INSIDIOUS CYCLING INJURIES, PART II: BACK PAIN, LINKS IN THE CHAIN

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Unless you crash your Ducatti into a wall or fall off an elephant, must back injuries occur through attrition.

Unless you crash your Ducatti into a wall or fall off an elephant, must back injuries occur through attrition.

I used to say that my severest back injuries would catch me by surprise. But actually, all the warning signs that I have now learnt to recognise were there. Unexpectedly stiff or tight muscles, unexplained fatigue, headaches, strange bruised feelings in ribs, hips or indeed spine. A multitude of not inherently painful, but bloody distracting aches and niggles.

I am sure that my plethora of back issues have got to this stage through a timeline of many causes. Some congenital, many postural and certainly my own stupid mistakes.

So I thought I’d do a diagram of what I think are the proportions of influence. This is purely my own informed guesswork, nobody will ever know what is the truth. The bigger the circle, the more I think it affected me.

Nick's Bad Back Cause Influence Guesswork Infographic (graphic designer notably absent)

Nick’s Bad Back Cause Influence Guesswork Infographic (graphic designer notably absent)

1. STUCK AT DESK ALL DAY: My working posture, as is common with so many back problems in modern society, is the real killer. Hunched over a laptop, curved spine, all unnatural.
2. DRIVING FOR HOURS: Not Just ‘driving’ as short bursts don’t leave you ‘locked’ in position. Long trips are terrible, putting pressure on your lumbar region and with little or no room for manoeuvre.
3. SLAMMED AERO POSITION: Low position, head craning forward to see up the road, a lot of strain on the lower back. Repeat for 8-20 hours a week for years/decades.
4. CARRYING HEAVY BOXES: Wine, beer, water needs delivering or stocking up on shelves. Bad lifting technique coupled with bravado and low upper body strength.
5. BAD MEDICAL ADVICE/TREATMENT: It took me a very long time to move away from family doctors to specialist medicine. Even then, the same awful sick advice continued…Stay in bed, do not move, do not exercise. This is known now to be absolutely wrong. Unless your pain is critical, or despite it, you must keep moving, otherwise your muscles get tighter and they atrophy with lack of use. Even just walking, or wiggling your hips in bed.
6. CRASHES ON THE BIKES: So the worst was the clavicle break, shortening my shoulder. But others landing on my face, hips, knees, etc can’t have helped.
7. UNBALANCED STRENGTH: I was all legs and nothing else. After all, as a racing cyclist, who needs abdominal muscles, or biceps? Its just weighing my down. And any exercise other than cycling is a waste of time. Isn’t it?…?
8. SPINA BIFIDA OCCULTA: I was born with this. But roughly 10% of us do too, and don’t have problems. But its just another little turn of the screw. Another instability for the mix.

I don’t think any of these causes on there own would have caused much or any serious issues. But together they formed a toxic mix. Looking back, all this was preventable. And in blogs to come, I will explain why, and how.

But in one sentence, it makes sense that my upper body weakness coupled by extreme racing posture set me up for problems once I took on a desk-based job.

I hope that proves useful and comparative to any problems or concerns you might have. Plenty more to come!
N.

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