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Extreme quadriceps starting pain after 3-4 rest days

Moderator: King Boonen

12 Mar 2014 07:20

ValMUS wrote:How are you feeling now?

I experience the same problem since I started biking on a regular basis, 3 year ago. In my case the rest between sessions can be as low as 3 days then I have the same symptoms. The can be excruciating...

So far I have not found a solution and the doctors are of no help.

After a few days the pain subsides and I can easily start to bike again. Usually in a week I am back to normal.

Val


I have experienced this twice and both times it took exactly 10 day before I could ride again, the legs get totally blocked from the pain. The upstroke causes knife like pain in the quadricepts, until, very soon, it becomes impossible to pedal. Given the history I simple stopped taking more than a day off the bike in season whenever I was able to avoid it.

It seems to be connected to suddenly having 3-4 days off. In other words to keep pedaling was a kind of protection against the phenomenon. When really tired it was enough to ride an hour and a half and the problem never surfaced.

I think it may be connected to dehydration, so it's important to always to keep hydrated. Alcohol may also contribute, so drinking should be greatly limited.
User avatar rhubroma
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18 May 2014 11:36

This happens to me on a fairly regular basis, every 13 -15 weeks. Quite a relief to find this thread and know I'm not alone. I'm off the bike at the moment, 8 days since I last rode, on that day I was just 6 miles from home (luckily) when the cramps started.
It took me 45 minutes to get home, felt almost impossible to turn the cranks, as if someone was twisting a knife in my thigh.
Since then walking downhill is agonising, walking uphill is "easy" though I am left feeling as if my legs have been hit with sticks for a while afterwards.
Bad as it is, it's as nothing compared to the first couple of times it happened, when the pain was sometimes so bad I felt I needed to split my legs with a scalpel to knead the muscle.
I remember reading somewhere about the shortening of the quads causing imbalances in other muscle groups in the legs, and wondered if this was why the pains seem to "wander" around the upper legs & calf muscles.
I have been to the doctor who gave me strong pain killers and told me to be more "modest" with my cycling :mad:...nah..
I've reached a point where I expect it to happen and sort of unhappily accept I'll need to have 10 days off every now and again. Agree though with the suspicion that if I just rode a little every day I could hold it off for longer, I've always been off the bike for at least a couple of days when it happens.
I have never met another person who has the same symptoms, and I wonder whether those of us that do, have anything in common?
woodnut
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Fellow sufferer!

21 May 2014 14:08

Hi All, It is such a relief to find that I'm not the only one suffering with this! It's happened to me a few times over the past 5 years, and when it comes it's completely debilitating as far as my legs are concerned. I had physio a few years ago, but I don't think that they really understood my problem. (I was told to do 10 squats 3 times a day, & calf stretches. I'm not sure it had any impact!)

It seems to occur after an intensive period of exercise, followed by rest (the perils of sitting in an office all day!). Last week I went on a cycling holiday in Mallorca & covered 400 amazing miles. However, I haven't exercised for the past 4 days (which is unusual), and now I can barely walk, as it feels as though my quads have been filled with acid.

I tried going to my usual spinning class yesterday as I thought it may help to loosen off, but I had to give up during the warmup (very embarrassing!). I'm due to be doing a charity cycle ride this weekend, which I'd usually be looking forward to. However, now I just want to get my legs back!!

My question is: when I get an attack of 'pain' - should I try & stretch it out despite the pain, or is it better to stay with the least pain of keeping my legs straight? Stretching hurts like hell immediately after the 'cramp', but I imagine (I'm not a clinician!) that if I don't stretch, then the muscles (or tendons?) will repair with less elasticity, meaning more pain later on ...maybe? What does anybody think?
twinpig
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21 May 2014 14:47

Your description very closely matches my experience, even the spinning class episode. As I mentioned in my earlier post, when this happens to me, the pain usually doesn't last more than a day or two. I try to work through it as best I can: light spinning if possible, stretching, walking, whatever I can do. Massaging, too. I think it all helps.

-Tim
TWilsonChicago
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22 May 2014 10:49

Thanks Tim. Yes, just trying to keep moving & stretching when possible.

The strange thing is, it's in both legs, and (as a previous poster mentioned) it moves around! I thought I'd document it in case anybody has any theories.

Tuesday was mainly outside L/H leg (IT band perhaps), then yesterday it was inner quad covering about a hand-span up from the knee. I can still feel the pain from the 'attack' that came on in my L/H leg. Today, the same places are sore, but the attack came on the outer thigh (IT band again?) of the R/H leg. I've googled, & it seems to be the Vastus Lateralis & Vastus Medialis going into spasm.

