A bad back needn't be the end of your cycling - seek specialist help!

It’s now almost 16 years since my GP told me I would never ride again. Years of bad posture had wrecked two vertebrae in my neck and another couple lower in my back. Yet this season I’ve ridden as many miles as any time in my long, if not illustrious cycling career thanks to proper medical assistance.

“If your back hurts when you ride a bike, don’t ride a bike,” was pretty much the advice from my doctor. I was prescribed as many painkillers as I wanted but warned that if I didn’t quit cycling I would end up in a wheelchair!

That wasn’t an option. I tried physios and osteopaths but with only limited success until I was introduced to a cycling-friendly chiropractor. That was the turning point. I was back on the bike within weeks and by using a weekly Pilates session to build core strength, it’s been enough to keep me riding ever since.

It’s ridiculous that without that introduction to the chiropractor I would have been wrongly advised to retire from cycling over one and a half decades ago.

If I was given bad advice back then, how many others have suffered a similar fate over the years?

A bad back (or neck) isn’t necessarily the end — seek specialist help and keep riding.

Robert Garbutt is editor of Cycling Weekly

  • Syahmi Naim

    Not so sure on the “not proper medical assistance” – i have 2 herniated discs and 2 which are shredded meaning 4 not functioning completely and have no problems riding a bike. If i had followed the advice of my doctor i would have given up all sport instead I swim I walk and bike. So totally disagree with William Ward that this is anecdotal hokum – my epiphany came when reading Mens Health and an article on don’t let your back stop you. I went to a chiro specialising in sports injuries strengthened my core and away I have gone.

  • William Ward

    Ranting in a comments section? Isn’t that what they’re for?..! We’ll agree to disagree.. Have a good weekend.

  • North End Chiro

    Flipping heck if it was a neutral experience I would ride for the hills and be scared witless should you ever have a bad experience of anything in the future. I am pretty sure that from my previous posts you may be able to deem that no I don’t believe in the subluxation hokum and yes people should get vaccinated modern medicine is a pretty special thing. How it got there however was a bit of journey through all sorts of weird and dodgy methods most of which were they to be attempted today would been seen as nuts, but still we take that penicillin. Since I keep banging on about musculoskeletal medicine it is probably this that I, a great many others and the two main training institutions in the UK (the other I am not sure on but I doubt they could get away with weird stuff) base our treatment on. Its really not that tricky to understand, something started based on one theory, which maybe at the time was the height on logic, (I don’t know I wasn’t there….nor were you), then developed into something else based on a whole world of factors.
    In my practice I treat and co-manage with physios, GP’s and all manner of therapists. I treat professional cyclists, rugby players and rowers. I treat the elderly as well as kids, builders as well as office bods plus everything in between. I suspect I help these people otherwise I suspect they wouldn’t come back or tell their friends. The thing they all have in common is they have a body that has muscles and joints and most often some type of dysfunction to one or many of these joints and muscles. We treat in a variety of ways and sometimes we help……..I don’t hide how chiropractic started it just simply has no relevance to what it is now…..if some one asks then I will happily tell them it has been a rocky road, but they don’t tend to ask so not sure what else I can do.

    Any-who this is getting boring and all a bit ranty, you clearly have an issue and an itch to scratch. Enjoy

  • William Ward

    I didn’t have a bad experience with a Chiropractor, I had a neutral experience*, which, with hindsight, is what I should’ve expected given the absence of any proof of it’s efficacy. My agenda is that people should know clearly that chiropractic is based on some ‘all round turd’ ideas that are frankly ludicrous to modern thinking. Do you believe in Sublaxations as the cause of all disease and Innate Intelligence in living things? That Sublaxations are constricting and blocking energy flows in your body? That vaccines are unnecessary as chiropractic can cure these problems? The principle of the bicycle has remained unchanged as it’s an excellent combination of physics and human ingenuity that’s been refined over the years. We haven’t chosen to deny and cover up the fundamental core and birth story of the bicycle and diversify it to placate modern leanings. Poor analogy. You’ve listed a whole raft of treatments at the end too, some have been tested in trials and been shown to be effective, some are just as hokum as chiro. Too vague. I’d probably agree with you about the rare strokes and arterial damage, too small a pool to test and these patients may have been predisposed to the condition but I certainly won’t be having my neck cracked without very good reason. *The Chiropractor was actually very nice, just misguided, and the service was excellent

  • North End Chiro

    Righty oh…..so yes chiropractic was started a little while
    ago now (1895) based on what was at the time and still is pretty much all round turd, some high quality google work has clearly been done. These original ideas and beliefs are still held by some, mostly by those who shout the loudest. To hold a profession to ransom based only on its history and some fanatical chiropractors is some shaky ground, and could be seen as a touch mean or dare I
    say it chasing some other agenda….. I fear that your current bicycle bears little resemblance to the machines of Baron Von Drais in 1817….(uhoh look who can also use google). But hang on actually, they do kind of look the same but have been refined, progressed, developed and no doubt some or even most new stuff has been discarded. Well some of us chiros have done the same, but ultimately the bare bones remain the same. We use primarily our hands (manual therapy) to affect the musculoskeletal system (your body) and hopefully improve things. It works some times for some people, just as physiotherapy, osteopathy, massage therapy, rehab, Pilates, yoga, medication, surgery, a bike fit, rest and so on.

