Tag Archives: Pain

Pain: your body is trying to tell you something

Before news broke of the lastest USADA accusations against Lance Armstrong and several other cycling personalities, one of the controversial stories to come out this week concerned the RadioShack-Nissan decision not to race Chris Horner in the Tour de France. There are definitely more knowledgeable pundits to analyze the situation, but there is one aspect of the story that caught my attention — and it had nothing to do with racing your bicycle.

Velonews.com reported, “Horner admitted that his back issues are triggered by outside stresses, and acknowledged that there is more stress on his RadioShack team this year than in the past.” Well, it is certainly true that there is a lot of stress on the team this year. The “super-team” isn’t living up to the hype. Now that Andy Schleck is out of the Tour and their team manager is implicated once again in a doping cover-up, it almost appears to be a team imploding.

The more I have experience with pain, the more I come to believe that pain is used by your body to tell you more than just that you have an injury. I’m not saying that pain is “all in your head.” However, I am saying that your head can cause some pains. Getting your head straightened out can help ease or alleviate pain.

Let me give you a personal example. Several years ago, I was having a VERY stressful time at work. I was working my regular job (which required typing) and then I was going home and working my second job (which required using a keyboard). I started to notice my fingers were beginning to hurt. The pain grew and grew to the point where I could hardly type.

Now, my mother has rheumatoid arthritis. She has lived with the associated pain since her 30s. Of course, when I started to feel this pain in my fingers, I begin to wonder if perhaps I was also going to have the same condition. So, I finally gave in and went to the doctor for blood work to see if perhaps I was a candidate for arthritis.

I remember clearly the pain I was experiencing. It was enough that it was nearly immobilizing me. The stress of work was being compounded by the stress caused by the fear that I might have pain the way my mom has had all these years. The night before I received the news from the doctor, I could hardly sleep because of the pain. Then the news came to me… I had no indications that I had arthritis.

What a relief! While the pain did not go away immediately, I can tell you that the flood of relief was almost physical. I went to bed that night still in pain, but with hope.

This is not a lie… I woke up the next morning with zero pain in my fingers. The pain was simply gone. At that time I had no idea what might be going on. Having now gone through multiple injuries in my cycling career that have created “weak spots” in my body, I think I have a better understanding of what was happening.

Stress is dangerous. The pressures around us and what it does to our minds and bodies is not always obvious. For those of us who tend to internalize the stress of these pressures it can be even more insidious. It can affect us emotionally, physically and in our relationships. However, how is it you know that you are entering an elevated level with this unseen danger?

Physical pain.

Let’s go back to my example. First, notice that I had been working a lot with my hands. My fingers were overworked on the keyboard. There was some pain caused by repetitive physical stress. However, my mental stress was pretty high. My system needed a way to tell me that I needed to deal with it. So, the body looked for a weak spot in my system to get across the message. It targeted my hands.

That is when the pain really ratcheted up. It was almost to the point where my body was stopping me. Basically, it was my body’s way of telling me I needed to deal with the outside issues.

Of course, my initial response was to back off on the physical activity. I recognized it as a physical problem. I took a break from typing. However, my fear of arthritis just compounded the stress and I wasn’t seeing any change.

Then the day came when the overarching fear of arthritis was removed and — voilà — the pain was gone. I would also point out that all of this happened toward the end of the stressful time at work. So, it all coincided that the stresses were released at that time.

Now over a decade later, I have multiple weak spots in my body. My right shoulder and right hip are my warning spots now. It used to be the middle of my back. I would get incredible pain in my back. However, as soon as I had my accident in 2009 that damaged my shoulder and hip, I stopped having back pain.

So, the point of all this? Well, I understand what Horner is saying about his back issue being induced by “outside stresses.” I also know that you can deal with it and the pain will subside.

How do I deal with it?

  1. Evaluate the pain. Obviously, if you break your arm, you wouldn’t chalk that up to “outside stresses”. Going to a doctor is a good idea. What about those times when you feel pain in an old injury or in a spot that you just can’t understand why you would feel pain there? Think about it and ask the question, “Okay, body, what are you trying to tell me?”
  2. Find the outside issue. Now start thinking outside your body. Is there something that is causing me a large amount of stress? What am I constantly concerned about?
  3. Deal with the outside issue. Removing the stress is the easy answer, but so often you can’t do that. So, you must learn to deal with it. As a Christian, I find that most of my stress is caused when I try to take control of my life rather than finding peace and comfort in the knowledge that Jesus is in control and wants to use the “outside issue” to grow me.
  4. Start moving. When I recognize that my body is warning me with physical pain that I need to deal with an issue in my life, I turn to God and seek to turn the “bad” into a “good” by trusting him to improve me through it. I aggressively turn my thoughts from “how is this hurting me” to “how can this help me”. I focus on the pain and “tell it” that I know why it is there and I am dealing with the issue it is warning me about. Then I start moving through the pain. I don’t let the pain immobilize me.

