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Aggravating Existing Shoulder Injury

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Aggravating Existing Shoulder Injury

Old 08-13-20, 01:54 PM
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bryguy27007
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Aggravating Existing Shoulder Injury

I injured both of my shoulders rock climbing 2 years ago. I went to get it checked out and my official diagnoses were shoulder instability resulting from a subluxation. I almost certainty did damage to or tore my rotator cuff or labrum in both shoulders but never got a MRI. My left shoulder still acts up after going through PT. I ride a Raleigh Clubman Alloy and have started bike commuting to work every day (15 miles round trip). I'm mostly on bike paths and there are a lot of jarring bumps that have left my shoulder hurting. Does anybody have any tips for mitigating pain and damage to the shoulder?

I searched on the forum and elsewhere and found some advice. Most people are talking about biking giving them shoulder pain verses aggravating an existing injury, but there are definitely some people in a similar situation to me. I just brought my seat forward a bit, flipped my -7* stem upwards instead, and rotated the handlebars (drops but I'm on the hoods most of the time) upwards to try and get a more upright position - these were all tips from somebody who works in a bike store that also had shoulder injuries. I try to keep my shoulders engaged while riding like I do while climbing and I try and unweight the bars when going over bumps and hover my hands a millimeter above them and grab them if I need to. I have never had a professional bike fit and I don't know how long it would take to get an appointment but that is a possibility - although I would rather avoid it during COVID.

I have heard cushy padded bar tape and/or gloves can absorb some of that shock, or even padded bike shorts (which I don't have yet). Any experience with this? I rode my friend's bike with a carbon fork and that seemed to be a smoother ride. My dream bike is something like the Specialized Diverge with Future Shock but that's not in budget as of now - maybe if I keep up the commuting for a full year. I've considered commuting on a cheap mountain bike which doesn't hurt my shoulders but I don't have one and they all seem to be out of stock. In the meantime has anybody else with shoulder injuries found ways to prevent further injury from cycling?

I'm still working on strengthening my shoulder but looking for advice in the meantime.

Last edited by bryguy27007; 08-13-20 at 02:03 PM.
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Old 08-13-20, 03:15 PM
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To deal with tender/crampy hands ince my 40s I've been padding my bars with foam pipe insulation, and then wearing cotton gloves.
Here's a link:

How to add padding to drop bars?

I don't know if this will help you, but it costs less than $10 to try.

But I think a recumbent or at least crank forward would take the pressure off your shoulder and give you a whole new set of issues to deal with.

There are plenty of 700 two-wheel recumbents that should provide a more bike-like experience than say a small-wheel recumbent trike.
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Old 08-13-20, 04:09 PM
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You want to take this to a sports orthopedist. They do no surgery, charge much lower fees, are in the lower paid specialty because they believe in what they do. They are interested in your case. At minimum talk to your PT. Don’t understand why you would have left PT before your shoulder was fully resolved.

Padding on bars or heavily padded gloves is mostly about a larger diameter blunting and spreading the blows from handlebar. Better than nothing. Try instead just getting weight off your hands. Don’t lean on the bars, pull on the bars. Don’t ride passive. Unweighting the bars for bumps is good, lifting the bars is better.

Carbon frames and forks are all over the map. Most are very very stiff. Some of those that promise a softer ride deliver a softer ride. Impossible to predict, only a test ride tells. Your friend’s bike felt good not because it was carbon but because it was all round a better bike. Consider extra light steel and massive fork rake.

For free you can let some air out of your tires. Wider tires and more supple tires deliver a softer ride. The most cushy tires are the ones from Rene Herse. Expensive and a lot cheaper than surgery.
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Old 08-13-20, 06:37 PM
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How much weight do you put on your hands?

