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This year I have been struggling to ride further than I have ever before. I had a target of 9000km, but was up to 31km a day needed as of last week when one of my gear cables snapped. I spent a frustrating weekend fishing around inside a muddy frame [first time I've had to replace internal cables/how does the mud get in there?] and still need to index my gears. I am just riding to work and back in fixie mode, no extra mileage. I just need to go to work to reach last years total of 8500km~ish.

Sad though I am not to meet my rather arbitrary target (one that many of you probably bust out on a Sunday morning before walnut cake,) it might be a blessing in disguise. I was planning having a go at 10,000km next year which means no slacking in January. However since this summer I have been suffering with tendonitis in my left Achilles tendon. It has quite a lump I can feel on it and can get sore on longer rides. I did a 100km in September where it was quite painful.

I tried doing some stretches, but this made it worse. 

I could see a doctor about it (assuming it is not ankle cancer) but what exactly could they say or do about it? "Why do you need to cycle so much?" might be one question. "Rest it." She is hardly going to get me an operation. I am not a pro athlete who gets his tendons regularly rinsed out with a power hose. I haven't changed my shoes or set up, it is just something that set in over the course of a few months.

Just to be clear, the pain is a niggling annoyance some of the time. But it is not going away and I don't want it to get any worse. Does anyone else have any chronic issues like this and how do you cope whilst 'still going.'

Long time lurker here, hope you fellas can give some good advice.

27 comments

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ConcordeCX [816 posts] 7 months ago
10 likes

You could find a multitool which includes a bone saw, and amputate your own leg [1], or you could read this:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/tendonitis/

[1] Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I am a psychopath. Do not rely on medical advice you may receive from me.

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alansmurphy [1832 posts] 7 months ago
3 likes

I measure miles in smiles. Ok in the 4 years of Strava I have clocked more each year and this year had a bloody big mountain to work towards. However, in doing so I found different rides much more fun, hill reps, short flat blasts et al to go alongside the Sunday trundle.

You say you haven't changed your set up, this could potentially be a cause, some kind of RSI. I have 3 pairs of cycling shoes and though the cleats are positioned the same all the shoes are slightly different so doesn't put all pressures on the same point. Alternatively, you may find that you did pull something or cause damage and a couple of weeks off may have been the answer, but if you're not pushing too hard on the pedals you'd be unlucky for it to keep deteriorating.

The stretches may hurt now but again when you recover perhaps incorporate it into the routine. Considering the endurance aspect it amazes me when you see most contact sports doing routines and cyclists not bothering. Another thing I love is the cold plunge pool and the sauna at the gym. The cold is meant to aid recovery so a bucket of iced water to dip your leg in on return could work. I'd also have a hot one on standby as I always prefer to finish warm and gently stretch out.

If small changes don't work then take a fortnight off, there's no point in miserable miles, reaching the arbitrary target only lasts a few minutes and you have an injury that's been impacting you for months!

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davel [2390 posts] 7 months ago
3 likes

Fixie mode can't be the easiest, if you're just trying to see the year out..?

My advice is probably not what you want to read, but yeah, 'rest it'. I don't measure years in miles or kms though - more events/races (these days tris and runs, and more finishing in a respectable time than placing). That needs rest and periodisation.

I'm just into my 2nd month of Doing Pretty Much Sod All. You're not a machine, and you won't thank yourself for overdoing an overuse injury. It's the perfect time of year to put your feet up for a few weeks. Get to work another way, if you can, or sort your gears to take the ride really easy.

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simonmb [631 posts] 7 months ago
4 likes

I'd take the rest of the year off - rest is hugely underrated. 

And get a friend to help with the cable fix - a couple of beers is the magic tool you're missing - and if that doesn't work - try your LBS.

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don simon [2327 posts] 7 months ago
1 like

Regarding the tendonitis, go see the doctor and physio. The physio will give you proper treatment.

I have buggered tendons in both feet which is quite uncomfortable on a daily basis and up to excruciating at times. I have been through the whole physio, stretching, ultrasonic and rest treatments, to no avail.

Physio simply says that I'm wearing out, so your age will be a factor. I live with it now...

I would say screw the anual total in order to get the tendonitis sorted.

Have another bash at a reasonable target next year and don't forget that what you've done this year is pretty good.

Have a word with the physio as they'll help find the cause. It could be something bike realted, it could be something else.

But also take the rest of the year off, be proud of what you've done and prepare for next year.

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Yorkshire wallet [2058 posts] 7 months ago
1 like
simonmb wrote:

I'd take the rest of the year off - rest is hugely underrated. 

And get a friend to help with the cable fix - a couple of beers is the magic tool you're missing - and if that doesn't work - try your LBS.

Good advice but I reckon a lot of us are our own worst enemy. I had a knee problem (quad tendonitis) that I thought I'd be able to get round with physio and still going at it like an idiot on Strava. I really did think that physio meant you could just do the exercises they'd give you and carry on doing what you were doing.  The problem never went away.

It was only when I was forced off for about three months by another illness that my knee sorted itself out and I've not had any problem with it since.  Warming up properly has also become part of my routine.

