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  1. #1
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    quad pain hiking down hill - could this be related to commuting too much?

    Could this be related to commuting too much?
    I commute 150 miles per week on the bike and rarely get any leg pain while cycling. I've been commuting for years, I'm not a youngster, and I stretch almost every day.
    If I hike on the weekend, particularly on Sunday after a day of rest, I can get pain in the quads while hiking downhill or down stairs, the pain can be acute. When it happens, the quads hurt as the knee is bent. MD's, PT's, sports MD's have not figured it out yet.

    Am I cycling too much?
    Anyone have this problem before?
    I'm not asking for a diagnosis, just more data points.

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    I don't think it's caused by cycling too much, but rather, by not training enough of your other muscle groups. If all you do for exercise is cycling, then you'll get sore if you start running, hiking, etc... Cross-training should help.

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    Senior Member Grim's Avatar
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    You can never cycle too much but it is repetition related an walking changes the angles the muscles are use to working at. Slowly Increase the frequency of your hikes and build the distances in the same way you would build up to longer distance riding. It is jut a matter of retraining your muscles.
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    I agree.
    Let me just add that I hike at least once a weekend year round, a 5 to 10 mile hilly hike, whereas on week days, I commute. So although it's not the ideal cross training mix, at least I do hike on a regular basis. Once a year, we do a 100+ mile trail walk, ~10 miles a day, this pain happens the first couple days of walking, then goes away. it's a mystery to me.

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    Do you always hike with the same shoes? If so, try a different pair one time to see if that makes a difference.

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    Thanks for the suggestions.
    I have tried different shoes, it does not seem to matter.
    I can also get the pain on Mondays at work walking down stairs, so it seems to happen after a day or two of not riding or hiking. One doctor thinks it could be a pinched femoral nerve in the lower back, so far, there is no direct evidence of that.
    I thought others on this list might have had similar experiences from putting in all those commute miles.

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    Senior Member atcfoody's Avatar
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    I'm not buying the lack of cross training as a cause. No offense folks, but if it was, you would have pain going up hill as well as down. Your quads are the main muscles that help with deceleration when going down hills or stairs, and the forces on your legs are different going down a hill. You have to deal with how much gravity accelerates your body as you descend, and that is more than going up hill. Up = over coming gravity, down = stopping its effects (more force).

    My guess would be to have someone look at your patellar alignment (how your knee caps ride in the groves in you knee as they move). A muscular imbalance caused by a recent (or old) injury could cause the patellas to not ride in the where they should be for you, and that could cause your pain.

    My best guess. Let us know what happens.

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    similar problem... did you find relief?

    Buzzbee...
    I suffer from a somewhat similar problem. Although I am not a cyclist, I use the ellipitcal machine or walk uphill on the treadmill for about 90 minutes/day, 5 or 6 days a week, and have been doing so for years. When hiking downhill many months ago, my legs cramped up so severely that I couldn't bend my knees, and my legs were shaking from pain. It took me 5 hours to cry my way down the very short hill. I had cramping in my quads, calves, and glutes bilaterally. This has happened several times since the initial time, when walking downhill. It also happens about 1/4 of the time when I run, sometimes occuring at the beginning of my run, sometimes in the middle, and sometimes at the end. This winter, it happened when skiing a double black diamond. It seems almost random, and occasionally it is just one quad that will cramp, sometimes the other leg, or calf, etc... These problems have never happened until this past September, although my activities have been similar throughout the years. I do exercise a bit more on the elliptical in the past 3 years than I have in earlier years, mainly because I moved to the south 3 years ago and exercise indoors more often now. I have seen my general practicioner who tested me for nutritional deficiencies, a rhematologist who tested me for a variety of muscle disorders, and an orthopedic surgeon who referred me to PT. In PT I focused on eccentric strength training and some cardio cross training, like cycling and aerobics classes. I have done this for 4 months and last time I hiked downhill the pain was present almost immediately. I do have a lot of laxity in both of my knees, although the orthopedic docs can't pinpoint how this might be related. It looks like I'm going to the vascular specialist and having imaging of my hips and lumbar spine done next. I'm at a loss.

    Did you ever find a solution? Thanks so much.

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    I think it's just different muscle groups.
    I'd been riding a lot training for Bicycle Tour of Colorado. Then I get a surprise opportunity to do a 5 day backcountry trip into the Grand Canyon. I had a week to prepare for it. I got out on a couple of hikes with my pack.

    Granted, Day 1 was very rough, the Boucher Trail is rocky, unmaintained and straight down for 1000 feet in two places. It was 9 miles that day with a 37 lb pack (I weigh 110). My legs were a bit shaky that day, but I did well.

