While very fun, electric scooters can cause health issues. This is especially true for less responsible riders, and it includes both injuries because of accidents, but also problems related to improper everyday use.
I have a few friends that ride quite a lot, and we often share experiences about riding. Over time, I’ve noticed several threads about pains and possible health troubles turn up over and over in the conversation. Practically the same issues appear in online communities as well. Many of them are similar to what you may hear from motorcycle and bicycle riders as well, although some are unique to the electric scooter world.
I looked into these issues a bit more. This is a comprehensive guide on your health when using an electric scooter, especially over a longer period of time.
Common electric scooter health risks
I hate to be a killjoy, but if you own or consider buying an electric scooter, you should at least be aware of all its disadvantages, and most importantly, all the ways it can affect your health. The majority of these risks will be minuscule for most riders under most circumstances. But in some situations, there may be steps you can take to minimize them further, or completely eliminate them.
Electric scooter rides can cause back pain, neck pain, or abdomen pain
The most common health problem that electric scooter riders face is soreness in the back, neck, sides, abdomen, and sometimes soreness in other body parts.
Why am I sore after riding an electric scooter?
The reasons can include poor posture, improper riding stance, bad riding technique, riding in cold weather, improper handlebar height, a scooter deck that’s too small for the rider’s feet, and poor quality of the scooter that results in lots of vibration.
Back and neck pain from prolonged scooter rides will be an even bigger problem for riders that chronically suffer from those conditions. Also, depending on the surface and comfort of the deck, you may be required to stand in an unnatural body stance for long periods of time, which can lead to stiffness.
I’m a good example of this. I’ve had a back injury for several years now, and I’ve been prone to waking up with a stiff neck since I was a teenager. When I ride for several hours, I will be sore the night after, and even more so the next day. Of course, the pain is worse if the weather is cold or there’s a lot of wind, and even more so if I’m not properly dressed.
Luckily, all of that pain has resulted in some lessons. Through both research and personal experience, I’ve found some tricks that help ease the pain or completely prevent it.
How to prevent back pain, neck pain, and soreness when riding an electric scooter?
To prevent back and neck pain while riding your electric scooter, start by getting a good quality scooter, as good as you can afford. Specifically, look for scooters with good suspension, large pneumatic tires, and strong build quality overall, as vibration and shock while riding are the major causes of soreness (check this study on the effects of vibration in motorcycle riders here). Avoid solid-tire scooters for this purpose, or at least try to get ones with excellent suspension.
If you already have a scooter and can’t upgrade right now, make sure you use the proper riding technique. That includes:
- adjusting your handlebar height to fit you perfectly
- riding with your back as straight as possible and knees slightly bent
- using the correct stance for you (skateboard stance is the best for most riders, with the front foot pointing forward and diagonal, and back foot pointing to the side)
- bunny-hopping (making yourself “lighter” by tightening your body and bending your knees slightly when riding over bumps or holes)
Check the guide on advanced riding techniques to learn more about the proper riding stance and how to bunny-hop.
An extra tip from someone with a bad back: take breaks! If you ride for longer periods of time, stop for a few seconds and stretch your body – that will prevent stiffness. Also, stretch before and after the ride as well.
Finally, if you believe you may suffer from soreness, don’t forget to wear proper clothing. Usually, this means wearing long pants or jeans, and wearing at least an extra shirt under, that you will tuck in your pants. I know this sounds like some advice your grandma would give you, but trust me, it works like magic if you have a bad back. If you are riding in cold or windy weather, make sure you dress warmly.
As an additional step, you may want to think about getting yourself a motorcycle armor or jacket, as those are specifically designed to keep motorcycle riders safe and healthy. A kidney belt can also help with back soreness.
Speaking of kidneys…
Electric scooter rides can cause kidney pain
Exposure to cold, wind, and vibration during electric scooter rides can cause pain in the sides, and sometimes that pain is due to kidney problems. Even a light breeze cools off the surface of the skin pretty fast, which causes hypothermia that can affect the organs, Usually, kidneys are the most vulnerable to this.
This is not a problem specific to electric scooter riders only. Bicycle and motorcycle riders suffer from kidney problems even more, and this is a pretty well-known issue. Check this small but relevant Quora discussion on kidney problems and belts for motorbikes.
There is little data on this, but one study in BMJ on bicycle injury in children in British Columbia suggests that kidney injuries can happen.
One of my scooterist friends has recently complained to me that he has experienced severe kidney pain after riding, and the pain has been made worse when riding in the cold or with poor clothing. He has shared some advice on how he has overcome it.
How to prevent kidney pain when riding an electric scooter?