Ordinarily, shoulder pain results from straight arms and/or too much weight on arms. The cure is typically to ride with elbows bent and less weight on hands. One can reduce weight on arms by strengthening one's core, but I expect a climber's core is in good shape. What do you think?
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Old 08-14-20, 12:53 AM
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Very familiar challenges. My neck was broken in 2001, and reinjured in 2018 when I was hit by a car, also breaking and dislocating my shoulder. Recovery took much longer than I'd have expected and it's an ongoing process. I spent a few months in physical therapy last year and continue doing PT on my own at home every day -- stretching and range of motion every day at a minimum. Body weight exercises, etc., 2-3 times a week, including kettle bell type exercises using jugs fill with water (about 20 lbs each).

Lots of massage using a long handled dual headed percussion massager, usually with some sort of topical analgesic (I like Ted's Pain Cream, and sometimes add plain ol' DMSO and some CBD balm).

It never completely stopped aching and is worse with rapid barometric pressure changes in advance of storms. But some days it's not too bad.

Padded shorts will help. Ditto good bar wrap, the foam type often referred to as "cork" although real cork is pretty rare now. I also liked Arundel Synth Gecko and similar silicone wraps that don't need adhesive and can easily be rewrapped.

Tires and tubes help a lot as well. I've switched around a bit over the years and for the past year have been pretty happy with Continental GP Classic skinwalls, which are 700x25 only. I'd go wider if I could but my old school road bikes won't take larger than 700x25.

Recently I switched one bike to latex tubes just to see if they lived up to the hype. I immediately noticed an improvement in reduction of road chatter and vibration on chipseal and rough pavement. No idea if they're really faster since I'm not particularly fast. But they are more comfortable. Pricey (around $15 each from Silca, but there are other makers) but worthwhile for the comfort for me.

I usually run tire pressure lower than I did years ago. With the Conti GP Classics and latex tubes, around 80-100 psi rear, 60-80 psi front. The ride doesn't feel any more sluggish at lower pressure so I tend to ride around 85 rear/70 front. At 150 lbs I could go lower but I'm okay with what I'm doing now. If I make any other change it'll probably be to tubeless.

I wouldn't suggest a saddle change if your bum is satisfied with your current saddle. Try padded shorts first. I did get somewhat more padded shorts and saddles after losing about 25 lbs -- less cushion around my sit bones. But it was tricky finding a saddle that suited me. So I'm reluctant to change saddles if what I'm riding seems okay. But I'm willing to change bar wraps, tires, tubes, etc.

I usually ride 20-30 miles, and about once a week do 50-75 miles. That's about my limit. Beyond 75 miles the neck and shoulder pain quickly sap all the fun out of riding, so I might do a full century once a year just for the heckuvit.
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Old 08-14-20, 02:06 PM
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I have had surgery on one shoulder (4 torn tendons including rotator cuff and bicep), and am going in for an MRI next Monday for the other shouder which was injured in March. Both injuries were from bike and skiing crashes. When I was rehabbing my shoulder surgery, a friend recommended using CX brake levers on my bike, which gives a more upright riding position, and takes some of the pressure off my shoulders. I liked them so well they are on all 3 of my touring bikes. The levers also provide a good position for commuting, especially in busy traffic. Tilting the nose of the saddle up a couple of mm will also tend to take some of the pressure off the shoulder. If you can raise the bars closer to the height of the saddle this will help.

This riding position is pretty comfortable for long days in the saddle. My wife and I usually take at least one multi-month tour a year. The longest tour, after I had surgery, was 2 months, averaging 50+ miles a day including rest days. The longest after I hurt my other shoulder, was six weeks, and I did OK, but I want to get it fixed before our next long ride. This is the year to do with the virus turmoil. It is not too bad for day rides, but I have been going through PT for the last 6 weeks.






This is actually a CX bike that is set up for touring. It is my favorite touring bike.


The saddle is about level with the bars on this bike. When bought the frame it came with an uncut steerer tube which gave me a lot of flexibility when I was building it up.

Last edited by Doug64; 08-14-20 at 02:38 PM.
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Old 08-14-20, 05:13 PM
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Thanks for the input everybody, this is exactly the type of info I was looking for.

