Continuous neck problems - do I need a new bike?

Discussion in 'Cycling Equipment' started by kaian, Oct 10, 2005.

  1. kaian

    kaian New Member

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    I started cycling last year and am already on my third bike. The first one was too big, the second one was too small and had components I didn't like and right now I have a Trek 1500 WSD size 47cm which I like alot. The problem is I have been having issues with my neck, upper back and shoulders for several months. I am currently going to a chiropractor who does active release technique (soft tissue deep stretching), but it's not going away right away.

    Working on a computer, having poor posture and riding the bike seem to make the condition worse. I have put in well over 1500 miles on road bikes since last year, so I should be "use" to the road riding position by now, but I am not. Every time I ride on the hoods I feel uncomfortable and I can't stay relaxed in that position throughout the whole ride. I try to change positions, but riding on the top of the bars isn't overly comfy either (plus I don't have access to the shifters and brakes up there). I do MTBing, too and have never had a problem on the MTB, but then again, I do spend more time riding on the road (2 hours or so compared to 30-60 minutes on trails).

    I have been professionally fit by a reputable fitter in my area and he has even put me more upright just to try and make me comfy. We've tried 3-4 different stems and what I have now seems the best so far.

    I'm wondering if at this point I should look into a flat bar road bike or if there aero bars I could add to my current bars that will help with my comfort? The other option is to just keep trying to get this neck thing healed and see if that makes a difference. I'm just afraid that I'll get better, then get back on the bike and have problems all over again. Any suggestions?
     
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  2. Doctor Morbius

    Doctor Morbius New Member

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  3. Eden

    Eden New Member

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    I was having problems with my neck and shoulder too, but I think I've got it mostly licked. There are several changes that I made.

    I stopped using a computer mouse completely - I went to a tablet that I keep in my lap so that I am not holding my arm out and to the side all day long. I think that this has been the biggest and best change I've made as sorry to say I have to spend more time in front of the computer than on my bike. Fortuately even though I work on a computer all day I do design so I don't have to type too much, but I do have a wireless keyboard so that I can put it in my lap as well if I want to.

    I saw a PT for a while and got exercises and stretches that helped a lot. For a while I was feeling all of the time like someone was poking me in the sholder blade, it was annoying enough to make me look for professional advice and they helped a lot.

    I got a new bike that was as compact as possible (shortest top tube length I could find) as I have short arms and a lot of my problem was coming from over reaching and locking my elbows. I did try a more upright position on my old bike via a really long a goofy looking stem but, it made no noticeable difference in my neck/shoulder comfort and started causing me more butt problems from sitting too much upright.

    I try to be careful to move around on the bike. I find if I don't think about it I will hold my head very stiff and still while I ride, which makes my neck start to hurt (usually at around 2/3 hours on the bike). If I think about it and make sure that I move my neck up and down and side to side, shrug my shoulders from time to time I don't get stiff and sore or at very least I can relieve it. I try to move my hand position around too so that my fingers don't go to sleep.

    Good Luck, I hope you find something that works for you
     
  4. chero

    chero New Member

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    Kaian: I have had similar problems, and similar relief from a flat bar (hybrid in my case). Considering the amount of unphysiologic flexion with bent bars, especially if you are in the drops, the surprise is that anyone can do it for hours without causing problems. Particularly as the years advance, even those who used to tolerate it may start to feel it.

    A flat bar road bike may be a good way to go, with some high road performance character (say a Felt SR71 or SR91 or the Cannondale Road Warriers) that will take you way beyond your MTB on pavement, while keeping you comfortable.

    There could be another solution, but judging from you comfort on your MTB, I doubt it. If you are a road racer, you won't win upright, but if that is not your orientation, I would choose comfort. It is hard to have fun when you are in pain.

    Reminds me of a joke:
    Patient: "Doc, it hurts when I do ...this."
    Doctor: "Well, then... DON'T DO THAT!"

    Chero
     
  5. kaian

    kaian New Member

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    Yeah, I was leary buying the 3rd bike - wondering if I should get a flat-bar bike, but the fitter insisted that I needed to be a little more stretched out and that the problem was me being too cramped. He wanted to get me more upright and stretched out a little further than I was. According to my measurements and flexibility, the set-up I have is conservative as far as road positions go, but maybe I am just built a certain way that makes it different for me.