Immediately after it happens, the muscles don't seem to work normally for a while, affecting my gait. I spoke to a physiotherapist this morning, and she suggested IT band stretches might help.
twinpig
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Comrades in Pain

22 Aug 2014 19:42

Wow, I had all but given up on finding people that were experiencing this weird, highly circumstantial occurrence of pain. Same as others have described on the forum, I can ride every day for months and no problems and then, after taking 3-4 days off, having pain so severe as to make me have to walk home on some occasions (now, when I think it may happen, I ride closer to home). I have been going through this cycle for about 4 years now and spent the better part of one summer going to doctors so they could do various tests when the muscles actually hurt. We never got to a conclusive diagnosis but here is what I learned just in case it helps any else out there.
1. It is not related to hydration. I have had days where I intentionally over hydrated before the ride to preload the system and that did not prevent the pain. I have tried different types of electrolytes with no positive effect.
2. I have had electrical tests done on my muscles and there was nothing unusual in the firing of the muscle when stimulated.
3. We had at one time thought maybe related to myofascia stretching in the quads. What did not make sense to the Dr. was why it would occur after rest periods as normally, for runners, it happens during exercise when the muscle is fully expanded.
4. The Dr. did a test to check my liver enzyme levels during an episode of pain and found them to be VERY high at that time (similar to levels put out during heart attack) and warned me to never try to work through the pain as if it were a cramp. It is not a cramp (hard to describe to others that have not had the experience). The rest of the blood panel came back completely normal.
5. I have had some limited success using stationary bikes and hiking while on business travel but unpredictable as not the same repetitive motion.
6. Have had more reliable (but not 100%) success with the dreaded black foam roller if I use it religiously before I go on a ride and then again after the ride.

As for today.....I just came back from a 4 day business trip and 3 miles into the 40 mile ride (and I did use the foam roller before leaving) I had to regrettably watch my riding companions take off as I turned around and limped home. Hope someone finds a solution soon or I am going to have to quit my job! Thanks for the posts, at least I am not crazy (or not for this reason anyway).

Regards,
Mark
mlbeeman
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27 Aug 2014 02:08

Has anyone figured out what is causing this? I had my first episode after a few days off the bike due to illness. Quad cramps started less than 5 minutes into my ride, I tried to push through them but ended up in so much pain that I had to get a ride home.

I tried to ride again the next day, same thing.

I took 6 more days off the bike to see if it would resolve, tried to ride tonight, 2 minutes in I have a cramp in a very specific spot on my left quad.

Walking down stairs seem to produce the same cramping. I can also confirm that it is not hydration related. I have consumed 5-7 liters a water a day for 6 days with electrolyte drinks mixed in (gatorade and skratch). It is also not fatigue, as it starts at the very beginning of a ride.
bobhas
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27 Aug 2014 04:24

If it's in isolate spots, especially inner quads, it could be an iliac artery kinking thing. Check out posts 17 and 18.
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27 Aug 2014 04:28

Here's a shot-in-the-dark:

Anyone here have acid reflux?

Most antacids, such as Tums and Quickease are LOADED with calcium -- like, 800mg per lozenge. If someone is having is having a pack a day of this stuff, it can fark up ion muscle balances, as far as I know.
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27 Aug 2014 04:56

However, I doubt that both of my suggestions would relate to time off the bike
User avatar Captain Serious
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27 Aug 2014 16:09

Captain Serious wrote:Here's a shot-in-the-dark:

Anyone here have acid reflux?

Most antacids, such as Tums and Quickease are LOADED with calcium -- like, 800mg per lozenge. If someone is having is having a pack a day of this stuff, it can fark up ion muscle balances, as far as I know.


How long would you expect it to take to resolve if it were an ion balance issue, assuming no more calcium supplements were taken and sufficient water intake.
bobhas
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29 Aug 2014 04:44

bobhas wrote:How long would you expect it to take to resolve if it were an ion balance issue, assuming no more calcium supplements were taken and sufficient water intake.
I don't know, sorry. I admit I'm out of my depth. :o It's just a wild guess
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29 Aug 2014 13:32

bobhas wrote:Has anyone figured out what is causing this? . . .


The possible causes are so numerous and different . . .this thread could be a book trying to answer that.

A lot of potential causes mentioned in various posts. Dehydration, prior alcohol consumption, tight tendons/ligaments, muscle group imbalance, numerous organic (physical) ailments, etc.

I notice one poster had a blood panel done - which could be helpful - and might need some tests included that aren't typical for physical exam type tests. Even a low level of vitamin D can cause mysterious muscle cramping/pains.

