Scoliosis -> Muscle Imbalance -> Pain

Been doing sprint triathlons for 1.5 years, otherwise, just training to stay fit-ish between a combination of TrainerRoad, running, strength training, and stretching.

I’ve recently tried to ramp up my training a few times only to be sidelined due to back pain. The back pain comes from the left side thoracic region…accumulating slowly on my road bike (about 45 minutes) and much faster on my tri-bike in my aero bars (15-20 minutes between aero and the bullhorns).

I’ve gotten multiple retul fits but my doctor and my physical/massage therapist says that my muscular system is struggling to compensating for my scoliosis and the strain I’m putting on my spine by being on my bike, causing imbalances and extreme tightness and thus the pain.

Deep tissue massages on a monthly basis is getting expensive (not to mention painful), I’ve tried “cupping” with no real positive impact.

Anyone on here have experience with this and how do you manage? Should I just resort to sitting on a hybrid or a beach cruiser?

On your TT bike try setting your saddle setback to 80 degrees(from your BB to your sitbones) with you upperleg having an angle of 25-28 degrees. Next try to relax your chest muscles, this will make your lower trap muscle to relax and therefor take away the pain. Your bars will have to come up usually.

If you already have done all of this maybe try your arm at different positions with your scoliosis in mind.
I really hope it helps you. I don’t have scoliosis myself but I’ve read up on bike fit quite bit.

I have scoliosis and used to have a similar problem. I couldn’t ride a bike for 40 minutes or so without being in a lot of pain. Now I can ride all day and I am fine. I tried physio for years but worked for me in the end was finding a good personal trainer and developing a good strength routine.

For me I realised my scoliosis causes my left arm to take more weight. When I get tired then I lean into that more and then my scoliosis gets worse and I get nerve pain in thoracic region. That inhibited the nerve signal to my left arm which made it weaker and this a vicious cycle continued.

Stuff that helped me:
Dynamic stretching to improve movement was necessary first
Walking lunges (more for the pelvis but everything is interconnected so helpful.
Rows with trx straps (these helped a lot)
Building up my press up strength

Ideally find someone who can teach you one to one so they can help see your inbalances. They need to be good at working with injury so ask locally for recommendations and talk to a few if necessary. Above all don’t give up!

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I’m a PT and I don’t buy it. You’ve had scoliosis since you were likely 13ish. Since you didn’t mention rods or surgery I’d assume your curve isn’t all that bad and likely unnoticeable to the untrained individual. This is your body and your muscles and spine have adapted to this shortened, twisted or lengthened position depending on where one looks in the spine. The body does a miraculous job of compensating for abnormal presentations and continues to function well. I’m also going to assume you’ve ridden your bike before without pain. Given this, perhaps you just have a typical back problem that affects 80% of the population. It’s entirely possible that your scoliosis puts you at an increase risk for back pain and all the flexion on the bike may aggravate it. I don’t doubt that you can be treated and be pain free and ride a bike. Don’t accept lame or lazy excuses as an answer. Find a good PT (McKenzie credentialed) who knows what a bike is and get good mechanical treatment. You’ll be fine.

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There aren’t any nerves in the thoracic spine that innervate the arm. All those nerves come from the neck. Consider the possibility that you have pain in your back that is referred from the neck. Get treated.

Okay sorry wrote that quick and my mistake but this is a historic problem, I am fine now. It was my left shoulder that was weak rather than my arm. Not entirely sure which muscles but definitely in the posterior rather than the arm itself not sure where they are inervated. I had a very stiff segment in the thoracic where my scoliosis curves most but also had some issues with my neck I would say because of the lean to the left. I have been fine for three years now and can ride 100 miles without pain as well as hold time trial position.

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I’m with you. Not looking for excuses or anything, just solutions on how to prevent the pain rather than the continuous break and fix cycle. I’ve actually had the issues when I first started on the bike, but the advice I was given was HDFU…and that it’s just the price of cycling :slight_smile:.