Biking and Back Pain


My Commuter Rig

My commuter rig










It’s not an understatement to say that biking saved by back.

It was 1992, I was living at my mom’s house after my second back surgery a year after graduating from college. Depressed doesn’t describe what I was going through – despondent is more like it. I was reading a ton, spending too much time drinking at bars and basically just sitting around waiting for my back to heal itself (just a note: that strategy doesn’t work).

Then one day I jumped on my stepdad’s Specialized mountain bike. I stayed on pavement, riding to a neighborhood park and back, then began commuting to Metropolitan State College of Denver for summer classes. Slowly, my back began to feel better.

Eventually, I bought my own mountain bike and started riding off trail – the first few times I fell off I was terrified I was going to reinjure my back. But I learned a lesson that still serves me today – my body’s a lot tougher than I gave it credit for. Within 5 years I was doing half-day rides and in 1999, after a lot of training, I completed a 75-mile mountain bike ride from Needles District in Canyonlands National Park back to Moab. Today I regularly complete 20+ mile  mountain bike rides – I even have a road bike, a commuter bike and a spinning bike for winter.

Now, if my back is sore, the first thing I do is jump on a bike – it’s better than ice or Ibuprofen. I commute 3 miles each way to work each day that weather allows – a godsend for my back health. In fact, I feel stiff on the days that I don’t ride in to work – and that motivates me even more, especially on chilly mornings.

I’m not sure exactly what it is about biking that helps – I suspect it’s the hamstring stretching and the core activity involved in balancing on the seat (I’ll post again on this later after I do a little research). I think it’s also psychological: after giving up basketball, skiing, running and downhill skiing due to my injury, being able to participate in a sport became very important to my mental well-being.



2 responses to “Biking and Back Pain

  1. Mr. Barker,
    What about stretching? Have you found that helpful?

  2. Actually, I’m beginning to learn that marshalling my inner rage might be more important than anything!

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