    Day 2 I woke up with legs that felt like wood. Muscles very stiff and sore. (My feet were fine, no blisters!) We hiked 6 relatively flat miles (part of Tonto Trail). My trekking poles were very helpful. Every step up and down over rocks was painful. On day 3 and 4 my legs were still sore. It was almost worse to sit and rest them, they would get stiff. It was better to keep walking around. Day 5 was 8 miles out (Hermit Trail) my legs were a but sore, but not bad. The next day they were almost back to normal.
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    I also find walking downhill much harder on my quadsthan walking uphill, although it seems like less actual work, based on how hard I breathe. I think it is a different enough set of muscles or mechanical movement that cycling or going uphill doesn't prepare you for it....

    In fact in the midst of typing this message I did a little experiment on my stairs. I slowly walked up and then slowly came down, and I definitely felt more strain in my knee as I slowly lowered myself - just before my other foot reaches the next stair - than as I slowly pushed up.

    It might be partly that the calf muscles share more of the load going uphill, since the last part of the step is pushing up from the toes, whereas coming down the calf seems to contribute less work as people may land more on the heel. So the quad has to do it all. Plus the knee may have to bend farther, since the toes are pointing away from the slope and don't reach the ground as soon.
    Last edited by cooker; 06-15-10 at 09:59 PM.

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    a quick update.
    My wife and I just got back from a walking trip, 137 miles, with perhaps 16,000' of up and down. This was the trip I was worried about for quad pain. The pain has been present for at least 3 years, perhaps because I've been bike commuting 6000-7000 mi/yr for that long, so my bike/hike ratio was too high(?).
    The doctors/PTs suggested I might have a muscle imbalance creating nerve irritation on the femoral nerves (both legs). It's a theory, and no other medical problems could be found.

    I decided to try to get even more muscle flexibility. Over time, I found that what helped me prevent the quad pain (I do not have knee pain), or greatly lessen the intensity, was to stretch much more than I was doing. So, before the walk, I was stretching at least 15-20 min twice a day, I was especially stretching the quads, hip flexors, and hamstrings. I brought a spare inner tube on the trip to help with the quad stretches. Also, when I started to feel pain during a downhill section, I stopped and stretched for a couple of minutes. I also found that messaging the muscles made things worse, so I only stretched and did not rub or use rollers on the muscles. Using this routine, I made it through the entire trip with relatively little pain, and in the last 75 miles, I had no quad pain at all.
    So far, so good, it's a work in progress.
    I hope others can share their experience.

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    Quote Originally Posted by buzzbee View Post
    a quick update.
    My wife and I just got back from a walking trip, 137 miles, with perhaps 16,000' of up and down. This was the trip I was worried about for quad pain. The pain has been present for at least 3 years, perhaps because I've been bike commuting 6000-7000 mi/yr for that long, so my bike/hike ratio was too high(?).
    The doctors/PTs suggested I might have a muscle imbalance creating nerve irritation on the femoral nerves (both legs). It's a theory, and no other medical problems could be found.

    I decided to try to get even more muscle flexibility. Over time, I found that what helped me prevent the quad pain (I do not have knee pain), or greatly lessen the intensity, was to stretch much more than I was doing. So, before the walk, I was stretching at least 15-20 min twice a day, I was especially stretching the quads, hip flexors, and hamstrings. I brought a spare inner tube on the trip to help with the quad stretches. Also, when I started to feel pain during a downhill section, I stopped and stretched for a couple of minutes. I also found that messaging the muscles made things worse, so I only stretched and did not rub or use rollers on the muscles. Using this routine, I made it through the entire trip with relatively little pain, and in the last 75 miles, I had no quad pain at all.
    So far, so good, it's a work in progress.
    I hope others can share their experience.
    I have the exact same symptoms as you described. Have you had any further symptoms, or has the stretching solved the problem?

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    I think the stretching is helping to reduce the occurrence; it seems my naturally short tendons down the back to the legs could be part of the problem. They and the hamstrings perhaps are pulling on the nerves for the front of the leg, so it is a referred pain. Doing daily stretches for the back of the legs has helped, but not completely eliminated the problem. Perhaps reducing my commute mileage would also help, but I would rather not do that.
    It took months of added stretching before I noticed any improvement, and I cannot be certain that it's not just changing on its own. If I do not exercise for 1-2 days, or longer, and I do not stretch on those off days, then I will get the pain going down a few flights of stairs or hiking downhill. So I stretch even on my one off day each week.
    good luck.

