Biker's Elbow: What it is and How to treat it
Biker’s elbow can affect road cyclists, mountain bikers, motocross and BMX riders and even stationary bike users too. When it comes to injuries common to bikers, saddle soreness, lower back pain and road rash are generally top concerns. However, there’s another you may not have realized: tennis elbow.
Wondering how a cyclist can suffer from tennis elbow is definitely a fair question. But it indeed affects road cyclists, mountain bikers, motocross and BMX riders and even stationary bike users.
First, understand that “tennis elbow” really is a misnomer, as tennis players are only a small percentage of the approximately 10 million people in the U.S. who suffer from this painful condition each year. Clinically known as lateral epicondylitis, it can afflict virtually anyone who performs repetitive arm movements, including golfers, fitness enthusiasts, gamers, crafters, musicians and more – including bikers.
Learn more about our at-home tennis elbow treatment device here.
Tennis Elbow Defined
Tennis elbow occurs when the muscles and tendons in the forearm become strained from overuse, which results in microscopic tears. These tears cause irritation, inflammation, pain and degeneration of the tendon over time. Symptoms include a dull ache, sharp pain when using the forearm and wrist, stiffness or soreness at the elbow, weak grip strength and even numbness in the fingers.
Unfortunately, tendons have reduced blood supply and poor circulation, which means that they heal very slowly. Therefore, this nagging injury is not likely to go away on its own without proper treatment.
What is Biker's Elbow?
How are bikers, who rely primarily on their legs, susceptible to an arm injury?
Keep in mind that the upper body is indeed involved in cycling – more so in mountain biking, motocross and BMX – to absorb forces, support, stabilize, steer, and shift. Biker’s elbow can occur over time due to factors such as postural and alignment issues, overuse of the forearms and wrists and bike fit.
How you can get Biker's Elbow
When cycling, the elbows function as shock absorbers that cushion the upper body against the forces and vibration of the terrain. Riding with the arms straight and the elbows locked significantly increases the stress to the elbows. In addition, a tight grip on the handlebars, frequently changing gears, constant steering adjustments or squeezing the brakes often add to pressure on the wrists and forearms.
Optimal riding position is shoulders down and relaxed, elbows slightly bent and tucked back by the ribcage, and a light grip.
In addition, wrists should be neutral, or straight, when riding. Excessive wrist extension can shorten the forearm muscles and contribute to strain on the tendon. And it’s important to move the hands frequently to change the stress on the elbows and as a reminder to relax the upper body.
Finally, cyclists must have sufficient shoulder, rotator cuff and core strength to maintain good posture and avoid compensating by placing excessive pressure on the arms, forearms and wrists during rides.
As to bike fit, the handlebars should not be positioned too low in relation to the saddle, and the saddle should not tip down at the nose. Both instances encourage the rider to lean forward and shift too much weight on the arms, wrists and handle, which further increases the workload on the muscles, tendons and elbows.
Handgrips also should have sufficient thickness that cyclists aren’t forced to grip tightly to hold on.
Biker's Elbow treatment options
Let’s face it, dedicated bikers may be inclined to push through elbow discomfort and continue riding. Eventually, however, the pain will become more frequent and intense, both during and after rides.
The first recommended treatment for biker’s elbow is what no rider wants to do – rest. This obviously eliminates the repetitive strain on the tendon, which helps reduce pain. Ice and anti-inflammatories also can provide relief initially.
Some people choose to wear braces or straps to immobilize the area and decrease the strain. Others may try TENS, percussion therapy or ultrasound to alleviate the pain.
But these options function as temporary fixes to feel better, and not long-term solutions that actively promote healing of the tendon.
A better choice is the new E5 Fiix Elbow wearable device from Stā Active. Developed exclusively as a tennis elbow treatment, this tool addresses the root cause of the pain – the damage to the forearm tendon.
The Fiix Elbow replicates a proven clinical therapy performed by physical therapists, chiropractors and other allied health professionals called instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM). This treatment consists of using stainless-steel tools to apply deep, linear strokes to the tendons and muscles.
The wearable Fiix Elbow automatically delivers these repetitive strokes to the forearm tendon, which breaks up scar tissue and adhesions, increases oxygenation and blood flow and stimulates collagen synthesis to repair the injured tissue.
This simple, convenient treatment for biker’s elbow sufferers is wearing the Fiix Elbow for 10 minutes per day, three times per week for eight weeks, plus performing specific simple exercises. The protocol has been shown to result in significantly less pain overall, a healthier tendon, increased strength in the forearm muscles and greater ability to use the forearm and hands without pain.
Even better, the Fiix Elbow gets cyclists back on their bikes, feeling better and doing what they love.