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A very real pain in the arse: Getting to the bottom of my Coccyx pain enforced layoff

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I’m now entering the second month of being ‘off-bike’ having received definitive medical advice to remove my posterior from the bike saddle for a prolonged period, lasting as long as three months.

Why?

A nasty case of Coccydynia – coccyx pain, or, quite simply, a pain in the arse.

It’s hard to put a definitive time on when the pain became a permanent fixture, but I can trace the initial injury back to a rapid transition from the top of our new staircase to the bottom in May, using my arse (and coccyx) as the means of transport.

It is a jarring moment when you fall down the stairs. As I child I did it a few times, but that moment of stunned shock hasn’t changed at all in the intervening years.

There is a maelstrom of sensorial confusion, followed by the jolting reality of gravity, finally met by a rapid stock take, assessing all your faculties and features.

If we fast-forward to the arrival of my latest bike we can start to trace where things started to go very wrong.

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The transition to summer saw the cycling miles rapidly increase. I had the Tour of Cambridge Gran Fondo booked in, a lengthy hill-laden ride in Yorkshire with the wonderful Yorkshire Velo Tours, not to mention the Prudential 100.

Added to this, my base commuting miles, weekend training and general outings meant that serious time was spent on the new steed.

Everything seemed to be going swimmingly: the new Planet X EC-130 was fast, comfortable and looked stunning. There were some jarring moments when the terrible road surfaces of Surrey dealt cruel blows, sending shuddering attacks through the full carbon frame and seat post directly to my backside – but I didn’t think much of it.

That was until I began to feel a nagging pain after sitting for long periods. The transition from sitting to standing started to bring with it a searing pain in the base of my spine, right at the bottom section – the coccyx.

The fact that over the past two years I have dropped two stone in weight – going from almost 14 stone down to 11.4st, a weight I hadn’t seen since Noel’s House Party was still on Saturday nights – meant that there is a distinct lack of cushioning. With a day job that sees me seated at a computer for most of the day, all things conspired to give me a real pain in the backside.

As all men do, my first method of dealing with it was – of course – to do absolutely nothing at all. For months. It wasn’t until September that it became clear that it was not going to get better of its own accord. And whilst time on the bike was as pain free and enjoyable as ever, the days after were excruciating.

The offending area remains just out of shot
The offending area remains just out of shot

I had a sneaking suspicion that the San Marco saddle that had been supplied with my new bike was exacerbating matters. It seemed comfortable for the most part, but when I started to pay real attention I began to notice how it didn’t quite support my sit bones and was actually resting on the inside of each – placing outward pressure on the coccyx and sacrum area. (As you can tell, I had become quite the physician after countless hours trawling Google.)

With my homespun and self-awarded PhD firmly in the bag, I resolved that a trip to the doctors was in order to confirm that my initial diagnosis was correct. As it turns out, I wasn’t a million miles away. (I wouldn’t encourage self-diagnosis via Google; it invariably convinces me that I am dying of a rare and incurable ailment before any semblance of rationality kicks in.)

The very understanding doctor, after a thorough examination and some mild physio-based manipulation, determined that it was a case of Coccydynia and that three months off the bike was in order – cruel news for any dedicated cyclist.

I took the news and solemnly dragged myself home to tell Victoria that our frequent duel attacks would be curtailed for a while, news which was met with the somber gravitas one would expect from a bedfellow equally as mental about cycling as you are yourself.

Victoria stoically and almost immediately ordered me a specialist ‘coccyx cushion’ from an online retailer of mobility scooters and aids for the elderly – a very low point in my life – but so began a recovery regime that is ongoing.

There is terminology and there are bits of you its better you know nothing about
There are bits of your body it’s better to know nothing about

As we have moved into October and with the layoff beginning to bear fruit, I can now sit for longer periods and the transition to standing is less excruciating. I have also started to see a specialist Chiropractor, the superbly knowledgeable Dr Ricky Davis from Summit Wellbeing in Sheen.

summit-logoRicky had been treating Victoria with ongoing physio and over the course of their sessions the topic of my backside had reared (sorry…) its head. Ricky thought he might be able to get to the bottom of it (shakes head).

My first session with Ricky took place this week. I won’t lie, it was gruesomely painful: it involved levels of coccyx manipulation no sane person should subject themselves too. However, it’s all with the aim of stimulating the healing process and encouraging movement back into an area that had become rigid with shock and fused due to my reluctance to seek treatment earlier.

I am, after four days, very hopeful that progress is being made. I will of course maintain my off-bike status for the foreseeable future – a situation that shouldn’t continue if the bathroom scales are to be believed. But being off the bike and with Ricky’s assistance I am confident that given time I can be pain free and back in the saddle.

This post is, I suppose, a sort of aide-memoire, designed to help me cogently piece together a timeline of how and why I ended up with a man prodding my buttocks, but also a descriptive note of caution to others not to ignore those first signs of pain on the bike as they can, if not dealt with, blossom into a very literal pain in the arse.

We are, as ever, interested hear your own tales of medical drama linked to your cycling – the more embarrassing the better. I’ve bared my soul, or rather my backside, and now it is your turn, dear reader.

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Hopefully we are approaching the end of the journey when it comes to this particular injury

 

 

  • Josh

    Earlier this year I spent my first time cycling abroad. 6 days of between 40 and 60 miles of beautiful Ibizan coastal roads and inland hills. I was expecting to come home beautifully tanned with new lean power. That was not the case. The heat and lack of chamois left me with either piles or saddle sores (I’m a man, I didn’t seek professional advice). I had to wear my girlfriends sanitary towels to stop my underwear being pasted to my cheeks with blood. I felt terrible of the time off the bike as a result and quickly regained the weight I’d lost over the holiday. I’ve learnt my lesson, and have started using chamois crème before long rides, or if I’m going to be riding for multiple days.

    • vamper.cc

      Sounds brutal Josh… There is a definite sticking point when it comes to seek professional advice… Always seems sensible to let it rumble on in the vain hope it will get better. Will we ever learn?