Last night, I had the opportunity to be the guest speaker for the Capital Bicycle Club here in Olympia, WA. As I prepared for the presentation, I began thinking about how my specialty work with cyclists relates to everyone else that I treat here in the office. One of the common threads that emerged is that my clinical approach is always trying to seek the “weak link.” In other words, what important limitation exists that is disturbing the normal flow of function and creating the current presentation (Enter symptom here:______!)
As inspired by Gray Cook, PT, a weak link is a limitation such as a poor movement pattern, poor endurance, poor flexibility, poor training skill, etc that is a hindrance to normal function. Over time, a weak link can get perpetuated through our everyday lives and effect us at work, home, play, or sport.
One particularly telling example of how profound a weak link can be is in this story: A cyclist recently presented to me with pain in his right hip that began after a summer of riding a lot of miles up steep roads. Although it wasn’t much different from previous summers, the pain was new and was causing him great concern because it was affecting him off the bike, too… even walking was difficult.
Ultimately, this cyclist’s weak links were identified as inflexiblity of the deep hip muscles, poor recovery techniques, and overuse of these muscles. On the bike, climbing puts a lot of pressure on the hips and lower back, and this is the year they’d had enough and sent him the signal of pain. In the office, I provided some manual treatment to the area and then gave him a homework plan that included specific use of a foam roller, targeted stretches, and a few exercises. All of these were aimed at diffusing the power of his weak links. In a short time, he was painfree on the bike again, and climbing big hills. To that, my hat’s off to him!