The Untold True Story of My Pinched Nerve From Cycling

The Untold True Story of My Pinched Nerve From CyclingOn June 7th of this year, I biked 123.95 km to Hamilton as part of the Ride to Conquer Cancer. My previously longest ride was a little over 60 km. That means I doubled my longest distance ever and I felt great.

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My legs weren't sore, I wasn't overly tired and I was rather pleased with myself. I had a training plan, I stuck to it, and I reaping the reward. I was ready for day two and the final 103.38 km of my journey.

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I was probably about 50 km away from the finish line at Ontario Place when I noticed my fingers were numb. I chalked it up to the constant vibrations from so much biking in two days. Then, with about 30 km to go, I started feeling a sharp pain in my upper back under my shoulder blade. But with 30 km to go in a 230 km quest, I wasn't about to slow down.

I finished my ride with no pain in my lower body, but this sharp pain in my upper back and completely number fingertips. But I finished, and I was happy. Off to brunch I went with my family.

ride

I took the next day off, but went for a couple of 20+ km rides on the Tuesday. The sharp pain in the upper back returned, morphing into numbness mere minutes after completing my ride. My fingertips remained numb. I decided to take two more days off, finishing off the week with a couple of 23 km rides.

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I was able to bike about 20 km painfree before the sharp pain and numbness struck. Because I'm an idiot, I banged my head against this wall 8 more times until I realized I needed to take a break. When severe pain strikes, biking ceases to be pleasurable, as you can imagine. In hindsight, I don't know why I rode in pain for so long.

Following my ride on June 25, I promised myself I wouldn't touch my bike for an entire week. When I resumed biking on July 3, I capped my rides at 15 km for a couple of weeks. The back pain never returned, and my fingertips eventually got their feeling back.

I've Googled the mess out of this, and as far as I can tell I had a pinched nerve. I don't know if it was due to poor posture or simply a result of biking 230 km over two days. I do know it was extremely painful and to this day I won't bike over 30 km at a time for fear of it returning.

Has anyone else experienced a pinched nerve from cycling?


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Comments (31 - click here to join in!)

elvis

Have you gone to a doctor?

September 8, 2014 @ 1:48 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@elvis

Had it not started to feel better after taking the week off, I would have gone to the doctor.

But no, I haven't seen a doctor about this.

September 8, 2014 @ 1:49 PM

elvis

Seems like it would be a good idea to go see one.

September 8, 2014 @ 2:05 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@elvis

Even if I'm biking about 100 km a week now, pain free?

September 8, 2014 @ 2:08 PM

Gump

As witnessed by your "retro" biking approach(clips on your pedals - is this 1973?), you really haven't spent much time and/or money on optimizing your ride, either your bike or your positioning.
From my days doing heavy riding, correct posture is essential for longer/harder riding. Nearly everybody can bike without pain, but as you increase your mileage and intensity, riding posture matters. I'm knowledge on biking stores in Toronto is old so perhaps others can chime in, but I would invest a few dollars on getting some expert advice on a proper bike setup - handlebar and seat stem length, seat positioning, etc. It will, of course, feel weird at the beginning, but over time you'll see the wisdom of their effort with decreased pain, increased power and aerodynamics.
While you are at it, modernize your bike. Later you'll wonder how you ever lived without the new accessories.

September 8, 2014 @ 2:15 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Gump

You're correct, my toe clips are from 1991.

The bike, however, is only 2.5 years old.

I suspect you're right, my posture / setup is insufficient for longer rides.

September 8, 2014 @ 2:24 PM

Gump

Sorry to sound negative... 99.9% of biking is getting out there and riding, regardless of equipment (just like PeeWee Herman).
I just remember that I enjoyed riding on my lightweight Vitus/Dura-Ace setup much more than my lead Raleigh/cheap Campagnolo gruppo.

September 8, 2014 @ 2:28 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

Here's the bike in question:

September 8, 2014 @ 2:30 PM

Argie

@Mike
You need a real bike. Since you take this seriously, for your health and further enjoyment you should get a much better bike.

I'm sure there are many top quality 2nd hand bike out there, online.

September 8, 2014 @ 2:35 PM

Gump

While you are at it, bookmark the following page for your inevitable mid-life crisis purchase.

September 8, 2014 @ 2:37 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Argie

It's an Escape 2 from Giant, hybrid bike you can buy for about $500.

http://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-ca/bikes/model/escape.2/17613/73407/

Almost all my rides now are 15-25 km in length, so I think this bike is fine so long as I don't dramatically increase that.

