Here’s the latest on my back problems, which might be of interest to any of you out there experiencing back pain or riding with shims under your cleats.
Today I went to the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine to determine definitively whether I have a leg length discrepancy. Without an X-ray it’s not possible to tell if crookedness is structural, or if it’s just a functional result of various muscle weaknesses.
Most people in the peoples’-bodies industry will say that a structural leg length discrepancy is rare. Usually it’s functional, they say, you don’t really need that lift/shim/etc. But after saying that to me, most of these expert people have followed up by saying it really looks like I might have a discrepancy so I should get an X-ray. The only reason I haven’t done this sooner is the pain wasn’t bad enough to make it seem more important than other things on my list, like swim lessons or traveling to races or bodywork.
BCSM did a standing hip x-ray as well as a body scan where I laid on the table. My left leg is 14 millimeters longer than my right leg. The bulk of this difference (about 9mm) is in the femur.
So what now?
First off, I’m grateful for validation. I’ve put a lot of money and energy into soft tissue work, and building my strength and balance, but have still been in increasing pain. So at least I know why.
Second, I can use this information to try to set up my bikes properly. Which will include, among other things, putting those shims back under my cleats. (here is where I was going to put a video from Arrested Development where Gob is in the closet about to make out with Kitty… glasses off, hair down, no hair up, glasses on, etc. But i couldn’t find it on line). Cycling has given me the most problems because the position is the most fixed of the three sports. In swimming and running, movements are not bound by the three fixed contact points–bars, saddle and pedals–like they are on the bike so I can move in a way that works for my body.
Third, however, having this concrete assessment feels a little depressing. I can’t train away this physical limitation with specific intervals, hard work, etc. It’s an obstacle that will always be there, and right now it’s an obstacle that really hurts. It could be worse and I know I lead a blessed life, but I’d be lying if I said this diagnosis didn’t leave me feeling a little bit exhausted.
I’m going to give it my best shot. The structural discrepancy means this is a “medical” condition, so I can go through my health insurance to get a bike fit and physical therapy at BCSM. I’ve put racing on hold until August, when I plan to contest Rev3 Wisconsin and then Rev3 Maine. Both are good motivators for me!