C5 / C6 spine issues - common for cyclists?

Recently went to a spine doc due to neck pain. MRI indicates that I have issues with C5/C6 discs, which he says is common in cyclists. (Can cause neck pain, shoulder pain, and tingling in thumb and index finger – check, check, and check!) The joys of getting old!

Would be interested to hear if anyone else has struggled with this, and if so what they have done to mitigate/eliminate pain?

Btw, I have had a professional bike fit on all of my bikes so have a relatively good position on the bike. Not saying it couldn’t be improved, but not thinking that position is the major driver (though could be wrong)


I’m a physical therapist and can confirm that issues with the C5/C6 discs are fairly common in general. Even though you’ve had your bikes professionally fit, that’s one of the first things I would check out, especially if your pain seems to be worsened by riding. You may want to look for a fitter who can perform a medical fit or cycling analysis, possibly a physical therapist or a fitter who works alongside a PT. I had this done myself about a year and a half ago because my knees were completely thrashed and it was a game changer. The process took an entire day, plus a couple of follow-up sessions, but I could feel the difference immediately and was pain-free within six months. You will likely also benefit from a corrective program to address postural imbalances - usually a combination of strengthening the weakened deep neck flexors, mid/lower traps, and other scapular stabilizing muscles, stretching the muscles that are tight (usually pec major/minor, lats, possibly scalenes, upper trap, and levator scapula), and possibly working on thoracic mobility as well. A medical cycling analysis may provide a good corrective program, or a good PT. If nothing else, there are lots of YouTube videos with some good exercises (I highly recommend Prehab Guys if you go that route).

There are plenty of other tricks to alleviate the symptoms, but unless you address what’s causing the issue it will always come back. Hope that helps.

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I’ve suffered for years with both neck and should pain. Daily mobility work has helped me resolve most of this.

On the bike fit have they clarified what your end purpose was? Often I’ve seen people put into a low more aggressive racing fit when they are just a more sportive casual rider. You might have a weak core and be putting too much weight through your hands and something my fitter has always got me to do is float my hands above the bars or hoods and ride seeing how long I can hold the position. His thinking is if I can’t hold it for more than a few minutes how am I going be after 3 hours on the bike.

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Thanks so much! Great insights! : )

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