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I'm not having too much luck with search today, so I'll try it here. Could too-wide handlbars cause neck and shoulder pain?

My wife is having real problems with neck and shoulder pain when she rides. It has come and gone over the last couple of years, but she still suffers in the neck and trapezius muscles. This is especially pronounced when we ride harder (more hills or higher speed), which I imagine means that fatigue aggravates it.

Late last year, we turned her stem over to make her a little less stretched out and reduce her drop. It improved her overall comfort on the bike a huge amount, but the neck thing persists.

On our ride Wednesday, I realized that her bars were almost as wide as mine. She's broad-shouldered for a woman (being 5'9"), but not THAT broad shouldered--I ride a 46 bar. I haven't measured her bars, but they look to be 44 or 42. Based on her size (again, I haven't measured), they could be 2-4 cm too wide--maybe more.

Anybody heard specifics about this kind of pain and excessive bar width? All I can find are the usual arguments vis aerodynamics and breathing.
 

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I went back to 42cm c-c bars on my new bike after trying 44s. I have narrow shoulders. I think that the narrower bars help a bit. What helped more was reducing the reach- my old bike is just too long. You may want to try a shorter stem for your wife's bike. I've found that with the shorter reach I can set the bars much lower and still be comfortable.
 

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bikeboy389 said:
I'm not having too much luck with search today, so I'll try it here. Could too-wide handlbars cause neck and shoulder pain?

My wife is having real problems with neck and shoulder pain when she rides. It has come and gone over the last couple of years, but she still suffers in the neck and trapezius muscles. This is especially pronounced when we ride harder (more hills or higher speed), which I imagine means that fatigue aggravates it.

Late last year, we turned her stem over to make her a little less stretched out and reduce her drop. It improved her overall comfort on the bike a huge amount, but the neck thing persists.

On our ride Wednesday, I realized that her bars were almost as wide as mine. She's broad-shouldered for a woman (being 5'9"), but not THAT broad shouldered--I ride a 46 bar. I haven't measured her bars, but they look to be 44 or 42. Based on her size (again, I haven't measured), they could be 2-4 cm too wide--maybe more.

Anybody heard specifics about this kind of pain and excessive bar width? All I can find are the usual arguments vis aerodynamics and breathing.
I have a similar experience with shoulder and neck pain almost every ride as well. I was set up on a size 54 bike with top tube of 55cm. Bike shop swapped to a shorter stem but I still had pain on long rides over 40miles. Since this was my 1st real road bike 5 years ago I did not know what I liked and as my riding style emerged I knew how I wanted to sit on the bike. Right now I ride a compact 51 size frame with 52.5cm top tube 100mm stem and my reach is perfect for me. I believe bar size is also 42 instead of 44. I guess it is combination of stem length, top tube and bar width.

Best thing for your wife is to try a bike in smaller size. Some bike shops lend bikes for a weekend to try out.
 

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Have you considered seat tilt angle?

I just set up a new bike recently and on the first few rides I had pain in the shoulders/neck. The seat was tilted forward just a bit too much. Tilted it back a very small amount (on the order of mm's), but it was enough to reduce the weight on my arms significantly. Neck and shoulder pain is now gone.

I'm 5'9" (with average shoulder width) and I have found (for me) that a bar wider than 42cm causes wrist discomfort, but I haven't felt a difference in the shoulders.
 

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Spicy Dumpling
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I had a fitting done a month ago or so and he recommended narrower bars (42 vs 44) to help with my neck pain. I had less pain on my SS with 42's than with my geared bike with 44's but that may also be other fit factors. I've put 42's on my main bike but only have one ride with them. I did notice a little difference but will have to wait for a really long ride to see if it helps.
 

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Fini les ecrase-"manets"!
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
il sogno said:
I have more neck pain when I do hills too. I've figured out it's because of having to hold my head up during the extended downhills. Could this be the cause of your wife's problem?
Lamentably, the hills around here are short and steep, so an "extended downhill" would be something like 20 seconds. Probably not an issue.

It may just be that she's not fit for holding her head up like you have to do when you ride--she's only got about 2000 miles in her legs. Or is that enough miles? I can't tell anymore.

I appreciate all the responses so far. I may just have to drag her to my favorite bike fitters and get them to look things over. Her bike fit seems very good, except for this neck thing.
 

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Muscle inbalance

I had a similar problem which got increasing severe over a couple of years.

I saw a couple of various experts about it and tried a variety of things. In the end for me it came down to a muscle inbalance. Modern life (computers and desk work) and apparently also cycling require hands in front of your body a lot of the time and that apparently results in shortening of the chest muscles. The consequence is that the muscle doesn't track as it should through some groove in the bone (this is the non-technical version - sorry!) and the back muscles come under tension and this is the cause (for me) of back pain which is exacerbated on long rides.

Three things have significantly alleviated it for me.

a) Weekly sports massage focused on the back
b) Daily stretching (the masseuse will be able to advise you on stretches which are appropriate if they're good)
c) Weekly work out with personal trainer focused on core strength and flexibility

The bonus of all this for me was that once I got into the routine it is pretty enjoyable (except the daily strecthing) and I have minimal pain even on long rides (>5 hours) and I go faster :)

Hope this helps - speaking to a good massage therapist was the thing which started me off on the right track although experimentation with what works is probably a good idea.

Steve

P.S. If you're in need of a rapid solution then Advil and beer work in the short term but the benefit is not long lasting.
 

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Fini les ecrase-"manets"!
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Steve Young said:
P.S. If you're in need of a rapid solution then Advil and beer work in the short term but the benefit is not long lasting.
I hear ya, though her pain tends to go away less than 20 minutes after getting off the bike.

She's already doing the personal trainer thing once a week, focusing on core strength, so she should be good to go on that.

I think she may have some muscle tension issues--she's not very good at relaxing her muscles--that a massage or three might help with.
 

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Spicy Dumpling
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VaughnA said:
I had a fitting done a month ago or so and he recommended narrower bars (42 vs 44) to help with my neck pain. I had less pain on my SS with 42's than with my geared bike with 44's but that may also be other fit factors. I've put 42's on my main bike but only have one ride with them. I did notice a little difference but will have to wait for a really long ride to see if it helps.
Follow up. I did a hard 65 miles today with a LOT of climbing and had less problems with my neck than ever before. In my case switching from a 44 to a 42 made a big difference in my neck pain. I basically had no pain at all for the first time in a couple of years.

YMMV of course..

I'll have a 44 cm carbon bar for sale soon;)
 

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Body Work

Steve Young said:
Three things have significantly alleviated it for me.

a) Weekly sports massage focused on the back
b) Daily stretching (the masseuse will be able to advise you on stretches which are appropriate if they're good)
c) Weekly work out with personal trainer focused on core strength and flexibility

The bonus of all this for me was that once I got into the routine it is pretty enjoyable (except the daily strecthing) and I have minimal pain even on long rides (>5 hours) and I go faster :)

Hope this helps - speaking to a good massage therapist was the thing which started me off on the right track although experimentation with what works is probably a good idea.
Oh yeah, muscle imbalance. I had forgotten. My neck used to absolutely kill me on rides longer than 30 miles. I have been getting Rolfed (structural integration) over the last few years and the pain has gone down quite a bit. Like I said, now it only bothers me when I do an extended descent. I am still in the process of working out those kinks.

Body work has helped me immensely. :)
 
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