Jun 07 2017

Winter 2015 (no LL blog)

My back pain has become debilitating.

I can’t sit on a saddle without lightning bolts of pain shooting down my legs and up my back and to my fingers. I’m walking hunched over. I need a cane. I’m wallowing in depression and self pity. I’m always in pain so I’m always mad. I have no patience for anything. I need help.

I don’t really have a doctor. I do have insurance. I do have a primary care physician listed on my plan. I do go to this office when I have to get a prescription. I never see the same person. It’s always a different assistant. It seems pointless to explain my situation to a new person every time I go in there. They don’t help anyway.

And really what help am I expecting? I just want something to kill the pain. The Pill Crackdown is real and doctors are scared to prescribe anything stronger then tylenol. I don’t know what the answer is here. Over-prescription is one of the causes of the epidemic but what do you do about people who actually would benefit from short term use of opioids?

I could go to the ER. They would give me a valium and a tylenol 3 and I’d get through the night and wake up back where I started.

I call the doctor’s office and I get a referral for physical therapy and start to go.

I weigh myself and bug out about how much weight I’ve put on since the summer. I’m a wreck.

The therapy is laying on a bed and tightening different core muscle groups around my lower back. It’s painful. These 30 minute sessions are all teeth gritting pain for me but there is some improvement.

I count my calories and start to drop weight to get into some kind of riding shape. I went skiing for the first time in 20+ years and held it together on the slopes. I start an indoor training plan. The test for establishing v02 max is something like 6 minutes climbing 6% gradient at 90-110 rpm at full effort. I try this and I almost barf. I realize I can’t ride steep hills at high cadence with the 53/39 x 11-21 I’ve been pushing. I buy a big cassette and get down with climbing intervals.

And then I do something to make my back worse. I’m back to where I was before PT.

I go through a series of x-rays and MRIs again. I’m going to a sports doctor specializing in back pain. He suggests I get an epidural–An injection of cortisone into my spine around the affected area.

They prescribe me tramadol. It makes me nauseous and dizzy but makes the pain bearable.

I tell the PT dudes PEACE! These guys were nice but kind of clueless about cycling. (Not really the right fit!)

I am anti-doping as you can get but I have to admit this cortisone shot saved me!

The pain was gone. My training intensity improved greatly. The weather broke. Summer was approaching. My life outlook was the opposite of where it was a few months before.

I found some sense of zen riding by myself further and further from home. I never really ride with anyone. (I mean I do sometimes.)

A lot of my riding time is meditation or contemplation.

You can push yourself until all the thoughts are silenced and the only thing left is the bike, your breathing and heartbeat, your line of vision and your fluid surroundings.

I need that. I need that escape and release.

The effects of the first injection faded and I got one more.

The doctor and his PA swab iodine all over your back and then slide a needle right into it.

The needle feels long and the cortisone feels like ice inside your spine.

Pictures from a fiberoptic camera print throughout the procedure.

The doctor talks about the 2008 Phillies and tells me his brother rides a recumbent.


This is not like 2015 but it is bad.

I’m pushing myself to get on the bike everyday. Yesterday was hard. Lots of headwind on the way downtown and I had to stay in the drops for a lot of the river.

The way home was rough. No headwind but my legs were feeling sciatic pain and could produce no power. I tried to maintain and even speed and ignored the sciatica as much as possible. I took the short way home and went up Midvale. I can stand up to climb and that stretches out my back but legs feel so heavy and slow. I know this is helping in the long run but it hurt when I got off the bike yesterday. It took real effort to lift my leg up over the top tube.

Hot shower trying to loosen it up. I use the Triggerpoint roller a few times a day now. It’s better (and cheaper) than going to a chiropractor with the same effect. Realignment of vertebrae. When I use it after sitting on a chair for a while my back sounds like popcorn.

If you have lower back pain get one. Even if you don’t it’s great to roll out/massage aching muscles after hard rides.

This is the one I got, not expensive. I got mine online but they sell them at REI.

I kind of think a lot of PT and chiropractor stuff is a scam after repeated sessions. They can teach you things but at a point you need to make a brain/lefestyle change and decide to be better. No amount of therapy sessions will make you do this. The change has to come from within you. You have to want to be better.

It’s easier to say:

“My life is this now. It’s just pain and misery. There is no end to it.”

then to say:

“I will work to change this because my life is worth living and I will not let an injury or disability define my existence.”

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not trying to tell myself it’s easy. It’s hard. everything worthwhile is hard. If things seem easy you aren’t trying.

Riding bikes in general is work. You put in equal to what you get out. The more you ride the faster you get the more you can ride. The more you climb the better you climb. The more you descend the better you descend. The more you work against your injuries the less pain you will have later.

You can cheat all of these things in your head. You can convince yourself of a lot of things. But you can’t lie to your bike or your body.

It’s all related. It all pays off. There’s victories small and large that have nothing to do with winning a race.

There is no complete recovery for me. I have dealt with this since I was 23 years old and I deal with it until I die. The more I ride, the stronger my core muscles are, the more protected my spine is…

It’s one of the reasons I will always ride. If i don’t–I’m sentencing myself to long term pain.