    Dr. Morbius - thanks, but I'm afraid that'll make me too upright.

    Ugh - I hate to have to sell yet another bike! Any other suggestions?
     
  6. Doctor Morbius

    Doctor Morbius New Member

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    Nah, you're not uptight at all. ;)

    How about a Specialized Sequoia or Trek Pilot or something along those lines? I have an '04 Sequoia Elite which I use for longer rides. Otherwise my neck and upper back would kill me as well. I have an Allez that I use for shorter 30 - 90 minute rides.
     
  7. kaian

    kaian New Member

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    Well, I could go more upright on my current bike I think. The stem angle is at 17 degrees right now. I guess I could try another stem. I've seen adjustable stems, too. My handlebars are currently up higher than my saddle already and I think I could still go higher. Would that make sense or does it have more to do with the frame geometry?
     
  8. el Ingles

    el Ingles New Member

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    see a chiropractor first , the problem might be you .

    a few years ago a pro rider was having this problem and nobody could figure out why - until after a session with the chiro he took out his mobile phone , tucked it neatly between his shoulder and his chin and walked out holding it in place with his head canted over at about 45 degrees talking up a storm .
     
  9. kaian

    kaian New Member

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    I am seeing a chiropractor - I have been for about 3 or 4 weeks. I'm also having active release technique (ART) done in conjunction.
     
  10. aa9t8

    aa9t8 New Member

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    you could try out a recumbent bike! get bent!
     
  11. txags92

    txags92 New Member

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    Thats probably your first problem. Chiropractors rarely cure problems...most of the time they simply treat symptoms. And in many cases, they make the problem worse over time. The first thing I would do is stop seeing the chiropractor and take a week off of the bike. Relax during that time and let your back, neck, and shoulders recover. Then get on the bike and ride relaxed for a while and see if the problem comes back. If it does, then I would instead go see a sports medicine specialist or a physical therapist who could recommend exercises or other possible changes to treat the possible causes of your problem instead of the symptoms. If you have worked as hard as you have to find a bike that fits you right and are still having the problem, chances are it is something besides the bike.
     
  12. el Ingles

    el Ingles New Member

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    if a chiro says " come back next week " more than twice find someone better because that guy´s more interested in your money than in you - still think the problem could be you though .
    have you thought of going to the gym to work on your upper body musculature ? maybe if you work on the upperback and shoulder areas you´ll be better able to support the weight of your head - could work on the posture thing as well , but gently as your not trying to be a bodybuilder just get a bit stronger in areas that normal life doesn´t use much .
    re : the computer , try using a backles chair to see if it helps the posture - works for me .
     
  13. kaian

    kaian New Member

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    Well, the chiro I go to does the soft tissue manipulation thing, too. The chiro work is covered by my insurance, but the soft tissue stuff is not. I pay $20 a session. It was twice a week for 2 weeks and now it's once a week. I did have some things going on with my vertebrae in my neck - it was all straight, no bend like there should be - which makes it hard to stay in that biking position because I can't bend my neck up too well.

    I have thought about going to a sports med doctor and am leaning towards it since it is covered by my insurance (better than paying $20 a session). The soft tissue stuff (ART) does work, but the effects don't seem to last very long and I don't know that it's correcting anything though the chiro has been telling me that my back and chest are having a "tug of war". Apparently my pecs have shortened and my back has weakened because of my bad, forward posture. I always knew I had bad posture, but didn't realize I would have all of these problems.

    I used to work out with weights regularly, but now I'm thinking I was missing some of the smaller muscles.

    I'm thinking the sports med doc is the next best step because I feel like I've been more sore from all of this attention on my neck and shoulders than I was in the first place. I also feel like it's getting weaker and that I should be exercising AND getting massages and stretches. Will most sports med docs know about cycling? I doubt that I'll be able to find a cyclist-doc around here.
     
  14. txags92

    txags92 New Member

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    Your experience with the chiro sounds like every other experience I have ever heard of from people who went to them. Like I said, they treat symptoms. That is why you get temporary relief from them but not a cure. They always have some explanation for why you are in pain (such as one leg shorter than the other, back and chest in a tug of war, etc.), but rarely have a cure other than "You need weekly treatment". The effect is the same as old coaches who used to try to get athletes to "run off" a sprained ankle. The activity and manipulation of the sore area causes temporary relief of the soreness and tightness (possibly by something as simple as an endorphin response to the pain), but in the end is actually likely to do more damage and make the problem worse over time.


