Friday, June 5, 2015

Cycling With An Upper Back Injury

Carlemere, (Wiki.)

Louis Shalako

I’ve been having some problems in between my shoulder blades. There’s a nagging spot in the neck, and some pain in the right shoulder. Tonight it’s the left shoulder…

In some instances, it’s so bad that it leads to chest-encircling pain that is intense, enough so that years ago, I got checked out for heart problems.

As I write this, there is some pain in the left shoulder, right up against the vertebral column. If I could see back there, there’s probably some swelling right about there. I have been riding a bit lately, going out for an hour or more after supper, for several days in a row. Call it about ten or twelve k, as I’m really not going that fast.

I’m just some old guy grinding along.

The sports doctors talk about triggers.


It seems that psychological stress is one of the triggers. That’s because under stress, the shoulders and upper back muscles tend to tense up, and I already have a pre-existing injury. 

That kind of stress is also present in my environment.

With three compression fractures, the one at T-6 is the one involved here. (The others are L-3 and L-4.)

T-6 is in the thoracic vertebra, and there is a 2.5 cm hemangioma growing on the left side of the posterior-lateral process. I don’t know if that one is related to the original injury or not, but it’s definitely there.

Stress leads to inflammation, inflammation leads to pressure on the nerve, pressure on the nerve leads to pain.

There are tell-tales and warning signs, which are better not to ignore. I don’t think riding is the actual problem, although it can certainly irritate it. Riding the bike tends also to strengthen the muscles of the neck, upper back, shoulders, arms, etc. Early in the season, our wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck can tire quickly. In winter I do some walking, but virtually nothing in terms of upper body exercises.

In summer, I walk, cycle and swim, but early in the season it’s obviously not quite so much fun. The body just plain deteriorates over a long winter, sitting in a chair, clicking away with the right hand exclusively on the mouse. There is the question of how much pain we are willing to put ourselves through, early in the season, for some perceived gain later in the season, also our general fitness for next winter will benefit…right?

One of the things I do is just to slow down. Sit up, and ride with no hands, which unloads the neck and that crimp in the back the sports doctors talk about. I’m not out to beat the Russians. 

I stop and have a smoke, stand around and drink from my water bottle once in a while.

OpenStax College, (Wiki.)
So far this year, I have not been in the water, and we are sort of looking forward to that—the first few times will redefine the notion of pain, as the water tends to be chill at the best of times and the season is short enough around here.

The thing there is to take it easy. An injury that isn’t allowed to heal is just going to spoil the whole season, not just for biking but swimming as well. I injured my right knee back in 2012, about mid-July, and that one took a whole year before I could really use it with total confidence. If you’re getting little twinges out of it, just going up a couple of flights of steps on a cold winter day, that’s a tell-tale.

The author is 56 years old, 197 cm, about 85 or 90 kilos, not particularly athletic, and has prior injuries. My bike has a 2.5” oversized frame, and worth every penny it was, too.

Your own circumstances and state of health might be different. Be careful out there and enjoy it as best you can.


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