Coping with injury
Picking up an injury, no matter how minor, is always a frustration. Cyclists are notorious for riding through injuries or ignoring a minor niggle until it turns into full-blown pain.
Though completely understandable, this attitude is self-defeating: you'll spend more time riding half-heartedly or with a bit of pain than if you got it sorted it out straight away. You'll also probably end up spending more money at the physio, as the longer the injury has been around, the harder and the more complicated the rehabilitation process becomes.
So what are the first steps to take and who do you go to for help?
Finding a good practitioner
Word of mouth is always the best way to find someone. Ask around your cycling friends, a local club or even in the bike shop. Someone recommended by other cyclists, and who sees plenty of bike riders at their clinic, is likely to have a better understanding of the sport and the demands of cycling on the body. Bear in mind, though, that everyone's body is different and you may require a different treatment process from the person making the recommendation.
If you can't get a recommendation, the next best method is to look up local practitioners to check their qualifications and that they are properly insured. When you first meet them, remember you are the customer: it is OK to ask a few questions about their background and experience before committing to being treated by them.
Signs of a good practitioner can be spotted during the first assessment: do they ask you a lot of questions and listen carefully to your answers? Do they offer a rough idea of how long the treatment process will take and what you can expect from it? Do they offer home care advice - such as how to ice the injury - or rehab exercises? If you aren't getting the right level of feedback, go elsewhere.
you visit a practitioner, keep in mind that you are the customer and
don't be afraid to expect a good level of service. If you don't feel
you're getting it, or your condition doesn't improve, look
Be very wary of anyone who asks you to sign up to a course of treatment or pay for a block of treatment up front. A good practitioner will want to see how your body responds to treatment and review it on every visit. If you have been seeing someone for three or more visits and there is absolutely no change in your condition or in the treatment you are receiving, it is definitely time to look elsewhere.
The benefits of an holistic approach
Increasingly, there are centres that offer several different practices under one roof. This is an ideal scenario, as cycling injuries often need a multi-discipline approach, with bike fitters, injury and exercise specialists working together to get you back out on the road and riding pain-free.
Depending on the complexity of your injury, you may need to see several different practitioners. If they are all able to share your notes and communicate about your injury and progress, you will get a much smoother and effective treatment. Carrying your notes to different places or relying on your own memory of treatments is likely to slow the whole process down.
By having a physio check you on the bike along with a bike fitter, the muscular and postural problems can be addressed and your position altered to aid your recovery or reduce pain. Bike fitting is a dynamic process that should change over the course of your treatment. Early on, your position may need to be adapted to accommodate your injury, but with treatment and postural exercises, your bike position will be able to evolve to the optimal one for your body, improving comfort and power production.
What's the difference between an osteopath and a chiropractor? Read on for our guide as to who the experts are and what they do
An osteopath uses a wide range of techniques, including manipulations, massage and stretching. Manipulations tend to be gentle and made by slow stretching, rather than fast actions. They aim to teach improved posture and care techniques, so that you can help yourself to stay injury-free. They look at all kinds of problems beyond just joint and muscular pain, including digestive and respiratory problems.
Chiropractic is a hands-on technique that treats biomechanical problems to do with joints, muscles and tissues, predominantly of the spine, by using methods of manipulation. They will examine your joints, issues with range of motions, mobility and stability. Chiropractic treatment can work for the whole body, but most of their attention is focused towards the spine.
The aim of a physiotherapist is to restore normal balance and function of the body by examining biomechanical issues, weaknesses, stiffness and asymmetry. Part of the treatment is aimed at promoting independence and self-management by teaching stretching, strengthening exercises and postural technique. Physios use a wide range of techniques, changing the methods depending on the client and their injury. Physios also encourage screening and pre-hab to work on developing optimal posture to prevent injury occurring.
A bike fitter will have exceptional knowledge of the different products available on the market that can aid your comfort, such as bars, stems, saddles and pedals. They will work with you on setting up your position, including shoes and cleats. They should have a good eye for how you look on a bike and be able to advise on your riding technique. Working with an injury specialist, they can suggest mechanical means of altering your bike position to work with your body.
A large part of preventing future injury or recovering from an injury is muscular conditioning. Muscle imbalances, poor coordination between muscle groups or a weak core can mean poor posture on and off the bike. Conditioning could take the form of Pilates, gym work or specific postural exercises. It is likely that the person treating your injury will be able to recommend someone for you to see and the type of conditioning work that you need.
This article was first published in the Autumn 2012 issue of Cycling Fitness. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!