle size to try and reduce some of your symptoms!

You’re going to need:

  • Aluminum foil
  • Carpeted surface
  • Tape measure

Grab a piece of aluminum foil wide enough to fit underneath your bum and place it on a carpeted surface suitable for sitting (a chair or a stair will do).

Sit down, lean forward to mimic your riding position, and lift your legs slightly.

Now, carefully stand up and you’ll notice two impressions from your sit bones left in the foil.

Next, grab your tape measure, measure the distance between the two points (in millimeters), and add 20-25mm.

Now that you’re armed with your new measurement, go compare it to the size of your current saddle.

You may be surprised to find that your saddle is too narrow and you need to size up (here’s your excuse to buy bike parts)!

Now that we’ve determined your proper saddle width, let’s address that numbness and tingling you’re feeling.

If your symptoms are extending anywhere from your butt cheek down your leg to your foot, then it’s probably an irritable sciatic nerve!

In order to reduce some of the irritation, you can mobilize the nerve to get it moving better.

  1. Slouch in a chair (think ‘bad’ posture)
  2. Kick one leg out straight (the other one remains stationary)
  3. Bring your toes towards you by flexing the ankle up
    • You should feel a tightness somewhere in your leg
    • DO NOT push through this tightness, only TO it
    • Decrease the height of your leg if you need to
  4. Now point the toes away
    • This should remove the feeling of tightness
  5. Lower leg back to starting position
  6. Repeat 20 times, then switch sides
    • DO NOT perform more than 20 times each session
    • Perform up to 2x/day
    • This exercise should decrease your symptoms. If they get worse STOP and consult your physical therapist

Each bike has endless components you can adjust, but sometimes making one small adjustment can create a big improvement!

If aches and pains are stopping you from enjoying your rides, find a SportsCare physical therapist who can help you with specific mobility and strength exercises to reduce these symptoms.

Then, find a bike shop with an experienced bike fitter who can perform a proper assessment and fit the bike to you!

If you’re extra lucky, your physical therapist will be a bike fitter, like me! Happy trails!

If you’re a biker who is tired of dealing with chronic pain, come in for a complimentary wellness screening.

To schedule a bike-fitting with Carly at our Stockholm, NJ physical therapy clinic, contact us today

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