Thursday, March 17, 2011
Shouldering the pain
The pain in my shoulder has been getting too much lately so I decided to get some help. I normally see a physio at work, Paloma, who is brilliant but the other 6,500 employees seem to think so to, so it is often difficult to get an appointment, unless it is in the middle of the work day which I am reluctant to do. Instead, I called A Mano Fisios who are able to come to my house at whatever antisocial time best suits me. Marta turned up with a foldable massage bed and, despite her unassuming size, she gave me a very tough massage which was just the right side of being intollerably painful. I'd rather have to put up with a lot of pain during a concentrated and controlled period of time than have it creep up on me during an otherwise taxing training session (or competition, for that matter). It made me realize, though, how serious the problem was - the muscles in my shoulder blade were knotted like an old sailor's rope. I find it curious how much pain you can tollerate by breathing heavily - I wonder, where does this link come from? Is it an evolutionary trait inherited from the labour of childbirth?
Marta prescribed me some exercises to do with one of those big rubber bands to strengthen the muscles but, what was most helpful, was that she pointed out something that was probably obvious to anyone but myself. The shoulder separation I have not only means my shoulder hangs down slightly lower, but my shoulder blade itself tends to stick out the back - something I wasn't aware of as I can't see it myself. She showed me how, by bringing my shoulder back slightly, I could reposition it and she told me that this is what I should aim to do while on the bike. It makes perfect sense: when I am doing active work with my shoulder it tends to position itself correctly - swimming and running are not a problem, for example - but on the bike, the work is more passive, the arms and shoulders have to balance the work of the legs and respond to shocks in the road. As a result, I tend to have a "lazy" posture, one which means that the muscles are at a disadvantage when responding to what is required of them. I have to make a conscious effort to position the shoulder correctly when I am on the bike, without tensing it up, of course. I also have to be aware of my posture while I am at my desk at work for the very same reasons.
I also bought some bar ends for my mountain bike, which give me an alternative (and more comfortable) hand position. Its too early to say whether all these measures are enough to tide me over until the Ironman, but I had no shoulder pain this morning during the two hour ride I did before work, so the early indications are good.