    A sports medicine doc may not specifically know about cycling (although some local cycling organizations keep lists of practicioners who are familiar with the sport), but what they can do is medically rule out some of the things that are causing your problems and give you an explanation of what is likely to be causing the problem. It may be up to you or a physical therapist to actually work out how to fix the problem if the sports doc says there is nothing medically "wrong" that he can correct, but at least by going to one of them, you won't be spending your money making the problem worse.

    My original advice still stands though...stop seeing the chiro and stay off the bike until your stiffness goes away and the pain is gone. Then get on the bike and go at it easy for a while to see if the problem comes back...then if it does, go to the sports med doc or an orthopedics doc and see if they can help.
     
  15. John M

    John M New Member

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    You actually may "need" a new bike-or at least make your current one fit like one. The Trek WSD frames use 700c wheels which require using a steep seat tube angle to accomodate the short top-tube while avoiding toe overlap with the front wheel. This may put too much weight on the upper body/arms. Your MTB probably has a shallower seat tube angle and this works OK because of the greater fork rake and (probably) shallower head tube angle on the MTB.

    One strategy may be to use a setback seat post and as short of a stem as necessary to get your weight off of your arms and more onto the saddle. Being more upright has not provided you with the solution. Improving your weight balance front to back may be the trick.

    The real women's specific bicycle makers (such as Luna, Terry, and Rodriguez, among others) use smaller wheels to allow appropriate geometry without the compromises inherent in the TREK WSD design.
     
  16. tyler_derden

    tyler_derden New Member

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    This reminds me of the old old joke about the guy who goes to the doctor and says "Gee doc, it hurts when I do this" and the doctor replies "So don't do that".

    Your body is telling you what your mind is refusing to acknowledge. Your bike riding is the problem. If you must keep riding, get a recumbent and see if that fixes your problems. If it doesn't, just stop riding.

    There are plenty of other ways to have fun.

    TD
     
  17. dfvcad

    dfvcad New Member

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    What training do you have to be given such an unfunded opinion about Chiropractor/Chiropractic that it only treat symptoms? May be she needs to change doctors, but most chiros are well trained in spinal biomechanics and spinal function and if she has been evaluated properly she most like would have been feeling much better and improved by now. She may need to look for a chiro doctor that specializes in sports medicine or rehab arena. Most MD dont know jack about spinal biomechanics or postural issues and do treat symptoms because they chase symptoms with medication such as pain killers and muscle relaxants. Most Likely you have had this problem prior to becoming a cyclist and you just need to correct postural problems at the neck and upper back area. Until whatever mechanical issues you have at the neck are address I cant foresee you completely improving from the symptoms that you reported.
     
  18. dfvcad

    dfvcad New Member

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    BTW, ART is just a technique and would tend to fall under soft tissue mobilization, myofascial release technique or under neuromuscular re-education which should be procedures codes cover under your insurance plan under manual medicine/Physical therapy. I believe this chiro may be double dipping getting cash and then charging the insurance for part of the service to complete his fee. Again, if you do have postural problems its necessary to address those problems with an biomechanical goal oriented exercise corrective program instead of just getting a glorified deep tissue massage that will work for about one or two days. Buying a third or fourth bike will not solve the problem at hand.
     
  19. Eden

    Eden New Member

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    Just another quick thought - if your helmet has a visor -ditch it (you don't have to get a new helmet, but take the visor off) It may seem like a small thing but, if it blocks your vision even just a little bit you may be tilting your head back without even realizing it - adding to the stress that's already on your neck.
     
  20. el Ingles

    el Ingles New Member

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    Sounds like nobody took the time to teach you how to use weights - not uncommon I´m afraid - and you let bad habits develop , that´s why the mirrors are there . Sounds a bit like you skipped on the deltoids and addominals to concentrate on the larger groups .
    So ... try again only this time the boring stuff , free weights not machines and low weights - form is more important than weight anyday - and be carefull it´s real easy to hurt yourself , most regular gym patrons are nursing an old injury . ( mine´s a tendenitis of the right elbow , ok until you overload it then ...... )
    good luck , let us know how things go .
     
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