Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) are among the most common injuries across all sub-groups world-wide. It's unsurprising that classes which are designed to have participants repeating the same movement over 100 times per minute for 45 minutes cause some injuries. Muscle tightness will happen after spin classes - that's meant to happen. The injuries that I am referring to are connective-tissue injuries - these are less common but more serious than muscle injuries.
The three most common spin class injuries are sacroiliac joint (SIJ) dysfunction, iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome, and Achilles tendinosis. They're common because of the nature of cycling, but all three can be avoided if you put some thought into a pre- and post-class injury prevention plan.
Sacroiliac Joint (SIJ) Dysfunction
The sacroiliac joint (SIJ) is the joint that attaches the spine to the pelvis. The SIJ has 360-degree motion albeit a very small range of motion. Excessive movement of the pelvis (pelvic hypermobility) causes the joint to be unstable; it stretches the ligaments of the joint which causes pain. Decreased movement of the pelvis (pelvic hypomobility) is caused by tight muscles around the joint (usually the deep gluteal muscles), and it causes increased wear and tear on the facet joints within the spine.
To avoid excessive movement of the pelvis, make sure your bike set-up is correct. Your saddle height should not be too high. When your foot is at the very bottom of its motion, there should still be a slight bend in your knee - if the knee has to straighten to reach the pedal, then so will your pelvis have to tilt.
To avoid decreased movement of the pelvis, make sure you do a minimum of 10min stretching at the end of class, focusing on your glutes.
Iliotibal Band (ITB) Syndrome
The ITB is a thick band of connective tissue that runs from your hip, along the outside of your thigh, and inserts into the knee. Several muscles bind with the ITB, including gluteus maximus (glute. max.) and tensor fascia latae (TFL). When glute. max. and TFL pull on the ITB, it pulls on the knee in turn, causing severe discomfort, especially when walking downstairs.
To avoid ITB Syndrome, you have to release glute. max. and TFL. The 10min glutes stretch you're already doing to prevent SIJ dysfunction will also serve to prevent ITB Syndrome, but add in a TFL stretch for good measure.
NOTE: Foam-rolling the ITB doesn't work. For more information on that topic, read THIS ARTICLE.
The Achilles is an extraordinarily thick tendon, but it's not just there for show. It's tough because it is the insertion point for three very strong muscles - plantaris, soleus, and gastrocnemius. All three of those muscles are involved in the back-stroke when cycling - the flick of your foot at the bottom of the pedalling movement. When all three of those muscles become tight, they pull on the Achilles causing micro tears and a lot of pain.
To prevent Achilles tendinosis, stretch your calves for 10min after every class. If you feel any pain in your Achilles during or after a class, the slide your feet out of the toe clips and cycle without a back-stroke. It will slow you down, but it also takes the pressure of the calves.
Watch a video on some of those stretches HERE.
Spin Classes are lower-impact than almost any other group class you can do (aquaerobics might be the only exception), but that doesn't mean they're 100% risk-free.
For more information on spin classes, email me directly via the contact page. For specific information on an injury you have, or for treatment, contact one of my clinics directly. You can find that information here.
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Dr Mitch Clark