And speaking of Body Massage, lets talk about Pectoralis Major. It matters to us as cyclists.
That's the big "Hulk" chest muscle you see so well developed by Lou Ferrigno there, whom you might not like if he were angry. It has 3 movements & 3 sets of fibers which perform these movements. 1) The upper fibers of Pec Major pull the arm up and across the chest, 2) The middle fibers of the Pec Major pull the arm straight across the chest, and 3) You guessed it, the lower fibers pull the arm down and across the chest. Performing the opposite of these 3 actions is a good idea for us as people( but even more specifically as cyclists) because fundamentally: STRETCHING IS A GOOD IDEA.
One of the imbalances we experience in our profession/obsession ( and many others, as well, that tend to put the body in a forward head, rounded shoulder posture- with the shoulders and arms suspended in front) are tight/shortened: Pectoralis Major, Pectoralis Minor (what a sleeper, and the subject for another day) and Serratus Anterior (another sleeper seldom adressed in casual massage). All pull the shoulders forward & protract the scapula. This creates overstretched and weakened Rhomboids (chevron shaped muscles in our upper-mid back which retract our scapulae, pull the shoulder blades back to midline) ,Infraspinatus & Teres Minors.
This common problem is called Adaptive Shortening (AS). AS is defined as a tightness that occurs as a result of the muscle(s) remaining in a shortened position for an extended period of time. A lot of folks find this manifesting as a dull ache in their upper back, sometimes extending into the shoulder or up the neck. Oftentimes, Levator Scapulae are involved.
This muscle raises your shoulder blade, and is engaged unconsciously under stress as we hike our shoulders. Much of it's discomfort is rooted in the tug forward by pecs.
Sound like you and yours? Unless the opposing muscle(s) are able to pull the body back to natural position (less and less likely with habitual posture) or some outside force (i.e. Stretching) is exerted to lengthen the short muscle, it will remain in a shortened condition.
See Eddy assume the position
Meaning that just because you're not holding the bars anymore, your muscles (which have been engaged for extended periods) will not ease up completely and return to their full length on their own. They will hold the shape they've assumed during your long exertion. This WILL become chronic if unadressed, and has potential to alter the shape of our bodies. Those older folks walking around hunched & stooped? Not all of that is osteoporosis- much is due to chronic muscle contraction. Now I get to say: "Wolf's Law formulates that bones react to external forces so as to conform to them", which means your skellington will adapt to whatever pull or friction, etc. it is subject to, and change accordingly. This process doesn't happen overnight, it takes time.
What we need to do for ourselves (or trade money to a therapist with a sense of humor & touch to do for us) is:
a) Stretch the Pecs & Serratus Anterior (more of a Spiderman type muscle- the muscley fingers reaching around from back to front under the Pecs along the ribs). Quality massage and stretching of these muscles in front will "take a load off" the muscles in back (typically the ones to feel sore or tender) and allow them to regain some of their natural/balanced positioning. Bob Anderson's book, Stretching is a great resource. Yoga is real nice, too.And,
b)you can gain temporary relief from trigger points in levator scapulae by lying on the floor and rolling on a tennis ball. I like to do this after long rides in addition to stretching. With your fingers, noodle around your back at the top inside corner of your shoulder blade, you will find a tender spot(s) that feels familiar. Place the tennis ball under your back at that point, and use your opposing hand to grasp the wrist of the tennis-balled arm. Rotate your tennis-balled arm across your chest and overhead in gentle arcs. You will feel the different fibers being compressed as they are brought into contact with your tennis ball fulcrum. It may be uncomfortable. That's OK. Keep at it. Stop and stay awhile if a particular angle feels so right, give it 15-20 seconds max, and move on. If it is too intense, you can work in a spiral around the ultrasensitive spot and progress to being right on top of it as the intensity lessens. As you work out those trigger points/knots you will experience a renewed sense of well being in that arm and neck. Enjoy it while it lasts. As you stretch your pecs and regain postural balance, this spot will require less and less attention, but it is one of the hallmarks of being in a human body that we are prone to this. It will help also, if you
c) strengthen the back-Rhomboids, Mid Traps, Infraspinatus & Teres Minor muscles. See your Trainer for expert advice on the strengthening...but I'd hazard a guess that flys would help in this regard. And now's a great time to start/be doing some weight training. If you feel this might be you, DON'T have (or let) your therapist dig into your back-these muscles are already overstretched and weak (which is one reason they may hurt). Any deep massage or overstretching will further relax/stretch/weaken them. They need strengthening before massaging or stretching deeply.
As for me...on long tours, I've found I can get nice release by sitting up and placing my fist next to my spine as high up my back as possible and pushing in with it while pulling the same shoulder rearwards and arching my back. It's worth a try for your sake. Sitting up on longer rides and swinging your arms across your chest and then back as far as they can go several times is also helpful.
Eddy stretched his pecs with the Madison Sling...
So. Stretch yourself!
David vs. Goliath
4 years ago