It it is bad enough to get in your way - best talk to your doc. If he isn't much help - and some aren't - find a local sports doc or clinic and see what they have to say. Good luck.
It is of great use to the sailor to know the length of his line, though he cannot with it fathom all the depths of the ocean. ~ John Locke
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me too

21 Oct 2014 17:29

I'm amazed i have actually found riders having the same horrible experience. I have been battling it for years. I'm in the middle of an episode now, having to stop riding yesterday on the indoor trainer because i could feel the pain starting, once again. This time it arose after two days off the bike and while i was doing a project at home that required many trips up and down stairs. Three miles into my next ride my lower right quad began to burn and seize. I've learned you can't "ride through it" and soft pedaled it home. I made it home but as usual, felt like i'd been hit with a hammer. This time was a little unusual as the pain didn't begin on the lateral side (IT band ) area. Once an episode starts, i'm afraid to ride outdoors until I've had at least two trainer rides. It is usually about a week until I'm back to normal.

It has always struck me that it only occurs after a layoff of two or more days and when my fitness seems good. I had previously thought it was due to missing days due to illness. However, it has happened when I've been on vacation or just too busy to ride. It also hit me after chasing my son on the beach.

I suspect the cause is muscle imbalance and IT band, quad tightness. I use a roller but only when the problem hits me. Rolling my quads and IT band is agony. Maybe bike position is an issue as well, although I've been professionally fit. I must stress that the pain is more like a switch has been flipped and acid is burning my quads, rather than muscle spasms. I've had many cramps and this is totally different.

I am starting a stretching program tonight and will use the dreaded roller. I would love to hear ideas, comments.
waynepovey
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same thing, different day

22 Oct 2014 23:22

Day 11 of this episode. Rode trainer, almost no resistance. 30 minutes in and burn started crawling down my right IT band area. I shut it down, avoiding the knifelike pain that comes with trying to continue.

I used foam roller last night for 40 minutes. I don't know what to do tonight. Ice, stretching, roller, rest, or some combination? I'm at my wits end. At 57, fitness floats away quickly and takes a long while to regain.
waynepovey
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day 13

24 Oct 2014 23:28

Indoor trainer for 23 mins and burn started, about two inches lower than previous ride. I felt fine until it started burning. One moment normal, the next my quad turning slowly to stone.

Rested leg after last ride. This time used the roller for an hour. Trying something different. Geez it's painful.
waynepovey
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24 Oct 2014 23:42

waynepovey wrote:I'm amazed i have actually found riders having the same horrible experience. I have been battling it for years. I'm in the middle of an episode now, having to stop riding yesterday on the indoor trainer because i could feel the pain starting, once again. This time it arose after two days off the bike and while i was doing a project at home that required many trips up and down stairs. Three miles into my next ride my lower right quad began to burn and seize. I've learned you can't "ride through it" and soft pedaled it home. I made it home but as usual, felt like i'd been hit with a hammer. This time was a little unusual as the pain didn't begin on the lateral side (IT band ) area. Once an episode starts, i'm afraid to ride outdoors until I've had at least two trainer rides. It is usually about a week until I'm back to normal.

It has always struck me that it only occurs after a layoff of two or more days and when my fitness seems good. I had previously thought it was due to missing days due to illness. However, it has happened when I've been on vacation or just too busy to ride. It also hit me after chasing my son on the beach.

I suspect the cause is muscle imbalance and IT band, quad tightness. I use a roller but only when the problem hits me. Rolling my quads and IT band is agony. Maybe bike position is an issue as well, although I've been professionally fit. I must stress that the pain is more like a switch has been flipped and acid is burning my quads, rather than muscle spasms. I've had many cramps and this is totally different.

I am starting a stretching program tonight and will use the dreaded roller. I would love to hear ideas, comments.

What have you done to address the muscle imbalance?
I'm guessing that, in general terms, you are talking about
quad/ham imbalance...not left leg/right leg imbalance?
Team GB 2016: victoRIOus, happy and gloRIOus
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25 Oct 2014 00:45

Thanks for the reply. I think the imbalance must be quad/hamstrings. I plead guilty to ignoring stretching and not making it to the gym since my wife delivered a third child. Time is something i have very little of. I haven't raced in two years but plan to return to it. But I've been riding a lot.

I'm guessing that the imbalance increases and my IT band tightens when I've been riding a lot. I have no clue however why a few days away from the bike preceeds the symptoms.
waynepovey
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25 Oct 2014 03:58

I think you could attempt to address the
muscle imbalance without going to the
gym...but start very slowly (I'm a
few years your senior :().

Just some simple standing/1 leg at a time
hamstring curls (just raisng a heel towards
your rear, as I'm sure you know) without
weight or resistance, but gradually adding
reps might make a difference.
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25 Oct 2014 14:53

I'm starting today, easy as you suggest. I'm blasting the IT band and quads with the roller though.

It's a gorgeous day for a ride, sunny, warm and best of all, no wind. Ugh.

Thanks for the post. I can't count how many times my teamates have told me to ride through it and suck it up.
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