Today I received a call from a woman who had found my website by doing an extensive internet search about serious vertigo that her ultracyclist husband was experiencing. It turned out that she had just found out that I live near Raleigh, NC, where she and her husband live, and she wanted to know if I actually see clients, or do I only have an internet business that sells books and DVDs. The timing was perfect and so an hour later we were meeting each other.
Cyclists spend hours leaning all the way forward in what is called the aerodynamic position. If you cycle, you can feel how your body is pulled all the way down by the handlebars, and your head is pulled all the way back so you can see where you’re going. The repetitive strain on your neck muscles is complicated by the fact that your head weighs about 8-10 lbs, and you’re wearing a helmet that adds even more weight onto your curled cervical bones and tight muscles.
As you bring your head back, the muscles that go from your mid-upper back to your skull have to contract, and then as you hold your head that way for hours, the muscles actually shorten. Finally you stop riding, you try to stand up straight, and you can’t. You walk around bent-over for awhile, and your head and neck just ache, in fact, you may not be able to turn your head because the muscles are just too short to enable you to move.
You can read about the bent over problem on my website (we’ll talk about it another time), but getting back to Jim, the ultracyclist who met with me today. His neck felt like a tube filled with big round rocks and tight ropes, and just touching it made him wince. But endurance athletes are able to handle pain better than most people, so while his leg was tapping fast on the floor, and his face was all squinched up, he still did his very best to relax. It took over an hour to press out the lactic acid from each of the muscles and then teach him how to continue the treatments at home. The good news is that Jim was able to turn his head, even fast back and forth, and he was fine. He was one happy man!
A few posts ago I wrote about tinnitus. Vertigo is caused by the same muscle, the sternocleidomastoid (SCM for short). If you have vertigo, I suggest you look for the tinnitus post and read it, you’ll definitely benefit reading it.
If you’re a cyclist, and if you have neck pain, press on each of the muscles of your neck, all the way from the base of your skull and down to the middle of your back, and then from behind your ear to the top of your shoulder blade (move if you feel a pulse under your fingertips). Hold the pressure for at least a minute, maybe even two minutes, and you’ll start to feel the tension in your muscle release.
BTW, after working with Jim and his wife Sally, we decided that I should teach a Pain Free Athlete clinic in Raleigh. I’ll let you know when it’s together, but we’re looking at October. If you’re in the area I hope you’ll come.
Wishing you well,