I have just had to be picked up from a club run by my wife. Having been doing great this year, doing rides between 70-100 miles on a Sunday and training through the week with a view to maybe start racing again, I find myself in bits again. 4 days off the bike and it has hit me AGAIN! I'm gutted. Never having 4 days off again. I managed 7 miles when I had to stop. It was too much, I could not go on, I let the rest of the guys go and turned back alone, managed to get another mile and a half with three stops in between when I gave up and phoned for assistance. Why now? Don't know if this is all gonna make sence as I am so pissed off right now.
Wow. This sucks. I've been commuting to work almost everyday for the past months and a half or so. Last week, when I took the stairway down (4 flights) to head out to lunch, I experienced fairly excruciating pain in my quads--felt a heck of a lot like cramps, but without the forced bending. Massaging them seemed to make it worse, and really, I just had to walk it off (although that was tough and painful). Happened again yesterday.
Reading some of the suggestions, I think I'll try stretching (I don't stretch at all) prior to riding, and I know that I'm definitely deficient nutritionally (need to stock up on bananas and such).
What are proven methods for ridding oneself of lactic acids? Which foods contribute the best? Pardon if these are seemingly over-simplistic. Thanks!
It sounds like only a very few cyclists out there have this issue.
I've had the problem to some extent since 2008.
Last Dec, I was off the bike for 4 weeks due to illness and then travel.
After the first two weeks of rest, I had no subsequent issues at all while decending stairs during my trip.
So, the setup that makes the quad pain happen is daily cycling exercise, followed by a day or more of rest, then walking down stairs.
If that rest period is longer, like 2 weeks, then there is no pain.
So, it seems there is something remaining in the quad muscles after exercise... lactic acid?
Why would it take so long to dissipate?
Why only in the quads?
I commuted over 1000 miles in May, having ridden every day... generally 3 hours a day, and I had no leg pain.
But after 2 days of rest (off the bike), today I got the quad pain in the usual way.
I have still not found a way to prevent the pain from happening other than exercise every day.
Originally Posted by buzzbee
This is a great thread for me: I thought I was the only one!
I am 54, recently returned to commuting by cycling. I had exactly this problem 25 years ago, with severe quadriceps pain/cramp coming on after a few days of not cycling.
This time though it is worse, so bad I am thinking of finding a different exercise. Last week I went on a family holiday to Turkey, and I was severely limited by the steep hill down from our villa into the town. Incredibly painful. I had to walk in a zigzag to get there!
Buzzbee, did you get any help from your stretching regime or magnesium? (Interesting to note many years ago I went skiing in France and developed my quad pain after a few days not cycling, so I went into a pharmacy to try and get some quinine. They didnt have any but they said that in France, everyone takes magnesium for cramp. They sold me some tablets that dissolved under the tongue and probably did help. I am trying to avoid quinine now because of possible side effects).
I think you may be right about lactic acid not being cleared, and causing the muscle fibres to be hyper-excitable. I am going to try massage to see if it helps: I will use a rolling pin or similar to try and push the lactic acid up away towards my heart. I had a similar problem with my calf muscles when I ran marathons. I used to go to physiotherapy, and you could see the muscle fibres twitching away spontaneously. Massage did help this.
I also am worried that this severe muscle pain is likely to be associated with muscle damage, leading to a rise in blood levels of creatine phosphokinase (CPK). This can cause kidney damage if high levels persist. So I think I need to find a solution or stop cycling...
The daily stretching I've done for 4+ years has helped lower the intensity of the pain when it occurs.
Taking magnesium did not help at all for this pain... which I would not call a cramp. With a cramp, the muscle is tight and it's painful.
With this pain, the muscle does not constrict, it just hurts, especially while the knee is bending.
And, if I stop and keep my legs straight, it does not hurt so much, but is simply sore.
I learned that this pain does not occur if I take 2 or 3 weeks, or more, off the bike first.
The pain does seem to be very predictable if I'm commuting 5 days a week, 2.5 hours a day, then I hike downhill, or walk down a few flights of stairs after a day or two of rest.
I did once have blood tests done the day after I had pain, they could find nothing at all wrong.
It's still a mystery to me after 5 years...
Thanks for that.
I am going to do a test with the massage and see what happens: I will report back. I am tempted to massage one leg only so that I can prove that any effect is massage related. In the meantime I am very interested in this syndrome (Buzzbee syndrome??). I wonder if it affects particular body types. I am of short stocky/muscular build, and tend to carry a few pounds more than I should. In the gym I put on muscle bulk very easily, and I wonder if this is part of my problem: perhaps the new muscle I put on so easily outgrows its blood supply so lactate clears poorly. If others with this problem are tall and thin, then my theory is blown.
Has anyone tried protein or creatine supplements?
Originally Posted by shawnh
Back again after a wonderful 3 month break to Europe and not a sign of pain, returned a month ago, started cycling two weeks ago and on Monday I could hardly walk I was in so much pain.
