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Biking and running injuries


I've been biking and running for over 30 years and this page includes some of the injuries I've had and what I've learned about them in hopes that someone else may benefit.

Feet, plantar fasciitis, numbness
Achilles tendonitis
Knees
Hips, piriformis, muscle knots, psoias
Back pain,
Heart arrhythmia, hypertension
Hands, numbness
Neck pain
Trigger Points

Feet
    numb feet:
caused from biking, I found that moving the cleats all the way back on my bike shoes so that the ball of my foot was slightly ahead of the spindle on the bike pedal made a huge difference. It also helps relieve pressure on the tendon on the bottom of your foot (see plantar fasciitis). You may still have a little numbness, but it won't hurt near as much. The problem is that bike shoes are stiff, which makes for more efficient pedaling, but feet are made to be flexed to keep the blood circulation going. Wiggling you toes inside your bike shoe will help stave off both numbness, and in cold weather, help keep your feet warm.
    plantar fasciitis:
I found that sleeping with my heels on the mattress caused me to have heel pain. I solved this by putting a small pillow under the lower part of my leg to raise the heels off the mattress.
I made a shoe insert out of a piece of carpet tile where I hollowed out the place where my heel was to relieve pressure on the heel when I walked and this seemed to help. I've also had shoes caused some problem if there was a bump or hard spot under the heel.
I got a really bad case of plantar fasciitis on a treadmill when I started running after not running for several months. It took less than 5 minutes to injure myself and several years to heal. Wearing good running shoes helped. I used a whiffle golf ball to massage the bottom of my foot while raising my toes and that seemed to give some instant relief for a while. I found that biking stresses the tendon and after a long bike ride my foot would be more sore then next day, so biking may have contributed to the lengthy recovery.
Calcium deposits where the tendon attaches to the heel (heel spur) will be reabsorbed by the body over a period of time if not reinjured.

Achilles tendinitis:
this was caused by biking with the seat too high. Lowering the seat and pedaling with my heel down more so the foot was parallel to the ground kept the tendon stretched so it wouldn't hurt. Pedaling with the toes pointed downward causes the problem.

Knees:
from biking: this is caused by using the quads to kick the pedal forward. When first biking your quads may not hurt the knee, but over time the quads develop strength, but the tendons and ligaments to do not grow like a muscle and eventually the quads overpower them and can hurt them. Spinning is the commonly recognized cure for this, pedal faster, not harder. While I don't disagree with this, I believe that a better way is to think of your knee as just a hinge between the upper part of the leg and the lower, and the quads as supporting muscles, not the power muscles. If my knee hurts, I relax my knee and pedal easy for a few minutes. Invariably the pain leaves. The power should come from you glutes, not your quads. If you make your quads sore while biking, you're not pedaling right. If you make you glutes sore, you got it right. But the glutes are the biggest muscles on your body and if you make them sore, you've really put out an effort. I've made my glutes sore only on rare occasions but I've never hurt my knee while doing so. If you make your quads sore, you're trying to kick your bike forward, which isn't very efficient. Your glutes are the power muscles on a bike and are the ones that push the pedal down.

Hips
    piriformis muscle. This muscle wraps around the back of your glutes and if not properly stretched can pinch the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs all the way from your hip to you ankle and you can have pain all along the leg. There are some good videos on u-tube showing how to stretch his muscle.
    muscle knots -:A charley horse is the whole muscle tensing up and cramping, and can be released by relaxing and stretching the muscle.  A knot in the muscle is just a small part of the muscle that needs to be released before you can stretch the muscle. I had a knot in my butt, probably the piriformis muscle, and after months of struggling with a sore achy butt, I saw on u-tube how to release these by sitting on a lacrosse ball. I found instant relief. I actually use a hard rubber ball which I picked up for a dollar at the dollar store. A massage therapist is very helpful in getting these knots out and after going to several sessions, I figured out how to release these knots on my own using the rubber ball  I also found that it isn't just one knot, but I have several places that need release.  Some are on the butt and some are on the side and front of the hip, particularly near the joint.  Release is when you find a knot it the muscle (it is usually sore) and push against it until the muscle gives and the pain stops or is greatly diminished. I found that it takes practice and experimentation to find and release the knots, but after a while, they stop coming back as often.
    psoias - are muscles the move the leg forward when running. There are several videos on U-tube that show how to stretch them, but one that I find effective is to stand with feet slightly apart and pretend you are using a hula-hoop, only do it real slow a few times in each direction.

Back
By back pain, I'm talking about the lower back. I had a lot of pain with this for a while and finally figured out it was caused by biking. I was using my aero-bars a lot and while riding was letting my back sag down, like an old sway-back horse. When I started keeping my back up the pain left and I felt stronger on the bike.
The exercise I used to help my back pain was a crunch or sit-up, only I think of it as a roll-up. Lay on the floor like you're going to do a sit up and then, keeping the small of you back flat against the floor, roll up. Pressing the small of your back against the floor is the key thing, even it you don't roll up at all. When I first started doing this I could only do five, any more made my back hurt more. Eventually my back muscles strengthened enough that I can do 10 or even 20 or more. Now that my muscles are strong enough I only do 10 and that doesn't have to be done every day, a couple times a week is sufficient. Where my back used to hurt just to walk, my back never hurts any more, ever.