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    Bike addict, dreamer AdamDZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffpoulin View Post
    I don't think it's caused by cycling too much, but rather, by not training enough of your other muscle groups. If all you do for exercise is cycling, then you'll get sore if you start running, hiking, etc... Cross-training should help.
    This is it: cross training. I'll never forget this young woman. She was very fit, went to gym a few times a week, jogger and long distance runner. She figured she can do a 100 mile bike ride easy. She was unable to walk for several days after the ride.

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    Pains in Legs for no reason

    Hi Amanda
    I suffer from a similar thing. I am 48, been doing sport my entire life. Cycling, running, hiking, snow skiing etc. 6 years ago, my upper legs 'cramped/pained' for no reason in the gym. (could walk to the car). this was while i was doing tricep excercises.
    If i play squash i cant walk after 5 minutes. It then feels like my legs are bruised for days. If i dont do sport for a few weeks, its all seems to settle again. this pain comes when i walk down a flight of stairs, down a hill or any 'negative' slope.
    I have spend so much money of investigating this, no answers. I have had all the blood tests in the world, vascular checks, ..... really not sure where to go, what to do.

    There are no problems with my electrolites but it feels like i run out of 'something' after a few weeks of activity.

    any light on the subject??

    Quote Originally Posted by AmandaD View Post
    Buzzbee...
    I suffer from a somewhat similar problem. Although I am not a cyclist, I use the ellipitcal machine or walk uphill on the treadmill for about 90 minutes/day, 5 or 6 days a week, and have been doing so for years. When hiking downhill many months ago, my legs cramped up so severely that I couldn't bend my knees, and my legs were shaking from pain. It took me 5 hours to cry my way down the very short hill. I had cramping in my quads, calves, and glutes bilaterally. This has happened several times since the initial time, when walking downhill. It also happens about 1/4 of the time when I run, sometimes occuring at the beginning of my run, sometimes in the middle, and sometimes at the end. This winter, it happened when skiing a double black diamond. It seems almost random, and occasionally it is just one quad that will cramp, sometimes the other leg, or calf, etc... These problems have never happened until this past September, although my activities have been similar throughout the years. I do exercise a bit more on the elliptical in the past 3 years than I have in earlier years, mainly because I moved to the south 3 years ago and exercise indoors more often now. I have seen my general practicioner who tested me for nutritional deficiencies, a rhematologist who tested me for a variety of muscle disorders, and an orthopedic surgeon who referred me to PT. In PT I focused on eccentric strength training and some cardio cross training, like cycling and aerobics classes. I have done this for 4 months and last time I hiked downhill the pain was present almost immediately. I do have a lot of laxity in both of my knees, although the orthopedic docs can't pinpoint how this might be related. It looks like I'm going to the vascular specialist and having imaging of my hips and lumbar spine done next. I'm at a loss.

    Did you ever find a solution? Thanks so much.

  16. #16
    Hot in China azesty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AdamDZ View Post
    This is it: cross training. I'll never forget this young woman. She was very fit, went to gym a few times a week, jogger and long distance runner. She figured she can do a 100 mile bike ride easy. She was unable to walk for several days after the ride.
    I had exactly the opposite experience. I ride 5 days a week, averaging 19 mph (31 kph)+ over 25 km per day.

    One day a student challenged me to a 2 km race. We did it in fairly good time, I got on my bike and rode home. The next day I had a fair bit of quad pain, the second day, I had to hold the rail when going downstairs so I didnt fall!

    z

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    I suggest wearing high heel shoes for four hours each day. This will work out the muscles in your legs so that going down hill will be a breeze. Also some photos of you in the heels would be great.

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    This is the mother of all zombie threads! Look how many times it's been brought back to life...!
    Don't believe everything you think.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    This is the mother of all zombie threads! Look how many times it's been brought back to life...!
    Yeah, but it's an interesting topic (to me at least).

    I've had exactly this same experience. The first time I noticed it was coming down the steps from the bell tower at Old Peter in Munich. Going up the stairs I felt really good (using the normal cycling muscles). About halfway down I thought I was going to have to just give up and roll down. The same pain repeated itself at the start of cyclocross season last year as I spent a couple of hours one day each week working on dismounts (similar to descending stairs but with the weight on just one leg).

    I've added some eccentric hamstring exercises to my semi-regular off-bike strengthening routine, and that seems to help.

  20. #20
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    My leg strength is better than it's ever been since I started commuting but I suffer from aches in my quads from time to time. I do about 90 miles a week.
    Philippians 2:9-11

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    I would suggest getting a computer with cadence and perhaps even average-cadence and see what the numbers are on your rides. I suspect you're exerting too much force on the pedals and overworking your quads by using too big of a gear.

