It’s all About the Spine

By April 29, 2016 One Comment

I have a two year history of problems with my quads, glutes and hamstrings. Since I started to race every so often I get severe pains in my legs which make pedaling, and sometimes walking, very problematic, if not impossible.

My last episode struck as I was warming up for the Buxton Mountain TT. By the top of the first climb I was in agony stretched out on the grass bank on the side of the road waiting for my muscles to relax enough so that I could stand up and roll back down the hill to HQ. Not the ideal time-trialing debut!

I returned to Girona to see the physio and osteopath at the Cenit Centre – I figured recovering in the sunshine would be more productive than recovering in rainy old England. A couple of massages and much back-crunching later I’m back racing but none the wiser about why these pains occur.

I’ve tried pretty much everything to try and manage the problem. I take magnesium, eat extra bananas, I stay hydrated, I stretch daily, I use a foam roller daily, I’ve had acupuncture and I’ve even meditated (yes – once the osteopath suggest the pains were linked to stress – he spent half an hour holding my head and making me relax and voila! The pains went)

So off I went to Putney Chiropractor to try to find out the root cause of my perplexing problem. I  went to see Dr Ami, who talked me through x-rays of my spine and gave me further insights into the problem. I have two areas of abnormality:

  1. Instead of having a nice curve in my neck, it’s straight. This puts pressure on the ligaments instead of the bones and could cause issues long-term. This is turn is contributing to my main postural issue. Years of cycling have pulled my shoulders forwards – Dr Ami pushed them to where they should sit and my goodness it hurt!
  2. The other issue is at the bottom of my spine where my sacroiliac joint is fused. This sounds dramatic but this was something I was born with – it’s all adding to the general ‘congestion’ though and is definitely not helping matters.

Flow is a word that came up in conversation and is something that I’m going to need to learn more about to better manage my muscles. For my body to work properly (and for me to pedal properly) my nervous system needs to work unimpeded. It seems like after a hard block of training or racing, tension accumulates and eventually ‘blocks’ the nervous system causing the glutes, hamstrings or quads to spasm.

The challenge is to break this unrelenting cycle of ‘get super fit – cramp – recover & lose fitness – get super fit – cramp – recover & lose fitness’. But how?!

I used to dance growing up – posture was all – shoulders back, stand tall. The first step suggested by Dr Ami is to sort my neck curve out, and the first step to doing that is to get my shoulders back to where they should be. This will help my head to move backwards (yes, it’s also in the wrong place) and thus help my neck get its curve back. This is something I need to focus on not only to be a better bike rider but also to ensure I grow old painlessly.

This postural correction needs to happen alongside regular visits to the chiropractor and osteo to maintain the ‘flow’ of my nervous system. One this is stabilised I can then start doing exercises to strengthen the areas that need more support.

Putney Chiropractors have a lovely ethos that’s all about long-term wellbeing. It’s reassuring to know that I’m doing everything I can to minimise any negative impact racing could have on my future health. I would rather pedal slowly for ever that destroy my body in a couple of years of trying to race.

Here’s to breaking the crampy cycle!

Thank you to Putney Chiropractic Centre for their generous sponsorship of my race team Aprire HSS Hire. I wouldn’t be racing tomorrow without you!



One Comment

  • Robin Dru says:

    The Alexander Technique is a little-known and oft-maligned system of understanding movement and posture. I had some ‘lessons’ a few years back and noticed some real benefits. ‘The Alexander Principle’ by Wilfred Barlow is the book I’d recommend to read if you’re interested. I hope you find a solution Louise. Keep planting that seed and making it grow!

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