“Cyclist’s Syndrome” – Part 1 (The Intro.)
Cycling is traditionally known as a pain sport. Weakness is pain leaving the body right? Not when it comes to pain “down there”. Many cyclists may call it “groin pain” or “saddle pain”. In the medical world we call it “pelvic pain” or “cyclists syndrome”.
We’re not talking about the hip bones here, but maybe the sit bones. Or better yet, what lies between them. Sure, both guys and gals, may have a little saddle discomfort and maybe even numbness when they head out for the first ride of the season. You gotta build up a tolerance, right? Wrong, numbness or discomfort should not last longer than the ride and certainly not if it starts to manifest in unexpected ways.
Perhaps it starts as a little soreness just inside the sit bones or in the perineum, that muscle that sits right on the saddle, stretching from sit bone to sit bone. Some feel it deeper inside and swear it’s their prostate or bladder. For some it can feel sharp or electrical in nature, making it almost impossible to sit. Maybe their bladder becomes the size of a walnut, feeling like they have to go pee every 30 minutes, but hardly anything comes out! Sensitivity in the clitoris, urethrae or at the tip of the penis can occur, causing them to think that perhaps they have a bladder or prostate infection.
These symptoms are not normal and may not go away, but only get worse if left untreated. A good bike fit, proper shorts and a slow ramp up in your cycling routine can help deter this from happening. However, changing your saddle or avoiding cycling all together is unlikely to fix the problem. Besides, who wants to stay off their bike, especially when you just got that sweet new component you’ve been waiting all winter to try out.
You may be thinking, man I’ve heard rumors of erectile dysfunction, but I’ve never heard of anything like this associated with cycling! Most people are too nervous to bring it up with their doctor, much less a cycling buddy. Then to make matters worse, if they do bring it up with a doctor they may hear that everything checks out fine and it’s either all in their head, or there’ s a mysterious infection they can’t find, but will treat anyway.
The good news is that the words “pelvic pain” and “cyclists syndrome” are not mysterious to your pelvic physical therapist. You may not find one of these therapists in the same clinic you went to when you had that IT band problem. The work they do is a little more, shall we say, intimate. They have expertise in the function of your pelvic floor muscles and can train you to regain the proper motor control you need to get back in the saddle again. This typically means an internal examination, yes – that is exactly what you think it is and if you’re confused please contact me and I’ll explain in more depth. A good pelvic physical therapist will also assess the mobility of the connective tissue around the sit bones and the entire pelvis to make sure nothing is stuck and that the proper blood flow is getting in.
So remember, no pain no gain may end up meaning pelvic pain. If you or someone you love is suffering, get the word out. Learn more at www.pelvicpainrehab.com, or contact the author, Liz Miracle McBride PT of the Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center.
Written by – Liz McBride
“Cartoon” by – Sean Hartter