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Sevenfold [89 posts] 7 months ago
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I'd take at last two+ weeks off. I have had a similar problem twice - could barely walk at one point. Rest, rest & more rest is what I found was the only way to get through it & then start again with only short rides before building up to my normal daily mileage. Sometimes you just have to listen to what your body is saying - it usually knows best...

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CygnusX1 [848 posts] 7 months ago
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Are you strapping up your ankle? This can cause/exascerbate tendonitis - or so the nurse practitioner told me when I took my sprained wrist to the local minor injuries unit after noticing a lump in my forearm.

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rjfrussell [480 posts] 7 months ago
2 likes

Bit of time off the bike;

Eccentric heel drops;

Static stretches;

Daily foam rolling on the calves.

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peted76 [1105 posts] 7 months ago
3 likes

Yes go and see a physio or sports doctor. Echo the fact that enforced rest will give you the best chance of recovery (once you determined what exactly it is and that it can be healed). Tendon's are a right pain to heal, a decade and a half of skateboarding taught me that tendons heal slower than bones. 

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jaysa [58 posts] 7 months ago
2 likes
rjfrussell wrote:

... Eccentric heel drops;

Static stretches;

Daily foam rolling on the calves.

This. And see a sports physio who actually rides, who can watch you ride a static bike.

You are stretching properly daily aren't you? Regular mileage will make you stiffer, then asymmetries and old injuries will show more and set you up for problems.

Rest will reduce the symptoms, but not the cause.

Respect tendon trouble and understand/fix where they come from.

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Jackson [392 posts] 7 months ago
3 likes

Thirded or fourthed on going to see a physio. And if it hurts, stop riding until you've done so.

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HalfWheeler [673 posts] 7 months ago
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Started cycling as a young teenager in the mid eighties, I dearly love the sport, but the last three years have been hellish. A year off with IT band syndrome in 2015/16, then a year of pain after a knee operation and then last 7 months off high hamstring tendinopathy. Never known anything like it. No end in sight. So believe me, taking up to a month off to let things settle down is nothing, absolutely zilch.

Take the opportunity to see a physio privately (don't waste your time with the NHS with a sporting injury). Will cost you £40ish each time but three appointments or so should do the trick. Use the month off to do stretching and strengthening exercises, go swimming (yeah, it sucks but if it's only twice a week for 4 weeks...), any exercise that doesn't aggrivate it.

In May 2015 when all my leg issues started I remember thinking "I might have to take a month off...nightmare!".

If only it were a month off...

 

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check12 [220 posts] 7 months ago
2 likes

See a physio for 45mins/an hour

buy a foam roller

buy a massage ball

do the excersises / rolling / ball massage they prescribe

do British cycling's foam roller routine. 

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HenHarrier [12 posts] 7 months ago
1 like

I took up cycling because my achilles were so tight it was painful to even run a few yards. Found a great physio who said that because I'd found it painful I hadn't stretched anything from my neck down to the soles of my feet for years. He recommended eccentric heel drops, hamstring stretches, and massage on the lumps on the tendons (inflammation). That was a couple of years ago I've kept at and I'm still pain free now. I'm not a qualified medic so take or leave this comment but I honestly thought that by not working the tight bits I was helping myself heal - I was building up more and more trouble instead. Ymmv but take time out, get a programme of gentle stretches underway, and hopefully you'll be back on the bike pain-free fairly quickly

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Organon [38 posts] 7 months ago
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Okay, so very positive responses to taking it easy. The weather is a factor. I still have to get into work 11 times before the end of the year, but that is a flat 7.4km commute on city roads I barely average over 22kph in traffic. But no taking the long way home. Some of your stories seem nightmarish, compared to my twinge. I definitely don't blame it on my shoes or anything else, more probably the getting old business. Now if only I could grow a Zaphod like third arm to hold components still.

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HalfWheeler [673 posts] 7 months ago
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If your pain free while cycling to work then you should be fine but if it hurts, even when you're commuting, I'd stop cycling.

Pain is a sign of damage being/been done. 

Give it a complete rest and use public transport (if at all possible).

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zzk [56 posts] 7 months ago
4 likes

Love that even commentators on roadcc like to kick the NHS. It all depends on who you see, level of knowledge and sports awareness. There are many more rogues in the private sector, more than happy to take your money and spin you a yarn about minor leg length discrepancies, pelvic tilt, core weakness that will take a lifetime to correct and cost you a fortune. 

Tendons are like ropes, they essentially lose their tight knit structure with age and accrued damage from hard work. If you have a hard palpable lump and it only niggles, you are likely to have some scarring from attempted healing of some minor tearing. The best and only evidence based treatment is eccentric loading. The fact it hurts after is likely a good sign, but be careful not to over do it. Essentially you stretch the tendon to length under load. Faster healing has been shown with increasing the load, such as a barbell or dumbell in your hand. A heavy bag or ruck sack will do. Increase the weight with your confidence.

Its likely you should reduce your training load and keep the cadence higher, but stopping and resting will be counterproductive unless you rehab hard. You should check your cleat position and saddle height to ensure a neutral position at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Too much heel drop or too high can be problematic in equal measure. Too high being potentially worse.