It's exactly as Buzzbee describes, regular cycling or no cycling and there's no issue but if I cycle and then take 3-4 days off then I have real pain if I walk down a slope (last week I cycled on Thurs and had real issues on Monday after walking down a slope)
To Shawnn, I'm tall and skinny and have never been able to bulk up in the muscle department so don't think it's a body type thing.
Oh well, it's some consolation that I'm not alone, but I wish we knew the cause. Hopefully one of us will solve this eventually.
My current theory is that it is an overuse, repetitive injury in the muscle fibers (but I have no medical training).
I think all the cycling (150 to 200 milers per week) creates a grain in the muscle fibers, because they are always rubbing against each other under tension in one direction.
Whereas walking down hill rubs them in the other direction.
Perhaps this grain builds up over time with continuous cycling creating some new scar tissue after a day.
Rubbing against the grain scar tissue by walking down hill or stairs then causes the pain as the scar tissue becomes inflamed.
After 2 weeks of inactivity, perhaps the scar tissue goes away through healing.
I'm going to try swinging my lower legs freely on weekends to flex the knees and the quads.
So, sitting with my upper legs supported, but my feet free to swing, maybe 5 minutes a day as a start.
Perhaps this will reduce the grain that has built up.
But, who knows?
Leg pain is very difficult to diagnose properly because it can arise from so many different causes, and is often not felt at the point of injury (if any).
Some years back, I started having hip pain, often to the point that I could barely walk at all. Did the usual rounds, with the usual series of X-rays, ended up with a referral to an experienced orthopedic surgeon. He correctly diagnosed the issue by throwing a crumpled piece of paper across the room and asking that I go retrieve it. Turns out the hip was fine, and the problem was in my spine where some nerves were compressed.
Cured me with a long round of physical therapy.
My point here is that you may not be feeling what you think you're feeling, and the problem could be anything from a form of sciatica to a torn meniscus. Cycling may or may not be implicated in any way, and if it is you might resolve the problem by not pushing high gears as much and spinning lower gears (or not).
Use common sense, do some stretching, and start recording what's happening before and after to see if you can identify any pattern. Then make some adjustments and see if things improve or get worse, and adjust accordingly.
there is a "specificity principle" in athletics... so you generally ride a bike and stretch. that is different than hiking and especially downhill as it uses more thigh muscle fibers in its action. so one can expect "delayed onset muscular soreness" from that. delayed because it usually is felt the next day and gets worse the day after but will start to subside during the next couple of days.
Originally Posted by buzzbee
FBin NY: I am a qualified doctor with 30 years experience. This is not a knee or back problem, but thanks for the suggestion.
e0richt: This is not delayed onset muscle soreness. Completely different symptoms, with the pain happening only with a specific exercise.
I have met a couple of other sufferers here in the UK, all with very similar stories. One friend went for a hill run 3 days after a long cycle ride: he could run up with no problems, but running downhill was completely impossible due to muscle pain
so what are the different symptoms? stabbing type of pain during the exercise?
Originally Posted by shawnh
so no other pain the following days?
I hesitate to offer advice in your own field of expertise, but have a question.
When going down hill or stairs, which thigh hurts, the upper, or the lower. I Suspect it might be the upper, quadwho's are conditioned to shorten under load as on a bike, and don't "like" being extended against tension.
OTOH, if the lower, it might be the bit of shock involved in being a downhill plant leg.
In either case, ot may simply be that your muscles are conditioned to a specific no impact motion, which is why you do fine going up, but not down when everything is backward.
Test my theory, by trying deep knee bends and noting if it's harder or more painful as you drop vs. rise.
Originally Posted by e0richt
This thread refers to a particular problem in people who cycle regularly. After 2-3 days of not cycling, they experience very severe quad pain on walking downhill or down stairs. This is cramp-like, but not a true cramp.
The pain does not occur unless there have been a few days of not cycling; or if we have not cycled for 2 weeks or so. There is no pain on other days.
I have tried warm-ups of various kinds; stretches, and massage. None have worked. My pain tends to be mid/lower thigh. I'm not sure about the shock thing, since even a gentle stroll downhill will bring on my pain. But thanks for your suggestions.
Originally Posted by FBinNY
You're welcome, but you still haven't said whether it's the leading (downhill) leg, or the trailing (uphill) leg where the pain is more acute. Knowing which might give insights to the mechanism at work.
Originally Posted by shawnh
BTW- while stretching always helps, I was suggesting it to isolate which motion causes the problem. For example, if going uphill is fine but downhill isn't, with the trailing leg bothering you more, it points to muscles which resist stretching under load.
I have a similar pathology in that when I stand and bend one leg at the knee until it's horizontal (foot behind me level with the knee) My hamstrings tighten and hurt as I try to relax and lower it to the floor.
well, I don't know.... just spit balling here...
Originally Posted by shawnh
I have heard thare are certain people that have problems with muscle pain due to glycogen storage problems... wonder if the body becomes used to exercise such that it could have problem with glycogen when given rest...
maybe something with lactic acidosis?
For me sometimes it hits one leg (either) before the other, but there is no difference in uphill or downhill legs.