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    Sorry for not seeing this thread update for a while.
    I'm sure there are many reasons for pain of different kinds.
    So, I would not say my experience applies to others, but it could.

    My basic problem, other than aging, is short tendons and tight muscles, and the fact that I spend a lot of time riding my bike. I saw a doctor who had a new idea, after several other doctors could not find anything wrong. The new doctor thought my pain could be referred pain, and the real trouble was something, perhaps in the hamstring area, rubbing on the femoral nerve. He prescribed a pill to take to see what happened. On one hike, I got the pain, took the pill and it helped eliminate the pain thus supporting his theory.
    So it seems that for me, lots of cycling might lead to shorter muscles over time, the shorter muscles lead to the femoral nerve being affected thus causing referred pain.

    So now, I do a lot of stretching; 20-30 min per day for the front and back of the legs and also the lower back. I also shake my leg muscles for 20-30 sec right after I ride.
    It all seems to have helped after doing regularly for a couple of years now.


    BTW, if you get sore the day after exercise, or the 2nd day after, that's probably the more common delayed onset muscle soreness.
    http://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com...-soreness.html
    Last edited by buzzbee; 12-01-11 at 04:01 PM.

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    some relief from more cardio

    Hi George,
    Over the past couple of years I've found that I get these excruciating leg cramps most often when I am on a trip/vacation and am not adhering to my usual cardio routine. Even if it's an active vacation (skiing, hiking), if I don't run or get on an eliptical machine almost every day, after a few days I will get the cramps just going down a couple flights of stairs. So I have really tried to make sure I am able to run at least a few miles every day while I'm traveling, and if I can get to a gym to use an eliptical machine for an hour, I find that that helps even more. Although no doctors were ever able to tell me what the real problem might be, I feel like I get some sort of back-up in my system that only a fast-paced sweat can get out.... not very scientific, but it has really helped a lot. My husband thinks I'm crazy going to the gym before we go skiing, but oh well!
    Good luck, and please re-post if you find something that works for you... so funny how this forum will resurface every few months!


    Quote Originally Posted by George CT View Post
    Hi Amanda
    I suffer from a similar thing. I am 48, been doing sport my entire life. Cycling, running, hiking, snow skiing etc. 6 years ago, my upper legs 'cramped/pained' for no reason in the gym. (could walk to the car). this was while i was doing tricep excercises.
    If i play squash i cant walk after 5 minutes. It then feels like my legs are bruised for days. If i dont do sport for a few weeks, its all seems to settle again. this pain comes when i walk down a flight of stairs, down a hill or any 'negative' slope.
    I have spend so much money of investigating this, no answers. I have had all the blood tests in the world, vascular checks, ..... really not sure where to go, what to do.

    There are no problems with my electrolites but it feels like i run out of 'something' after a few weeks of activity.

    any light on the subject??

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    Leg Pains

    Hi Buzzbee

    good to hear from you.

    I definitely agree that the Femoral Nerve thing sounds about right and worth investigation.
    At first i thought my legs were cramping but it was more like 'seizing up'. Pain would travel around the knee, quads, calves and move around. Generally this would happen after only a few minutes of starting a sport like squash or walking down stairs/hills etc.
    Really wierd....

    Lets keep this in the loop

    Regards
    Quote Originally Posted by buzzbee View Post
    Sorry for not seeing this thread update for a while.
    I'm sure there are many reasons for pain of different kinds.
    So, I would not say my experience applies to others, but it could.

    My basic problem, other than aging, is short tendons and tight muscles, and the fact that I spend a lot of time riding my bike. I saw a doctor who had a new idea, after several other doctors could not find anything wrong. The new doctor thought my pain could be referred pain, and the real trouble was something, perhaps in the hamstring area, rubbing on the femoral nerve. He prescribed a pill to take to see what happened. On one hike, I got the pain, took the pill and it helped eliminate the pain thus supporting his theory.
    So it seems that for me, lots of cycling might lead to shorter muscles over time, the shorter muscles lead to the femoral nerve being affected thus causing referred pain.

    So now, I do a lot of stretching; 20-30 min per day for the front and back of the legs and also the lower back. I also shake my leg muscles for 20-30 sec right after I ride.
    It all seems to have helped after doing regularly for a couple of years now.


    BTW, if you get sore the day after exercise, or the 2nd day after, that's probably the more common delayed onset muscle soreness.
    http://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com...-soreness.html

  25. #25
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    Yes, I've also had more of a "seizing up" kind of feeling of pain, when it happens.
    I found that rubbing/messaging makes it worse. Whereas, shaking the legs and stretching help a little. Do it at the first sign of pain, and repeat as needed.
    It probably also has to do with age, at least in my case.

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