Pelvic pain and cycling? Finding Soft Power

I became a PT partially because I was fascinated with the science and art of healing from my own injuries and the connection I had with my first PT. I have been through a lot of injuries and painful times in my life when despite rest and more effort I only got back in the same place.

Back and pelvic pain is something that afflicts a lot more cyclists than would like to admit. A lot of us amateurs approach training time sandwiched in between work and family as trying to work harder to get more out of it. This adds to the physical stress not to mention missing out on the enjoyment of our solitary training or group rides. 

Pain is a whole picture, it is not just tight muscles. The pain is effected by what you believe is causing the pain and the beliefs around the pain such as "my pelvic pain is preventing me from doing the thing that connects me to my friends and my primary way to express my self." This is where I was a few years ago and these negative pain beliefs took the place of the positive benefits I was getting from this activity. I felt helpless.

Just acknowledging what your beliefs are and reading them on a piece of paper was a step that was hugely beneficial and was a foundation to me moving on from my pain.

There is just as much mental work as there are physical steps to overcoming pain. The main thing is you have to own your obstacles and use them as opportunities. 

I found it beneficial to go through some cognitive coaching through books but also counselors and psychologists can be beneficial. 

Some resources I found hugely beneficial to putting a language to my pain were

thework.com, a practical approach to identifying the beliefs and dethorning the cognitive side around your pain so you can move forward with changing the way you are moving the body.

Also the books by David Wise including Paradoxical Relaxation, and Headache in the Pelvis.

My mentor Claudia von Hammerstein, a physical therapist here in Portland says that pain in the pelvis is very important to deal with the mental aspects to be able to change the manifestation of that pain in the body. To my physical therapy colleagues, pain education is an important area we can help people as we train them on physical aspects, also having a partnership with a good counselor and mental therapist if the issues are deeper than we are able to address.

When it comes to getting back to what you want to do whether its cycling, running, work, sex with your partner; it is up to you to pay attention to your body and find what works and what does not and have the patients to stick with the plan when it does not help immediately. 

Reading The Mindful Athlete by George Mumford, the mental coach to Michael Jordan, he talks about tricking yourself in seeing challenges as opportunities and anxiety as indication that you are going through hard change. 

Awareness of Breathing techniques are the best way I have found to practice the concept of connecting mind and body or as Elliot Hulse and various Zen texts talk about as abolishing the concept of mind body separateness. If this sounds too esoteric, try it. If you have been working harder to no avail or injury, or you have reached your small goal but feel exhausted or no fulfillment from your effort, breathing from beginning to end and when things get especially overwhelming practicing awareness of breath keeps you open to the entirety of experience and helps you notice when you are tightening your body. 

This practice of awareness of breath has references from many different disciplines from martial arts, yoga, meditation, and now western science is studying the effects of these techniques to try to bring intellectual understanding to how breathing consciously effects the body. I could insert lots of research papers here like this one: Evaluating mobile apps for breathing training: The effectiveness of visualization,

But you might as well try this, where ever you are;

1. exhale all your air

2. let the next breath come in and happen on its own

3. feel which places in your body move on the inhale

4. Notice which parts of your body soften or tighten on an exhale

Repeat 5x 

Go back to normal life and repeat as normal

Here is an exciting video of my most recent cross race, see if your heart beat raises and notice if your breath constricts with the anticipation of the whistle going off.

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