Bicycle Seat Neuropathy and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
Author: Terri Nishimoto PT, CLT
Cycling is one of the most popular activities in Colorado. From novice to competitive, Colorado has cycling trails and rides for everyone. Can too much time in the saddle have an effect in the bathroom and the bedroom?
Experiencing numbness in the genital area is a common complaint among cyclists. However, continued compression of the nerves and the blood vessels in the pelvic floor area can result in more serious issues. The condition has been labeled “bicycle seat neuropathy” or “cyclists syndrome”. It also affects both genders. According to a study in the International Journal of Sports Medicine by Sommer et al (1), 61% of male cyclists experience genital numbness and 19% who trained 400K or more weekly suffered from erectile dysfunction. A study looking at female cyclist found 60% reported having genital pain, tingling or numbness (2). There is also evidence that bicycle seat neuropathy can also affect those on stationary bikes in spin classes or at the gym.
The following are some of the symptoms associated with bicycle seat neuropathy:
- Genital numbness or genital pain
- Urinary urgency/frequency
- Pain with urination
- Urinary incontinence
- Pain with intercourse
- Erectile dysfunction
- Pain with bowel movements
What can the cyclist do?
First start with evaluating the bicycle seat and the bicycle fit. Genitalia-friendly saddles are available and each individual must decide which one is best for his or her own specific needs. There are nose-less saddles and a variety of perineal cut-out saddles that are designed to address this issue. A good bicycle fit is also important, it can be a matter of tilting the nose of the saddle, or lowering the seat height or adjusting the handlebar reach.
Secondly, the cyclist should be evaluated by a pelvic floor physical therapist. The entire cyclist from the head to the toes would be assessed particularly the hips, spine and pelvic floor. The muscles, nerves and fascia that come in contact with the bicycle seat are of utmost importance to check for good mobility, blood flow and function. The pelvic PT would also teach the cyclist self help techniques to keep these tissues healthy.
Bicycling is a wonderful way to enjoy Colorado and achieve good cardiovascular fitness. However, bicycling should not affect the cyclist in the bathroom or the bedroom.
Please contact any of our clinics if you have any questions!
(1): Somer F et al. “Impotence and Genital Numbness in Cyclist”. International Journal of Sports Medicine 2001:22; 410-413
(2): Guess MK et al. “Women’s Bike Seats: a Pressing Matter for Competitive Female Cyclists”. Journal of Sexual Medicine 2011, (11) 3144-53
Terri Nishimoto PT, CLT