Originally Posted by FBinNY
Yes I wonder if it is some lactic acid problem too...
Originally Posted by e0richt
The pain issue we each have could all be different, so I can only speak from my 5 year experience.
The setup to cause this pain to occur has already been described by me and others.
I commute all 5 weekdays, and if I hike on a Sat, then no downhill pain happens, whereas if I hike on a Sunday (with no exercise on Sat), then the pain happens.
I kept a log for a couple of years.
The pain can start in either leg, it can start in one small area anywhere on the quads: low, high, inner, outer.
The pain always happens in both legs ultimately, the starting area in each leg is generally different.
The pain almost always spreads to other areas in the quad as the downhill continues, sometimes all over the quads, and perhaps IT band as well.
The pain can be quite strong after a while, but not as strong as an acute stabbing pain, and not as bad as a charlie horse cramp.
Once the pain has started, it is worse as the knee in each leg bends going from straight to bent (decelerating the body down the hill or stairs).
If I start going uphill after a downhill section, the pain subsides gradually while going uphill.
If I stop walking and just stand, the pain gradually subsides but does not go away, but as soon as continue downhill, it comes back.
If this pain has started, and I stop and physically press hard on an unaffected spot on the quads, that spot hurts and then gets worse when I start downhill again.
I had blood tests, GP's, sports doctors, physical therapists all try to figure it out, but no root cause is known.
Now, I just know it will happen, and before my yearly long distant walks of 100-200 miles, I spend an extra day or two at the start hiking up and down to work it out.
After a few days of hiking on the trail (and no biking), there is no more pain during the remainder of the walking trip.
Muscle scar tissue, or lactic acid, or something else... I do not know.
OK, not a exercise physiologist, so just throwing stuff against the wall to see if anything sticks.
It could be some sort of muscle memory thing. When riding your quads tense and contrace, and get adapted to the process such that you adapt to the pedal motion, flexing just the right amount for the cranks without conscious control. Normal walking doesn't work the quads hard, and walking uphill is somewhat like bike riding.
But walking down hill is backward because the muscles are supporting the load while lengthening, instead of contracting. It might take a bit of time to break the learned pattern and function normally, so you get spasms and pain.
As I said, I have no credentials here except that I ride fixed wheel in the hills, and know that I can be very smooth pushing, but become very jerky when resisting on descents. It can be so bad that I have to push the bike even if I'd rather not, lest I get bounced around too much.
Wow, just opened this forum again, first time in a while, there are more of you (us!) I have been to two different physio's and they have helped me tremendously, even to the point of me racing for the last few TT's of the year. Get them to flush the quads (Ouch) and it will definitely help. I have had the odd episode since where I have been able to ride it off but have been very careful and not had more than 3 days off the bike. I really think it's a fiber thing (Physio speak!) and flushing them aligns them back to a normal state and gets rid of the scar tissue that is otherwise floating around causing trouble.
i got an email update for this thread. This assessment is quite accurate. In addition to PT, foam rolling or trigger-point balling the vastus medialis, adductor magnus/longus, and gracilis, gets rid of a lot of the scar tissue and fluid buildup - doing this is kind of essential if you're putting in a lot of high intensity miles, otherwise you get a bulging pain in the vastus medialis during first 20-30 minutes of a ride, as well as when climbing down stairs and running etc. Last season i didn't know about this and had so much scar tissue and fluid buildup I got a few stretch marks on my vastus medialis that still haven't gone away. They look cool enough though so no complaints lol
Originally Posted by Gazbeast
edit: also to address the question regarding source of the pain specifically when going downhill or down stairs. It has nothing to do with lack of conditioning for impact (if that were the case it wouldn't happen to runners, which I can tell you from experience it does). It has to do with the fact that while you are climbing down stairs at each step you are controlling your descent (fighting gravity/holding your body weight) with only one leg, and the bulk of that suspending force is being provided by your vastus medialis and lateralis. If they are sore from overuse, of course they will be painful when stressed to hold your body weight. It's the same reason as if you were bending over to gently place an 80lb weight on the ground, you might feel some discomfort in your lower back - those muscles are fighting gravity, just like your leg muscles are fighting gravity by slowing down your body's descent
that would make sense to me... cycling / running / cross country skiing really doesn't have a "negative phase" in terms of muscle contraction, which causes the most damage / rebuilding to a muscle. walking downhill is an eccentric (negative) type of exercise.
Originally Posted by Andy_K
Here's my story. I have only been cycling regularly for about six months. I had been doing a lot of hiking and trail running (2800 miles in 2012). Due to an achilles problem I got into cycling. I have had a few episodes of the pain/cramping described here when hiking or running downhill after cycling on a regular basis. It shocked me because I was doing something that should have been easy for me. The pain and cramping is unlike anything I have experienced before. As I got back into mixing my workouts up so I hike at least three times a week, the cramping has not returned.
My suggestion is to try doing some stairs or hills (down) on a regular basis and see if that doesn't help your condition. Of course, YMMV, but it has worked for me. :)