The foam padding on the bar tape looks interesting but I might just try the cork bar/synth gecko tape first, seems easy enough. I'll have to order bike shorts too. Not really interested in a recumbent for now although I am curious to see what it feels like to peddle one at some point. I'm riding 28mm tires now and I haven't checked if I have room for more clearance but I'll look into the Rene Herse tires and the latex tubes. I try to keep my arms bent and do a pretty good job at that but I definitely have a decent amount of weight on them and there are a couple really jarring bumps that I can't unweight my hands for (2 in particular) that maybe I should just switch to the road for those and avoid the curb bumps. My core isn't particularly strong so that's good to know I can try and get back into doing core workouts as well. The CX brake levers are an interesting idea too, I have a friend that has those mounted and I didn't even think that it could be beneficial for shoulders.

I am already starting to see some improvements from raising/angling the handlebars and moving the seat up (I had trouble getting the seat to angle up so I'll try that again) and all of these recommendations should help a lot. Hopefully everybody else keeps making progress on their shoulder recovery!
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Old 08-14-20, 11:36 PM
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BTW, another trick... use an old inner tube, cut into strips like handlebar wrap. Use it directly against the handlebar. Then wrap a more cosmetically appealing bar wrap over the tube wrap. It'll really cut down on the vibration while adding only a little more thickness. Much cheaper than stuff like the pricey Fizik gel pads, or double wrapping cork foam bar wrap.

I used inner tube wrap by itself for a few months in 2017, but the carbon black used in butyl tubes causes black smudges on everything. But it works great under other handlebar wrap.
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Old 08-17-20, 04:19 AM
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I completely tore my rotator cuff and had surgery back in 2013. I was told not to ride for at least 6 months, which I obeyed, and during the final visit I asked about any precautions I should take. The surgeon did a lot of surgery on tri-ahtletes (I'm not one) and had two recommendations:
  1. Don't fall! On the bike or off the bike, be more careful about falling. Any weak shoulder part is not going to enjoy hitting the ground.
  2. Make your your bike fit is right. A good bike fit will mean you aren't leaning too far forward. Just as you shouldn't sleep on the repaired side, you shouldn't have continual pressure on it while biking. If you are in a good position on the bike, vibrations and the like will do no damage.
Of course, I never set out on a ride thinking "Maybe I'll try to fall this time".... I did become more wimpy on downhills to lower the chance of falling.

I was pretty confident about the bike fit I had tuned over many years but realized the geometry on my Trek 520 touring bike had me leaning pretty far forward. "Endurance bikes" had started to come out by then, with a bit more upright position. I bought a Trek Domane that came with a professional bike fit - and the fitter ended up leveling my seat (I had it slightly tilted forward) to reduce my leaning forward on my hands, among other tweaks.

No shoulder issues in 10,000+ miles of biking since then - if you can get a professional fitting, I highly recommend it.
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Old 08-17-20, 06:03 AM
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Originally Posted by bryguy27007 View Post
I've considered commuting on a cheap mountain bike which doesn't hurt my shoulders but I don't have one and they all seem to be out of stock. In the meantime has anybody else with shoulder injuries found ways to prevent further injury from cycling?

I'm still working on strengthening my shoulder but looking for advice in the meantime.
Sounds like the best solution for you. Find a used hard tail MTB if nothing is in stock.
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Old 08-17-20, 12:47 PM
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Okay a lot of great advice here. I bought 2 pairs of padded shorts and a pair of padded, fingerless gloves. I also ordered the Rene Herse tires and went up to 32. I think I might try that inner tube trick under the bar tape. Next up doesn't have to do with my shoulders but want to try clipless SPD pedals. I do have all my commuting gear on a rear rack including water (no water bottle cages) which makes my bike extremely back heavy. I do think I might want to rebalance at least by getting water bottle cages and maybe also a top tube bag to center the weight a little more. I can feel the back of the bike slip out on turns at high speed. Good advice to not fall off!

Excited to try this stuff out, thanks everybody!
Still interested in the mountain bike at some point (also because I like mountain biking) but just casually putting feelers out to see if friends are selling one.
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