    Now these rare events of issues from neck manipulations are
    just that….rare events… that occur in a fairly precise subset of people that have pre-existing pathology or high risk factors for stroke. Unfortunately not all people present with the correct list of red flags in the correct order so as to rule themselves out of treatment, thankfully many do. I am fairly certain the NHS does not state your quote. What else what else……hmm….oh looks
    like William has posted again…and……had a bad experience with a chiropractor……poor lamb

  • Guest

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  • Guest

    Chiropractic was started by Magnetic Healer Daniel Palmer and states that sublaxation is the cause of all disease. So called one cause, one cure. It’s deeply rooted in mystical concepts and is religious in nature, demonstrated by a belief in the innate intelligence theory. There have been no credible demonstrations to date that it works on any of the conditions it claims to treat apart from some pretty shaky evidence on the treatment of lower back pain making it comparable to massage. There are even very rare occasions when it has caused strokes and arterial damage in people submitting to the neck manipulations that Chiropractors carry out. It is pseudo-science and the terminology is deliberately used to confuse people and allude to some kind of science or authority. The fact that Chiropractors have diversified into other techniques and away from these frankly nonsensical practices and beliefs only highlight it’s quackery. The NHS states that there are no credible studies to demonstrate it’s efficacy. This case study showed that pilates worked for him, not chiropractic and you cannot extrapolate from one anecdote any conclusions on chiropractic or pilates.

  • William Ward

    Osteopathy is also a complimentary / alternative treatment and I would be very surprised if that had worked as it also has no basis in science or a modern understanding of physiotherapy or the treatment of injury. I had a back injury from a car crash and went to a Chiropractor and he claimed he’d help me but couldn’t after weeks of expensive treatment so who’s right, me or you? Anecdotal evidence.. It’s important to make an informed decision based on verifiable results. Chiropractic is as yet to have any evidence provided that it works for any condition. The difference between me and fanatics and zealots out there is that the moment it proves it’s efficacy I would consider it as a course of treatment for any future ailments but I won’t blindly follow it now. There are a host of possible reasons and explanations for your miracle recovery, which, by the way, I’m very happy for you, but Chiropractic has not been conclusively proved in your or any other case.

  • William Ward

    Chiropractic was started by Magnetic Healer Daniel Palmer and states that sublaxation is the cause of all disease. So called one cause, one cure. It’s deeply rooted in mystical concepts and is religious in nature, demonstrated by a belief in the innate intelligence theory. There have been no credible demonstrations to date that it works on any of the conditions it claims to treat apart from some pretty shaky evidence on the treatment of lower back pain making it comparable to massage. There are even very rare occasions when it has caused strokes and arterial damage in people submitting to the neck manipulations that Chiropractors carry out. It is pseudo-science and the terminology is deliberately used to confuse people and allude to some kind of science or authority. The fact that Chiropractors have diversified into other techniques and away from these frankly nonsensical practices and beliefs only highlight it’s quackery. The NHS states that there are no credible studies to demonstrate it’s efficacy. This case study showed that pilates worked for him, not chiropractic and you cannot extrapolate from one anecdote any conclusions on chiropractic or pilates.

  • trummy

    33 yrs ago I was looking at medical retirement after trying osteopathic treatment, (not long term effective) NHS physio (ineffective) NHS corset (made my back worse) Had been off work 3 months, and suffered 9 months before when I visited a Chiropractor. One weeks later I had a full explanation what was amiss. After 3 months treatment I returned to work then started cycling, returned to hill walking, started skiing and have had a very active life since. (Safe in the knowledge that should i upset the back again then help was a phone call away) Don’t knock it if you have no knowledge WW

  • North End Chiro

    Not entirely sure what Williams issue is but I guess we all have opionions, however ill informed. I spent five years studying full time for a masters in chiropractic then have worked a bit and am pretty comfortable that I have at least some specialist knowledge in musculoskeletal medicine……maybe even alot. Musculoskeletal medicine like all medicine is constantly developing and changing…thats what science is. Sometimes anecdotal evidence is all we have, ask any surgeon, they will say the same. The lack of evidence is not the same as the absence of proof. This case study merely states that chiropractic as well as pilates worked for him. Different strokes for different blokes I suppose. In all honesty I think the difference may have been cycling friendly chiro, someone that rides and understands riding is alway going to have a better chance of having a positive effect. Still….tis all good news in the end.

  • I hope to see more information about Pilates for cyclists in a future edition of Cycling Weekly. I have a hunch that an interview with Allan Peiper would be good too. 🙂 Pretty sure Peiper’s views on core strength need to be told again and again and again until all cyclists get the fact that a strong core is paramount to fast efficient cycling.

  • William Ward

    So it’s the Pilates then? If a geography teacher told you to do Yoga it’s not the geography* that helped you. Chiropractic is not “proper medical assistance” as you’ve put it nor is it “specialist help’ either as it’s, as far as I’m aware, unproven on most if not all conditions they claim to help. It’s great that you’re back on the bike but this is anecdotal at best. It’s disappointing that people might decide to spend their money on this hokum because of this article rather than seeking help from an actual professional.

    *Apologies to Geography Teachers, you provide a genuine science based education.