The most important step in preventing kidney pain with an electric scooter is to get a stable, high-quality scooter with great suspension and large pneumatic tires. The scooter should shake or vibrate as little as possible. Try to avoid riding in cold or windy weather, and make sure you dress properly for scooter rides and as warm as possible, even if the weather is not especially cold. Consider getting a kidney belt or a motorcycle armor if you ride a lot.
It is also recommended you take good care of your scooter and run maintenance checks regularly, paying extra attention to the scooter’s stability. Make sure all the screws, nuts, and bolts are tight and secure. You can also use sealants like Loctite to make the screws even more secure.
How tight should a kidney belt be?
Wear the kidney belt around your lower back, between the rib cage and the hips. The belt should be secure and fit you firmly, but it shouldn’t restrict your breathing.
Electric scooter riding can cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Repetitive use of the hands, combined with the vibration and shock absorbed from the ride, can cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and other similar conditions (Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, Tennis Elbow) in electric scooter riders. This is especially true for scooters that have a twist throttle, and even more so if you ride your scooter offroad, where the shocks are bigger.
This issue is, again, more pronounced for cyclists, but since electric scooters use a lot of the same mechanisms and movements, especially around the handlebars, this is a problem that affects scooterists as well.
In a guide on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in cyclists, John L. Stein from Cycleworld quotes Dr. Michael Behrman, a board-certified hand surgeon, saying: “Pressure, vibration, and repetitive work inflames tendons in the palm side of the wrist, pinching the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel and causing tingling or numbness in the fingers”. You can find the guide here.
How to prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome when riding an electric scooter?
To avoid CTS with an electric scooter, the most important step is having a scooter with good shock absorption, and preferably air-filled tires that provide extra suspension. While riding, make sure you’re not using the “grip of death” on the handlebars, as that causes a lot of strain on the wrist and the nerves in your hand. Take frequent breaks and stretch your wrists.
If you are noticing some symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or other related issues, consult a doctor or a hand surgeon. Symptoms of CTS include:
- ache or pain in your fingers, hand, or arm
- numb hands
- tingling or pins and needles
- a weak thumb or difficulty gripping
You can read more about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/carpal-tunnel-syndrome/.
Now, keep in mind that CTS is very rare among scooterists, as we often don’t spend as much time on the road as cyclists. Plus, it’s mostly a problem for twist-throttle scooters, and those are not as common, since thumb-throttle or finger-throttle are the default acceleration mechanisms in modern scooters.
Sadly, finger throttle scooters carry a different risk with them.
Electric scooter finger fatigue
In electric scooters with finger-throttle acceleration, riders may experience “finger fatigue”, which is pain or numbness in the finger (usually the index finger) used for acceleration due to strain and overuse.
While somewhat common, this is not as serious of an issue as the other scooter risks.
How to prevent electric scooter finger fatigue?
The best way to prevent finger fatigue when riding an electric scooter is to get a scooter with a thumb-throttle, or replace the finger-throttle with a thumb-throttle if your scooter allows such customization. By removing the finger-throttle, you are effectively eliminating the only source of finger-fatigue.
It is possible the thumb-throttle causes some thumb fatigue as well, but I have yet to hear about such a thing or experience it myself. That’s why I consider thumb-throttles to be a superior acceleration mechanism and always prefer it over finger-throttle or twist-throttle.
If replacing the throttle is not feasible for you right now, or if you have your mind set on a scooter with a different type of throttle, don’t panic – this is not that big of a deal. Finger fatigue is mostly an annoyance, and while it’s better not to have to deal with it at all, it may be an acceptable tradeoff for certain situations.
If you experience finger-fatigue, take some breaks to rest your hands. As with most other electric scooter health risks, getting a high-quality scooter with great suspension and pneumatic tires will significantly reduce or eliminate the risks.
Electric scooters with seats may cause erectile dysfunction
According to WebMD, spending hours on a saddle can cause compression of the arteries and vital nerves in the male genital area. That can lead to pain, numbness, and erectile dysfunction.
Most scooters don’t support a seat at all, and the ones that do, don’t come with a seat included. The data we’ve covered here at EScooterNerds suggests that about 85% – 90% of electric scooter riders never use a seat. And, of course, a big chunk of riders are female (the audience of this blog is about 35% female). So these rider categories don’t need to worry about this particular risk.
And, if you do have a scooter with a seat and want to keep using it, don’t freak out – the WebMD article refers to bicycle riders, which spend a lot more time on the seat, and they experience a lot more pressure in their perineum area because they have to move their legs a lot (which is one reason why scooters are better than bikes).
