Pain: cycling’s silent partner

MTB riders sitting on the ground at the end of a race

Pain management: learning to recognise the cause of pain is an important part in getting it fixed. Photo: AKUNA PHOTOGRAPHY & DIGITAL IMAGING BENDIGO

Is there anything on earth this side of heaven  where we won’t experience pain? Lance Armstrong summed up his view of pain in cycling with the following words; “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever”.

I don’t think I can remember a ride where pain was not present in some shape or form. A little niggle, a twinge, a twitch that could come from lack of stretching, warming up enough or just old age creeping in combined with the body’s wear and tear. Good nutrition and hydration before during and after a ride must not be underestimated in assisting in the reduction of some pains. Coming to recognise the difference of what the pain is related, to or associated with, can be trial and error and perseverance in finding the right answer.

Right set up is not an acting science where the rules of seat height and position suits all, or the handle bars or shoes size and cleats adjustment and not all bottoms are made to sit on the same style of seat. The adjustments that can be made on a bike set up are many and varied and all can add to – or assist in removing some pain.

Sore knees are generally related to excessive hard pushing or can be the wrong gear and the seat adjustment too low and when combined with hills and poor technique it can be exasperated.  Sore wrists can be as simple as the tilt on the handle bars being too far forward making a slight twist in the wrist extending to reach the brake hood and the road vibration cannot be absorbed through loose joints as they are in a tension.

Sometimes nerves can play a part in being uptight where the hands grip the bars tightly and it is just poor circulation of the blood giving way to pins and needles or aching pain. Rotating your position of hands on the tops of the handle bars to the hoods and occasionally down in the drops exercises the upper body and relieves pressure off the hands.

Shoulder pain and neck is a combination of fear of falling off, group nerves and or poor posture on the bike.  As Lance Armstrong was quoted “If you worried about falling off the bike, you’d never get on”. Or as it is commonly stated “you are not a bike rider until you have taken a spill!” The poor posture is the straightened locked elbow pushing off the handle bars allowing all the road vibration to be converted into the tightened shoulders and neck region.  Loosen the elbows and lean forward learning to lay on the bike relying more on the core strength and not trying to support your upper body weight on the strength of your arms (hence the locking of the elbows) and keep the grip on the handle bars loosened.

The pain the bottom can be just conditioning or in some cases poor seat adjustment.  The best place to start with seat adjustment is with a spirit level, a seat too high at the front can hurt the personal parts as well as place undue pressure on the sit bones which share the load of the body weight, or too low at the front makes you feel like your sliding forward and keep trying to adjust your weight on the seat.  Hard pedalling into a head wind or uphill with clip-less pedals, particularly when the rider concentrates on pulling up on the pedals increases the weight being taken by the sit bones and bottom, making them ache.

In any case where there is excessive pain that does not abate such as lower back pain knees ankles or feet and you have tried to persevere seek medical advice. We have many sports related medical professions that well worth the visit and have a vested interest in cycling and seeing their clients not only be released of pain but also be strengthened to overcome pain. Pain is quite often associated with inflammation and getting ice onto the region of pain can be very beneficial. Regular icing will reduce any internal bleeding and reduce fluid build-up.

Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon God willing.

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