Is This A Bone Spur, Or Did I Step On A Marble In The Middle Of The Night? Health and injury anxieties of the middle-aged, answered with confidence
As we get older, mysterious aches and pains start to plague even the most committed biker. We’ve persuaded Midlife Exerciser Magazine’s resident doctor* to round up the commonest complaints and apply the latest, cutting-edge science to getting you up and riding again.
*but not of medicine.
I’ve gained weight unexpectedly.
A number of medical issues can be at the root of this, including underactive thyroid and fluid retention. However, there are many less serious causes. It’s worth keeping a diary to track changes. For example, have you been through any Christmases recently? That Tuesday night group ride – does the new route feature the same amount of climbing, or have some of the hills been replaced by pubs? Have you switched to a new diet, especially one that includes more of those really nice energy bars?
I’ve suddenly got all these bruises.
Bruising without injury can indicate serious underlying problems, such as a blood disorder. However, at your age, it’s possible you’ve just forgotten that you whacked yourself repeatedly carrying Tom’s balance bike yesterday, when he decided he was too tired to ride it any more. Or did you open the car door into your shin again?
I’m short of breath.
When accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath is a serious symptom, and you should seek medical attention immediately. If it only occurs when you’re out on your bike, it’s easily improved by a simple surgical procedure to fit a smaller chainring. You won’t even need an anaesthetic.
I’ve got terrible pain in my right shin.
Shin pain can be an overuse injury, e.g. from riding in too high a gear or with the saddle too low. Then again, if you’ve been getting off and pushing going up the hills, it’s probably just from cracking your leg on the stupid pedal. The same surgical procedure recommended for ‘I’m short of breath’ should cure it.
My pee is a weird colour.
Dark urine can be a sign of dehydration, or a liver complaint. Some medications can give you blue or green wee. If it’s pink, just knock off the beetroot shots for a bit.
I keep feeling sick.
A variety of disorders cause nausea, including gastroesophageal reflux disease and peptic ulcers. Before you book a gastroscopy, though, make sure your nutrition is optimal. Was that emergency pork pie in your backpack really only from last week? MTBers are notoriously generous, but did Geoff scrub his hands thoroughly for twenty seconds before he passed you half his chicken ‘n’ mushroom slice?
I can’t sleep.
Menopause, overactive thyroid, and some types of medication can cause insomnia. If it’s not any of these, check your sleep hygiene: is your bedroom cool and dark, free from exciting bicycle magazines or componentry? Are you overstimulating yourself just before bed with caffeinated gels or pitch-black downhill runs? Is your brain too busy planning your next build, or wondering whether you’ll get anything for those pedals on Ebay? Remember to check your environment for sleep inhibitors like light-emitting screens, intermittent noise, and small children.
My teeth hurt.
While all dental symptoms should be checked by a professional, toothache can also be caused by colds and sinus infections. If you’re otherwise well, you may be grinding your teeth at night due to stress. How’s your work-bike balance? Are you having nightmares about that bombhole you can never quite bring yourself to tackle, or the fact that your ten-year-old wants a set of golf clubs for Christmas? Spray a little GT-85 on your pillow to aid restful sleep.
My foot hurts.
Foot pain can indicate overuse injuries, such as plantar fasciitis or a stress fracture. These are notoriously hard to shift. Mind you, lots of foot pain isn’t related to your feet at all, but originates in your calf or your hip or your back or your neck, who knows? Bodies are just stupidly complicated. If it’s referred pain, it’ll be from that time you hoicked your bike up the steps and clunked your shoulder on the door frame. Press your thumbs REALLY hard into any unrelated bit of your body and see if that helps.
My hip hurts.
Hip pain is commonly caused by osteoarthritis, especially in older adults. If it’s a more general feeling of unhipness that’s bothering you, it’s worth considering that, although you’ll never be trendy again, you’re not dead yet. Learn to bunnyhop! Take up BMXing! Only the cool kids will laugh, and they don’t matter. No, they don’t. Not any more.
I’ve got heart palpitations.
Most of the time, palpitations are harmless, and do not signify a serious problem. However, if they co-occur with a failed attempt to hide the real cost of that new bike from your other half, you may suffer frostbite from the sudden relocation of your bed to the garden.
I just feel vaguely sick the whole time. I have constant headaches, and this feeling of impending doom.
The rapid, unstoppable descent of basically the entire world into a totalitarian dystopia can result in persistent anxiety. To relieve it, try taking a break from social media, running a bath with essential oils, or emigrating to a distant planet. I’ve heard the gravel on Mars is ace.
NB: We strongly advise that you seek actual, qualified medical attention rather than just reading stuff on the internet.
Do you think you’re ready for any trail side injuries? Check out our feature about going on a mountain bike specific first aid course.