Also, the risk is much more significant with traditional bike seats, mostly used by pro cyclists. The seats for the pro cyclists have a “nose” that they need for more power and control, but these seats reduce oxygen in blood flow by around 80%, which is the main cause of ED. So-called “no-nose” seats reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction by improving blood flow, as the WebMD article suggests.
Anyway, this is not something that should be taken lightly, and you should do your best to reduce your health risks as much as you can.
How to prevent erectile dysfunction while riding an electric scooter with a seat?
Since erectile dysfunction can only happen to scooterists that have a seat on their scooter, removing the seat or using it less completely eliminates the risk. If you do have a seat on your scooter, it is recommended you take frequent breaks from riding or sitting on it (in the WebMD article mentioned, the cyclists that spent more time in bike saddles had worse symptoms).
Also, as we said, consider switching to a “no-nose” seat, which distributes your weight to the sit bones of the buttocks. This will increase blood flow in your perineum area and reduce the risk of ED.
Electric scooter safety
Let’s go through several important studies and research on electric scooter safety.
Electric scooter injuries
One study from the Austin Public Health organization found that 1 out of every 5000 riders of rental scooters has had a serious injury. Important things to note here are the fact that those were mostly inexperienced riders of rental scooters which are usually quite banged up, and also the fact that many didn’t wear helmets.
A study from the Los Angeles emergency rooms, which looked at riders admitted for scooter injuries, found that only 4.4% of riders were wearing helmets.
A bigger study from the Portland Oregon Bureau of Transportation, which looked at more than 700.000 scooter trips, found that there were 176 injuries (0.02%). Only 3% of the patients admitted due to scooter injuries were wearing a helmet.
A study of scooter use in the US found that injuries related to electric scooters have increased by 222%, and hospital admissions due to scooter injuries have increased by 365% for a total of 3.300. This study also suggests that only 2%-5% of injured riders have worn a helmet.
Electric scooter deaths
There were 29 confirmed scooter deaths in 2018, reports a QZ article. The article contrasts that to the deaths of 29 cyclists in 2019 in New York alone, and to the 36.000 motor vehicle deaths in 2018.
The article does not mention the total number of scooter rides that resulted in these 29 deaths, but a study from the National Association of City Transportation Officials finds that there were 84 million scooter rides in 2018 (you can find the data here).
Those numbers differ so much because both bikes and motor vehicles are obviously much more widely used than scooters. I believe the point the author tries to make is we don’t really see as much hype around bike and motor vehicle deaths, and the only reason deaths with electric scooters receive so much media attention is because of their novelty as a technology and the disruption they bring.
Are electric scooters safe?
Electric scooters are generally safe, about as safe as bikes, and probably safer than motor vehicles. Health issues and injuries are possible, but the chances of them happening are relatively small.
Electric scooter benefits
Riding an electric scooter doesn’t have any important health benefits. Several consequences of its use may be regarded as benefits implicitly, but overall, electric scooters are neutral for the health of riders.
We can’t consider riding an electric scooter exercise. It does include some difficulties, and causes some fatigue and strain, but that’s not enough to call it exercise, the same way that sitting, which also causes fatigue and strain, can’t be called exercise.
Scooter use may be considered beneficial to our health in some ways depending on the viewpoint we decide to take.
Probably the major health benefit that electric scooters can claim is the reduction in stress levels they can bring. People that have switched from being stuck in traffic, to commuting primarily with a scooter, will not experience the stress associated with traffic jams. That is not a small matter – road rage is a real thing with real consequences (lots of research on road rage implies that incidents of road rage grow by 7% annually). Since electric scooters basically solve traffic jams, they reduce both the stress levels of their owners and the consequences associated with road rage in general.
While riding an electric scooter can’t be considered exercise, it is likely that it improves our sense of balance a bit. In some cases, the same can be said about our sense of direction and navigation.
The benefits of electric scooters are not directly related to our health, but they can improve it indirectly. Take a look at the pros and cons of electric scooters to discover more cool things about how they can achieve that.
The biggest health risk when riding an electric scooter is back pain, stiffness, and soreness. Proper riding stance and technique is key in reducing or eliminating those issues.
Other issues are quite rare, but they can include kidney pain, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and finger fatigue.
Scooters with a seat may include a risk of erectile dysfunction, which can be mitigated by getting a no-nose seat, or not using the seat at all.
Every single one of these issues is addressed by getting a high-quality, safe scooter, preferably with large pneumatic tires and good suspension.
To keep your body warm and your kidneys safe, consider getting a kidney belt or a motorcycle armor (check out the guide on scooter accessories to find some good options).