The Challenge of Making It Through Injury

Since the beginning of November I have been dealing with a right elbow injury. I had been dealing with it for a month or two before but continued to ride through the pain. Actually, riding the bike is not painful but afterwards my elbow joint and the tendons below it do not thank me. This is especially evident when doing certain movements like pulling up the zipper on my coat or carrying grocery bags. My arm just painfully gives out. In mid-November, I made the decision to get off the bike entirely to rest with the exception of one ride to finish the Coffeeneuring Challenge. This ride was very painful when I squeezed my hand using the brakes. It didn’t help that I was riding my Blue Norcross with cantilever brakes. Needless to say, it does stop very well without really grabbing onto the brakes with all my might. That very painful sort of “pulled muscle feeling radiating down my arm to my elbow quickly followed. My self-diagonsis is tendonitis and possibly a minor elbow sprain.

My lonely Salsa Vaya without it's rider, Photo by The DCyclist

My lonely Salsa Vaya without it’s rider, Photo by The DCyclist

I attempted to figure out what caused this injury. There was no crash or sudden stabbing pain, just a slow building agony. Maybe this was caused by bike fit? I doubt it. I had both my bikes professionally fit by District Cycle Works with great results this past year. It could be due to riding style. I have noticed I have a tendency to “stiff arm” on the hoods especially when I start to get tired. This forces a lot of shock and vibration directly into my arms. My riding style definitely needs to be reevaluated once I get back on the bike. But is that it?

While at work, my arm has gotten sore while using my computer so I had my office order a trackball mouse. I am also considering a standing desk to help address some ergonomic issues with my work space. Does my arm hurt at work because it is hurt or does it hurt because this is the cause of the problem? I don’t know but I am utilizing a tried and true method: The Shotgun Approach. Maybe it’s time to switch things up.

The worst part about this is….I miss my bike. bike commuting, and riding with my friends. Right now, I am riding the bus to work everyday which makes me “bus sick”. Since I rarely drive now I have noticed that I get motion sickness much more easily than I used to. The bus is just an enhance form of this temporary ailment.

Not knowing what the problem with my elbow is frustrating. I know what you are thinking, “Go to the doctor!!!!”. I would but I have had little success with doctors and these types of soft tissue injuries in the past. They just never seem to help much beyond “here is a prescription for a inflammatory and call me if it gets worse”. Plus, I have a friend who recently had elbow trouble, went to the doctor who gave him a cortisone shot, and later developed a staph infection. No thanks Mr. Doctor Man. I am just going to wait this out.

I can't wait to return to this feeling. Photo by Susan Borja

I can’t wait to return to this feeling. Photo by Susan Borja

My elbow is improving albeit slowly. However, I have asked myself “Will I always be fighting this?” “Will I just always ride with this pain?” “Maybe you should just cowboy the f@&k up and ride” I felt very much the same way last year when I was battling plantar fasciitis. This problem has largely been fixed with a bike fitting so there is hope. I type this as the tendon connecting my hand to my elbow hurts when I pick up my coffee cup. All I know is that it isn’t right and it’s painful when I least expect to be.

Once I am back on the bike I will have to reassess my riding style. I also plan to change out the brakes on the Norcross for a linear pull design which should make the lever feel lighter and easier to manage for my hands.

For the moment, I miss riding my bike, I miss my friends, and the comradery of riding. I just wish I could go back to feeling the way I use to feel but there is little I can do about it except sit here and wait. I may even cave in and go to the doctor soon.

As I get older, it seems like I am more susceptible to soft tissue injuries. As time continues to draw out, I am discovering how the mental game of healing is almost as difficult on the phyiscal aspect. I plan to ride the WABA Cider Ride on December 6th. This will be used as a barometer for how my healing has progressed. Until then, rest, heating pads, and compression sleeves are my friends.

Has anyone else dealt with this type of injury?




4 thoughts on “The Challenge of Making It Through Injury

  1. It sounds like some kind of repetitive strain injury, like tendonitis. I’ve known many musicians who get this injury, and they go one of three routes: 1) stop playing altogether, 2) explore therapy like the Alexander Technique (there are professionals certified in this technique), or 3) go to a doctor who specializes in this type of injury, such as an orthopedist or a sports medicine professional. Obviously, I don’t recommend #1, but I hope you can find some relief soon so you can get back on the saddle!

  2. You really should go to a doctor. I’ve had all kinds of tendon injuries like this. Ilio tibial band syndrome drove me nuts . The cure came with NSAIDs, targeted mild stretching, and ice whenever it flared up.

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  3. For my injuries, my orthopedist has always recommended physical therapy (before drugs or surgery). He writes a prescription for it so it’s covered by my insurance. I spent 2 months at a place in Dupont to regain strength and flexibility after I broke my elbow.

    PS: let me know if you need a lift to the cider ride.

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