Good luck. It takes time and patience.

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HalfWheeler [673 posts] 7 months ago
5 likes
zzk wrote:

Love that even commentators on roadcc like to kick the NHS.

Nope, just an observation that sporting injuries are pretty low on their list of priorities. And totally understandable.

NHS is great for critical care. Minor/middling stuff much less so. They've only got so many resources and have to allocate  them as best they can. NHS physios have have to deal with all sorts, eg. stroke or car crash victims learning to walk again, people rehab-ing from serious injury back into work, etc etc. When someone comes along with a sore lateral knee or pulled hamstring and it's stopping them from running or cycling then they won't get the same level of attention and rightly so. 

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willsdad [16 posts] 7 months ago
2 likes

I have just had some interesting info sent to me by an old colleague who is writing his PhD in rehabilitating Achilles Tendinopathy. Google Seth O'Neil and have a look at some of his recommendations, just might help you find your way.

 
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Jimmy Ray Will [921 posts] 7 months ago
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What caused the tendonitis? 

Until you crack that, you are on a hiding to nothing. 

In the past I have had achilles tendonitis caused by a mal-fitting work shoe. I have also had it after leaving my cycling shoes under the radiator for a couple of weeks. 

However, the majority of achilles issued I have had were rectified by gettin a bike fit, which in turn took the stress off my achilles, all but negating my susceptibility to achilles tendonitis.

As for rest or not...

If you have identified the source and removed it, carry on riding. If you do not know the cause, then defintiely rest. 

Rest trumps everything else 

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Bluebug [351 posts] 7 months ago
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HalfWheeler wrote:
zzk wrote:

Love that even commentators on roadcc like to kick the NHS.

Nope, just an observation that sporting injuries are pretty low on their list of priorities. And totally understandable.

NHS is great for critical care. Minor/middling stuff much less so. They've only got so many resources and have to allocate  them as best they can. NHS physios have have to deal with all sorts, eg. stroke or car crash victims learning to walk again, people rehab-ing from serious injury back into work, etc etc. When someone comes along with a sore lateral knee or pulled hamstring and it's stopping them from running or cycling then they won't get the same level of attention and rightly so. 

You put it politer than I would.  The hoops I was told to jump through to get an NHS physio appointment each time mean it is more cost effective e.g. time off work to get doctors appointment before being allowed to be referred to the physio to go private immediately.

Even people I know who needed urgent physio because they have actually ruptured a tendon and had surgery on the NHS, have had a much poorer time with NHS physio compared to those who were treated privately.  

In fact if you work and your employer provides you medical insurance and you do any sport, then get the insurance.  You may still be out of pocket for some tests but if you do something relatively major sports wise you will get treated quicker and your appointments won't be cut short because the physio is overworked.

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jacknorell [994 posts] 7 months ago
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As a preventative measure to offset the tightness and no real core strength cycling gives me, I have found yoga with a focus on abdominal girdle work very helpful. Also helps loosen tight shoulders from roadie position and a desk job.

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The _Kaner [1166 posts] 7 months ago
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I feel your pain, literally.

I had a similar issue a few years back.

Physio, ultrasonic/laser treatment and then finally acupuncture...where, on one occasion,  a stand in physio prep'd my right calf with the linament...then proceeded to stick the needles in my left calf.

I did eventually get over the issue, but it was around 12 weeks before I was able to go any great distance, scar tissue was cited as the main culprit... stretching and ultrasonic treatment brought it to a level of being able to cope with the pain and get back to a basic fitness level.

This year however, I am once again sidelined with a C6/C7 herniated disk and narrowing of the nerve canal in C3. I just cannot get on to a bike and hold onto the bars.

The issue has manifested itself in a total lack of sensation in my left arm/hand - particularly in the thumb/forefinger, where it is 24/7 pins and needles.

The meds I am on - until I get to see the ortho specialist- mean that I could quite possibly just fall off and kill myself...

So I might just set up the turbo and do some gentle spinning, where I don't require to have a death grip on the bars. Until then, it's rest time.

That's my advice to you...goals are great...but your own health and well being are far more important.

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Organon [38 posts] 6 months ago
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Well I've covered 260km since I made this post. Mostly commuting and shopping at slow speeds. My ankle feels less tender, but there is still a hard lump on my tendon and although the aggravation is less it will probably come back. I've started the year off with two 14.8km commutes, but no extra mileage due to heavy rain on the way home. Although there is no point hitting targets on day 2. Life is too short to wait for everything to be perfect or I could be off the bike for months (or ever) so I'll be heading off into the country on the weekend. Sorry to hear about some of your knarly medical issues, I should shut up about my little niggle. Bonvelo 2018.

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dottigirl [819 posts] 6 months ago
1 like

Forget about fixed. Go geared.

Spinning is much better for aggravated body parts than grinding. Unless you have a perfect body with no injury tendencies, grinding will fuck you up.

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Organon [38 posts] 6 months ago
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I am back up to 16/22 gears after some tinkering, though the shifting is very slow. Needs more cleaning and fettling. Who needs 28/25 and 11 anyway?