Inevitable

It’s about the time of year that I should be posting something about my spring long-distance ride, as I did in 2015 and 2016. Unfortunately, though, I won’t be able to do the ride this year, and may not be doing distance rides for some time; perhaps never again.

Last October I rode in the 2016 Valero Ride to the River, which was a full century (100 miles) on Saturday, and then a “short” 38-mile ride on Sunday. I was surprised at how strong I felt that weekend – it seemed that all my training had paid off! However, I was even more surprised a few weeks later when I woke up and couldn’t bend my left thumb easily. When I did bend it, there was a very noticeable clicking I felt in the muscles and/or tendons. A quick search on Google showed that I had a case of “Trigger Thumb” (also called “Trigger Finger”). I saw my orthopaedist about it, as well as a hand specialist, and after several treatments (and several months of exercise and naproxen) the clicking finally subsided, and I regained normal use of my thumb. But unfortunately, the consensus of the doctors was that bike riding was the culprit, since it involves a pressure on that part of my hand in the normal riding position, and is especially bad on rough roads that I frequently had to deal with. Yeah, I know all about recumbent bikes, but that just seems too sad to contemplate now. And hey, if anyone knows a good metal worker who might be able to build a custom set of handlebars, I have some ideas on how to change them to reduce the pressure on the hands.

So why did I title this post “Inevitable”? Because of the underlying cause of the condition: osteoarthritis. I had been first diagnosed with arthritis about 20 years ago, and with each subsequent joint problem, my doctors have pretty much told me to resign myself to it, as I seem to have a natural tendency for my joints to get arthritic. When I was examined for my trigger thumb, the x-rays showed a great deal of underlying arthritis in my thumb joint, which probably made the irritation to the tendons worse. And this wasn’t the first time I got such a diagnosis.

Back in my 20s and 30s, I played a lot of tennis. I was pretty good, too, playing at a solid 4.5 rating. However, I noticed soreness in my shoulder when serving or hitting overheads. As many of my fellow tennis players had rotator cuff injuries that seemed to match my symptoms, I assumed that it was something fixable. But after visiting the doctor, he said my rotator cuff was just fine; rather, I had arthritis in my shoulder. There was no treatment except anti-inflammatory drugs and rest (i.e., not playing tennis). I tried to adjust, but even after some time off it didn’t get better. So I gave up tennis.

Right about that time, my sons had progressed in the soccer world so that they were much better than my ability to coach them. I loved being in the game, so I got my referee badge and did several games a week to keep in shape. I figured that if I could keep up on the pitch with 17-year-olds, I wasn’t too far over the hill!

I had had surgery back in 1992 to repair a torn meniscus in my knee (tennis injury, of course!), but after a couple of years of reffing, I had to have 2 more surgeries, one on each knee. When my left knee started bothering me a couple of years ago, I assumed that I needed yet another surgery to clean it up, but my doctor said that there was no more cartilage left there, and that the pain I was feeling was arthritis. Again, I could take anti-inflammatories to relieve some of the pain, but there was nothing I could do to “fix” this. He advised reducing impact to my knees, so that’s when I started cycling seriously. Now that I have to greatly reduce my cycling, I don’t have a lot of options left. I go to the gym and use the elliptical machine, but that’s not even close to doing some real activity. I did go hiking in Big Bend National Park last weekend, and was pleasantly surprised that my knees and hip didn’t complain very much. Oh, didn’t I mention that I also have arthritis in my hip?

So I don’t know where I’ll turn next. I do know that sitting on my butt is not an option. Maybe knee replacement? And/or hip replacement? Geez, I’m a few months shy of 60, and that seems awfully young to be trading out body parts. So I guess it’s off to work on modified handlebar designs for my bike…

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