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Old 08-14-11, 07:53 AM   #1
tanyathayer
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Pain in shoulder and neck

I get an agonizing pain in my left shoulder and neck while riding after about 1 hour. I can't turn my head to see traffic without feeling like someone is stabbing me with a knife. I usuually have to stop and stretch out, but that only lasts 15 minutes or so. I am doing a 72 miler next month and am worried this is going to slow me down. Any ideas on how to alleviate this problem while riding? Its only in my left side side.
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Old 08-14-11, 08:07 AM   #2
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Does NOT sound good. I don't know your age ,, but I have had neck reconstructive surgery , from old injuries to head & neck, & then degeneration. Neck pain was radiating thru shoulder & down the arm,, & numbness in the fingers. Headaches,, too. X rays showed degeneration , fusing, bone spurs ,,, BUT later an MRI showed severe pressure on spinal cord & surgery was needed. I woke up from surgery like I was a new person.
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Old 08-14-11, 08:25 AM   #3
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Are you riding with your arms or shoulders tensed up? If so, try relaxing them when riding. Don't hold the handlebars with a death grip.
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Old 08-14-11, 08:28 AM   #4
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Maybe a more up right ride posture could help. Do you think raising your handle bars even with your seat may help?
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Old 08-14-11, 08:51 AM   #5
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I have neck issues, but none since switching to an upright set up. Also a mirror installed on my grip (Myrrcle) obviates the need to look over the shoulder.
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Old 08-14-11, 06:07 PM   #6
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I have the same problem from compaction in my cervical neck area. The pain can be excrutiating to where I can no longer keep my head up to see the road ahead. A professional fitter I met on a century ride earlier this year said I needed to bring my seat forward while possibly raising my handlebars some [though on that bike the seat is already pretty even with the hbars]. If that doesn't work, perhaps a smaller frame. The idea is to shorten the essential top tube length so that one is not over reaching, which brings the torso out of proper position on the saddle, thereby increasing pressure between shoulder blades and neck etc. But since I have compaction there and a proclivity for soreness and pain, not sure if it's just something I have to live with but minimize however I can. One thing I've thought about doing is carrying a neck brace with me on longer rides [they make some braces out of light foam materials etc]. Has anyone tried something like this?

The most creative solution I saw was on a documentary about the Race Across America [not sure what year, or what rider]...but one cyclist tied a cement block to wire and hung it off the back of his helmet, thereby forcing his head to remain in the upright position without having to use his neck and shoulder muscles [or at least, having to use a different set of muscles]. If you find something that works [aside from going to recumbents], please report back to let others of us who have this problem know. Thanks.
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Old 08-15-11, 04:17 AM   #7
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"" The most creative solution I saw was on a documentary about the Race Across America [not sure what year, or what rider]...but one cyclist tied a cement block to wire and hung it off the back of his helmet, thereby forcing his head to remain in the upright position without having to use his neck and shoulder muscles [or at least, having to use a different set of muscles]. If you find something that works [aside from going to recumbents], please report back to let others of us who have this problem know. Thanks. ""

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Old 08-15-11, 05:52 AM   #8
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Found this good link on what is called Shermer's Neck [didn't realize there was a name for it].
Suggests there are mechanical devices out there and some therapy that can mitigate the problem.

http://www.ultracycling.com/training/neck_pain.html

On the RAAM rider, my memory is foggy since I saw the film several years ago. I think now it was the guy who duct taped his head to a broom handle I'm remembering. But at some point, in experimentation, seems I do remember a cinder block being used in some way...but didn't work. Whatever the case, whomever has this problem, it is severe, making the continuation of the ride impossible. Now...only to find who might make these mechanical devices? Or maybe design one myself [hmmm...an open market perhaps?].
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Old 08-15-11, 08:44 AM   #9
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No I am definately aware of not gripping my bars and trying to keep myself relaxed. I usually just rest my hands on top of my bars. Do you think the aero bars would help?
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Old 08-15-11, 08:50 AM   #10
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So the mirror alleviates the need to look over your shoulder, but shouldn't you still have the ability to look over your shoulder? If I just do some short progressive movements after a few minutes to look over my shoulder it seems to stretch it out temporarily. I will try raising my bars. I just had it re adjusted a few weeks ago to see if it would help, they did rotate my bars more upright, but it didn't help much.
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Old 08-15-11, 08:58 AM   #11
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Thanks I read the article. Not sure this is my problem I don't have trouble holding up my head, in fact that is the most comfortable position its just when suddenly I shrug my left shulder or try to turn my head to stretch it I get a sharp pain like a knife and when I am finished riding it takes a few minutes to turn get off my bike, raise my arms even to take my helmet off etc. WOW, very painful and frustrating.
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Old 08-15-11, 10:52 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tanyathayer View Post
No I am definately aware of not gripping my bars and trying to keep myself relaxed. I usually just rest my hands on top of my bars. Do you think the aero bars would help?
No, no no, no no no, and did I mention no??

Unless you are doing TRIs or TTs aerobars are a "no" and are NOT a solution to anything fit related.

Plain and simple, unless you have something remarkable going on internally you are having pain because something in your fit is requiring you to put your back, neck, shoulders and head in a position that is strained and non-neutral. You've had some good suggestions and I will repeat and expand on them. As long as your seat height and fore/aft placement are correct for your legs and your frame is sized properly you are looking at a fit issue in your stem and bars. You may be leaning to far over (requiring you to strain your head and neck up awkwardly to look down road) and may need to adjust your stem height (ie spacers under the stem), or stem rise (ie the actual angle in degrees that your stem rises or falls away). You may also me too far stretched out because your stem length is too long which also puts a bunch of unnatural forces/strains on the neck and shoulders.

So, how to fix these possibilities? First, consider getting some fit help from someone who REALLY knows what they are doing (not necessarily Mr Joe-friendly-make-a-suggestion but a really knowledgeable fitter). They (or many here if you post a photo) can analyze your current setup to deduce the problem/adjustment. Next, your adjustment options are fairly simple and some can be totally DYI experiment). Is your stem flipped so it points down rather than up? Try flipping it back so the angle rises and puts you more upright (this often is a good fix). If no help then you probably need a new stem. If that is the case, you ought to determine if your stem length is correct.

If you are too outstretched it again places unnatural and painful forces on the head, neck, shoulders, back and hands. A lot of LBS sell floor build bikes w/o properly fitting the stem length to the customer. Sad but true... When you determine stem length, then determine what angle rise will best suit you. Now here is where you should play with options. Given the appropriate stem length you can easily buy a stem with a couple shims that allow you to change the rise w/in a good set of angles (Specialized and others sell them). These are a no-brainer for people trying to perfect a setup and transition slowly into their "ideal." A new stem of this variety is like $50 so no biggie. Chances are, your probs can be solved solely by a stem change. Risers and bar changes MAY be an issue but that is probably secondary and certainly only addressed with some view of your current setup...

Good luck, and a pic says a bunch!

edit: Forgot to mention bar rotation which is also a big potential prob. Make sure your bars are not rotated forward/down. The top of the flats should be about level in comparison to the ground. If anything other than flat they should rotate back toward the saddle slightly rather than away from it. This keeps your front weighting even and keeps you from perpetually sliding forward...

Last edited by HokuLoa; 08-15-11 at 11:45 AM. Reason: forgot info
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Old 08-16-11, 08:39 AM   #13
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Thanks for the info- I will try and get a picture for more assistance.
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Old 08-16-11, 10:42 PM   #14
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Yikes, I musta had a lot of coffee yesterday morn. Looooooong post...
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