September 8, 2014 @ 2:38 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Gump

I think my inevitable mid-life crisis purchase is going to be a kayak.

September 8, 2014 @ 2:39 PM

elvis

Bring it up during your next annual physical. And if you don't get them, fucking book one. Don't be a hero.

September 8, 2014 @ 3:37 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@elvis

Yes, I get an annual physical. I had one in March.

I'll bring this up at the next one.

September 8, 2014 @ 3:44 PM

Drunk Johnny Fever

Not going to see a doctor is just INSANE
You live in Ontario IT'S FREE NO COST
Family doctor,walk in clinic...since June..
When you do see a doctor and if something is wrong,you have NO right to complain or blame it on someone/something else.

September 8, 2014 @ 4:37 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Drunk Johnny Fever

I don't know if it's insane.

And I haven't really complained. This happened in early June and I only told my wife and mom about in conversations before today.

I'm really just sharing in case anyone had similar symptoms and wants to compare notes.

September 8, 2014 @ 4:42 PM

Sammi

Any strange numbness should be checked out, in my opinion.

September 8, 2014 @ 6:29 PM

this guest

Mike check it out now.

September 8, 2014 @ 7:23 PM

this guest

I've Googled the mess out of this, and as far as I can tell I had a pinched nerve.

(cough)
nerve damage
(cough)

further immediate investigation warrented

September 8, 2014 @ 7:27 PM

this guest

sorry, 'warranted'

September 8, 2014 @ 7:28 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

I really appreciate the concern, but everything from cause to symptoms to treatment suggest it was a pinched nerve. I had the pain, the numbness, the tingling and the burning.

And simply taking a week off biking and shortening my rides seems to have fixed it, which virtually confirms my suspicions.

But maybe I will see a doctor, just to be on the safe side.

September 8, 2014 @ 7:43 PM

this guest

90% it's what you think it is
but there's a chance it's 'impacting'
something else.
Good plan to check it out!

September 8, 2014 @ 7:56 PM

JB

Mike, I just had the same thing, Numb thumb and Index finger is a pinched C7 nerve. Go to a Dr and get a note for physio. Worked out all the kinks and I'm good as new!

It may feel OK now but it will come back if you don't address the cause.

September 8, 2014 @ 8:14 PM

Gump

@Mike
I'm on doctor, but it is obviously... lupus.

September 8, 2014 @ 9:43 PM


Aurora Bob

Amazing how much medical advice is dispensed via the internet... In a province that offers health care to everyone at NO COST, we still google something?

On the other hand, I do about 50km every day and have no pain no numbness. But then, that's in a car.

September 9, 2014 @ 9:23 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Aurora Bob

How many calories did you burn in your car?

How much muscle did you strengthen?

How much gas did you burn?

Oh, and I enjoyed a pain-free 20 km ride yesterday and it felt great.

September 9, 2014 @ 9:30 AM

markosaar

Straight handlebars are atrocious for the reason you've described.

You don't HAVE to get drops (though I would endorse them), but practically any other configuration is superior for long rides because it means you can change your hand position and avoid the numbness. On my drops, I primarily ride on the horns, but switch to the flat part if I'm getting sore, and the drops are nice to have if I want to sprint, or if I'm biking into the wind.

You can't easily convert a hybrid with mountain bike parts to drops because of the components. It would get too expensive.

If not a road bike, consider a CX bike. It's a bike designed for racing off-road, and uses road-bike parts. They have clearance for wider tires, and braze-ons for racks and other accessories. New, decent ones run from $900-1600+. Kona Jakes are a decent baseline. Obviously cheaper second hand.

September 10, 2014 @ 9:13 PM

markosaar

Sidenote, it's just really convenient to have two bikes, so one is always ready to go. But the ideal number is always n+1.

September 10, 2014 @ 9:15 PM

Geoff

My right hand and parts of my right arm have been numb for about a month after a week of cycling in Finger Lakes. I have been off the bike for weeks. It's from a pinched nerve in my back. I've been getting massages and chiro appointments for a while now and it is definitely getting better. Don't think I'll be back on the bike this year which is a pain as that's my transportation to work (and everything else).

September 11, 2014 @ 12:15 PM

Spine Surgery Los Angeles

Hey Toronto Mike,
I have never experience a pinched nerve while doing a relatively taxing physical activity like cycling. If you are ever in the area I highly recommend Dr. Yashar- a top neurosurgeon Los Angeles has to offer. Thanks for sharing and best of luck!

August 9, 2018 @ 7:04 PM

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