Heart
    Arrhythmia
When I was thirty-five, while time-trialing I tore up a hill on my bicycle and when I reached the top I leaned over and suddenly had a sharp stabbing pain in my chest. I thought I was having a heart attacking and figured I was going to be dead. While looking for a place to stop my bike and lay down, the pain stopped, and so I rode slowly home. These spells occurred again occasionally and I went to a doctor to see what was going on. I wore a 24 monitor, twice, and couldn't get the spell to happen while wearing it. I went to a heart specialist who put me on a tread mill, and I couldn't get the spell to happen then, either. The doctor advised me to keep on running and biking. He said that whatever is happening isn't going to kill me and if it doesn't stop right away, I should have time to get to a hospital. but exercise is good and healthy for me. So I've been having occasional arrhythmias ,both during running and biking, for over 30 years now. 
While wearing a heart monitor, when these spells occur, the reading on my monitor says zero, i.e. no heartbeat. When the spell is over, the monitor jumps up to a normal reading. Over the years the pain has not been so acute; sometimes I barely feel it, but I know it's happening. I've never had a spell doing moderate exercise, only when I'm working extremely hard as in a race. I've learned that if I get enough rest, and enough food (not starving myself to lose weight) these spells occur far less often, and that I can still run hard during a race without an arrhythmia if I haven't over trained. I also take Co Q-10, which may or may not help, but it certainly doesn't hurt.
Over the years, I've met other bikers and runners who say they've had similar experiences. I think this may be a common problem among athletes, at least those who train hard aerobically. Once you've had one of these, it tends to slow you down a little. Maybe it's more important to stay alive than to come in first in a race. When it does happen during a race, I've always been able to back off for a minute until I go back to normal and then continue, and once I even continued running while I was having a spell and it stopped anyway. But why push it?
    Hyertension - high blood pressure. For years my blood pressure was 120/80, but when I turned 50 I saw my blood pressure gradually rise, even though I was doing a lot of biking and exercise. When the Red Cross turned me down the third time from giving blood because my diastolic pressure was above 100, I went to the doctor, who prescribed hydrochlorothiozide, a diuretic, and that helped.  Then he added Lisinopril, an ACE inhibiter, and it actually made me sick. I was coughing, had a sore throat, and laid around the house because I had no energy. I went to a doctor thinking I had bronchitis, who told me I did not have that. I looked up the side effects of Lisinopril and realized I had to stop taking it. After a couple of months I was feeling better, but my winter was sort of ruined. I went to the doctor again and he prescribed a calcium channel blocker, Amlodipine. It didn't make me sick, but it did deter my workouts. It seems I couldn't workout as hard as I was used to and it took longer to recover. So I stopped taking that. Then I discovered that taking potassium lowered my blood pressure without side effects, and it lowered it enough I stopped taking the hydrochlorothiozide. Nitrates are also supposed to help, so I'm taking potassium nitrate now along with eating more fruits, vegetables, and salads, which also help. The exercise also helps, but I've always done a lot of that. My blood pressure is still elevated, but I'm hoping for a gradual reversal.

Hands
numbness caused from biking: constantly moving your hands around on the handlebars will allow you ride without numbness in your fingers. It takes a conscious effort to keep moving your hands to different positions. I use aero-bars, which allow me to put my upper body weight on my forearms, which are much more able to support my weight than my hands. I use aero-bars more for comfort than for speed. Using aero-bars in a group of rides is not recommended; you need to have your hands on the brake levers and have better steering control in case of or to prevent an accident. When I'm riding alone, aero-bars are a big help.

Neck
I was in a bike accident and fractured one of the vertebrae in my neck, specifically one of the little bumps on the back of the spine. There are muscles attached to it and every time I carried something heavy on my shoulders, like a duffel bag, I would get a stiff neck. After a year of this, I went to a chiropractor who x-rayed my neck and that's how I found out it was broken. Unlike the long bones in your body, the vertebrae doesn't recalcify, but just pull back together with connective tissue, and every time I carried something heavy, it would pull apart and become stiff again. I stopped carrying things on my shoulders and I'm fine. It doesn't bother my biking at all, but I have lost some mobility in that I can't turn my head as far as I once could.

Trigger Points
Trigger points are a place in one part of the body that create pain in a different part. Trigger points in the pectoral muscles can make you feel like you're having a heart attack. In the neck they can give headaches. In the shoulder it can feel like carpal tunnel syndrome. I'm not sure that I've had any trigger points.  If you are having unexplained pain and can't get relief any other way, I suggest looking up trigger points on the internet. U-tube has a number of videos showing where they are and how to release them. A good massage therapist can help.