We all understand the importance of checking over our bike after a crash or a long winter of cycling to make sure that every part is in good working order, but have you ever considered that your body also needs a maintenance check?
If you aren’t experiencing any pain or dysfunction, you might wonder why you need to get a check-up – but first you need to understand a little about injuries.
The first type of injury is ‘acute’: a form of sudden injury such as a broken bone that might be caused by a crash or collision. The second injury type is ‘chronic’: this develops over time and can start as an area of tightness that progresses to niggling soreness and can become painful if left untreated.
Acute injuries are normally easy to detect – if you have broken your leg you’re going to know about it! However, chronic injuries can be trickier to identify and harder to treat and manage. As chronic injuries develop over time it can be hard to establish what caused them in the first place, and often the place you feel pain might not be the initial injury site.
If you have a crash or are involved in a collision it is important to get a thorough check over as soon as possible for any acute injuries or concussion, but in the immediate aftermath of a crash, less serious issues such as areas of bruising or soft-tissue damage might not be picked up. However, soft-tissue damage can cause stiffness and body imbalance, which if ignored can lead to chronic injuries over time.
Our bodies are constantly adapting to our environment and how we move. Research from BUPA showed that two-thirds of British home workers forced to work from home during lockdown developed pain or discomfort. Often people don’t notice there is a problem until there is pain, but it can be picked up earlier if you are seen by the right person.
Who do you see for a check-up?
As with finding a good mechanic you trust with your bike, once you find someone to check you over it is worth building a relationship with them. Seeing the same person regularly helps them get to know you, your lifestyle, sporting goals and how your body responds to treatment.
Sports massage therapist
Sports massage isn’t just about recovery from your strenuous bike rides, a good massage therapist can also assist in correcting imbalances in soft tissue caused by repetitive movements or by trauma, such as a bike crash. Having a regular massage with the same person means that over time your therapist will be able to spot changes in your body’s soft tissues that need attention. A monthly massage appointment is really good for supporting your recovery from cycling and keeping on top of any minor niggles, so that they don’t progress into pain or injuries.
A sports physiotherapist has a wide range of tools in their box for treating injuries, soft-tissue damage and pain. Firstly, a physio will always take a holistic approach and analyse your movement, lifestyle and symptoms before creating a treatment plan. A physio can offer very hands-on skills but will also suggest rehabilitation exercises for you to do yourself. Most people visit physios for specific issues but having a routine check-up every 6-12 months will help to keep you in great shape and injury free. You can book a private appointment and do not need a referral through your doctor.
Strength and conditioning coach
A strength and conditioning coach will look specifically at the demands your sport or lifestyle has on your body and any areas of weakness or imbalance that need work. They are a fairly standard part of the team set-up for any professional cyclist and, increasingly, amateur sports people are realising the benefit. By carefully assessing your body, a coach will set a conditioning program that can help to improve your performance as a cyclist but also help you to build a body that is more balanced and less susceptible to injury.
If you had a bike fit when you first bought your bike you may think you don’t need another one, but our bodies change over time so your bike fit needs to be updated. Injuries, crashes and ageing all affect how flexible and balanced our bodies are and therefore what position we can achieve on our bikes. A bike-fit expert will analyse your body on and off your bike, then help adjust your bike position to best suit any changes in your body, ensuring it remains comfortable.
Prevention is better than cure
Don’t wait until you start to feel pain, weakness or discomfort in your body before you see an expert. If you have a crash make sure you get checked over for minor, as well as major injuries. Having a routine check-up to make sure your body is healthy and in ‘good working order’ is the best way of avoiding injuries and ensuring many more happy years of bike riding.
Got a great massage therapist? Is your physio a genius at fixing your aches and pains? Why not share your story with the rest of the Cycle-SOS community on Twitter or on our Facebook page.