It works. Sometimes the pain pops up in a new place and I deal with it there. I’m convinced that a lot of the “back pain” that people have can be traced back to this. Again, it isn’t that there isn’t a physical root to the pain. The question is whether the physical issue is of a nature to explain the magnitude of the pain.

Feel free to scratch your head. However, consider it. Next time you get that pain that makes you say, “Oh no, here it comes again” stop and think beyond the pain.

Tears in my eyes

I rushed off from work to make it in time for my fitting at my chiropractor, Dr. David Mruz of Eastside Chiropractic.  Since today was an off the bike day, I didn’t have to worry about getting in a workout. I just needed to get worked over!

No kidding, I have been limping around since my workout on Monday. My hip has had shooting pain as I walk and a dull ache as I stand or sit. Things were getting desperate and I couldn’t wait to get in to see the doc!

He set my bike up on the rollers as I changed into some riding shorts. Then it was time to put on my new Specialized S-Works shoes. Once they were on I climbed on the bike and started to spin.

Really, it never really struck me that the actual spinning of the bike caused pain. As a matter of fact, I told Dr. Mruz that the only time my hip didn’t hurt was when I was easily spinning on the bike. He listened to my information and then began to instruct me to place my feet and legs in various positions.

It wasn’t long at all before he told me to step off the bike, sit down so he could see the alignment of my feet at rest, and hand him the shoes. He took them and started to adjust the cleats based on where he marked the shoes to show the balls of my feet. Turns out the cleats can’t quite reach what he thought was the optimal location, but certainly he could get it to a spot where the pain would lessen.

I then climbed back on the bike. I pushed my feet down to engage the pedals. I began to spin. Then I began to cry.

Now, I don’t mean that I was blubbering or anything.  However, have you ever had pain or maybe were sore from a hard workout and then slipped into a hot tub or took some medicine that made the pain ease? Do you know how that can make you have a laugh come up from deep inside you? It is that incredible feeling of relief and release of tension.

Well, that is what I felt. It was first a relieved laugh and then I felt the tears well up.  I knew immediately that this was a change. My body just felt right on the bike. Spinning felt very natural.

Dr. Mruz said the way I was riding I was torquing my right hip and that was causing me to strain the muscles in my right leg. It started with a messed up saddle which lead to a messed up shoe.  We fixed the saddle easily enough by getting a new one.  However, because I was waiting for new shoes, it has taken awhile.

It was at that moment I realized that really spinning didn’t make me feel better. Sure, I didn’t have the shooting pain, but what was happening was I was winding myself up like a rubber band. All the tension was building and causing my muscles to fire incorrectly.

Now, I don’t expect to wake up in the morning healed! I don’t even expect to be pain free on my next ride. It is going to take a bit to work out the stress on the right hip structure. However, I do have great confidence that we have fixed the foundation. In time my hip will come back into alignment as I retrain it back to its correct motion.

Thank you, Doc! You’ve made a grown man cry!

Here comes the funk again

Here is comes. I’m entering another “who cares” period. It will pass like it always does, but getting it out of my system seems to accelerate its passing. So, here goes. Stop reading now if you don’t want to hear me complaining.

A lot of it stems from my body. Seems like since I’ve started my off-season training, I have been in more pain than during the season. At least when I was sore after being in a wreck I knew why I was sore.

Now I am facing this knee pain and my hip is also giving me issues. I’m pretty sure the two things are related. My guess is fixing the hip will fix the knee. I have a doctor appointment this morning and will visit Eastside Chiropractic a little later.

It is just frustrating because I will go a day without exercise and I start thinking that things are improving.  I’ll get on the bike and start to spin and for ten minutes or so I’ll feel good.  Then it starts creeping in on me. Running is even worse! Last week when I ran I woke up the next morning very stiff and sore in my knee.

To make matters worse, when I was putting my bike away last week after riding into the dark I got a slight low ankle sprain. I was walking into the back yard in the dark and suddenly remembered there had been standing water back there. I jumped up on a retaining wall while holding my bike. The weight of the bike shifted causing me to lose my balance and I came down oddly on my left ankle. Thankfully, that doesn’t bother me on the bike.

I just want to get back to normal. I know these pains aren’t permanent. They can be fixed. The problem is that it isn’t going to happen over night and I’m feeling a tad impatient. On top of that, my schedule is starting to cram and I’m feeling the pressure to squeeze it all in.

Okay, I’ve got that out. Now it is time to stop complaining and start doing. It’s time to dunk the funk!

Spinning through the pain

Back on the Ride to Austin, my team rode through a tropical storm. We were on the bike from mid-night to shortly before 6AM. The wind was swirling the rain around and for the last hour the temperature dropped drastically. We pushed on to reach our destination and made it, but not without cost.

Since that time I have been battling some knee pain. Recently it got bad enough to get me to set up an appointment with my doctor. No way did I want to have this knee take me out of my training plan right when I’m getting started!

I was focusing on that one night as the cause of the pain. It made sense to me that I was over exerting the knee while pulling on the front into the various cross and head winds. The cold temperatures certainly would help in that case. This caused me to put all my focus on the knee.

Well, I’m starting to realize that the root of the problem probably isn’t the knee at all. The issue starts with my hip and an accident that happened back in September. I’m pretty sure I am correct because I have done some things that have helped and the knee pain has lessened.

Back in the South Carolina Road Race Championships I was taken out from behind. It put me in the dirt along the side of the road, broke my frame, and left me with a VERY sore body along with some gnarly road rash. I’m still feeling the affects of the crash in my neck and it turns out in my right hip as well.

The pain in my hip has subsided. However, as I began to do the various exercises associated with my training routine, I discovered that my right hip was not nearly as flexible as my left. On top of that, when I went to get re-fitted to my bike as part of my plan, we discovered that I was dropping my right hip. That is odd because while I may have some weaknesses as a rider, I have always had a pretty perfect symmetry on the bike.

The doctor will give me more insight I am sure, but what I think is happening here is that the right hip is not free enough to carry through with the normal range of motion. It is causing me to drop my right leg when I am riding which is throwing my knee in an awkward position. That in turn is causing the pain.

I started aggressively stretching my hip when I began to suspect this. I am already starting to tell a difference. Not only is my knee not hurting as badly, but I’m starting to notice my right hip is not as tight when I am on the bike. It is as though I didn’t notice just how tight I was until I loosened up a bit.

So, my plan is to go to my doctor who will probably refer me to someone in the physical therapy field. I also plan to check out a chiropractor (something I have never done) and check on the alignment of my pelvic bone. Until I can learn more, I’m just going to keep stretching out that hip and trying to keep the pressure off the knee as much as possible.

It seems that getting a coach and starting this training program is going to be good for me. Not only do I think it will make me a better rider. I also realize it is causing me to take more seriously the messages my body is sending me. Rather than just stopping and waiting for the pain to go away — which could end up causing long term issues — I am now facing the issues and trying to find the solution.

Ultimately, this bit of pain could lead to me feeling better than I have in a long, long time.

Shoulders and knees

Yesterday started with me laughing at André Greipel and ended with me feeling bad for him.  A lot can happen in a day… or a week.  It is part of the sport — rolling with the punches and overcoming.

My last post was about George Hincapie’s “non-standard” jersey.  That brought to my attention the story about André stealing George’s jersey.  Seems George was almost treating that thing like a security blanket and the younger rider was going to get some of that mojo (or play a prank on his mentor).  The jersey came up missing, but Greipel was caught because of the Hincapie markings.

It is neat to see some of the inner workings of a team.  It makes you understand the riders a little more when you see them on the bike.  It also makes you feel all the more for a guy when things don’t go his way.

Greipel was sitting second in the standings at the start of stage 3 yesterday.  He was poised to make a good run at being a two time winner in the race.  That opportunity went down to the pavement early in the stage as he ran into a motorcycle that was jutting out into the race lane.  He ended his day with a dislocated shoulder.

Just like that his race changed.  The week is done for him and his whole season will have to adjust.  Thankfully, he is young and nothing was broken.  He’ll be back.

George carried the banner for the Columbia team with a fourth place finish.  That allowed him to move up one position in the standings, but he is still 20 seconds back.  The old man is showing some legs this early season!  Must have been that last UWBL ride 🙂

Me?  I got home last night from mid-week service at my church fully intending to spin while I watched the UNC vs. Clemson game.  However, during the day I started to feel some soreness in my knees.  It has been a long time since I’ve had the feeling.  I know why.  I’ve just got to work it out.

The reason is because I was pushing too big of a gear during my 2 hour trainer workout Tuesday night.  I felt no pain at all during the effort, but I know that the low cadence is what did it.  It was the first long effort after being off the bike for a week.  I thought I had warmed up enough, but I’m pretty sure I overdid it.

I skipped out last night to give them a break and focused on relaxing them and stretching out the muscles around the joints.  Tonight I’ll get back on, but I’ll back off doing anything really hard.  I want to make sure I am good to go this Saturday when I hope to take part in the longest ride yet (5 hours) for the Upstate Winter Bicycle League.

BTW, thanks for reading LowCadence.com.