Meet Dr. Andrew Gutierrez, DC, CCSP
Dr. Gutierrez joined our team in late 2019. He has been in practice since 2009 after graduating with his doctorate of chiropractic from Southern California University of Health Sciences. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Occidental College where he was a 4-year letterman in football. He furthered his education in sports chiropractic and earned his certification as a Certified Chiropractic Sports Practitioner® (CCSP®) from the American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians. As a sports chiropractor, he specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of extremity injuries in addition to his expertise in treating the spine.
On a more personal note, he maintains an active lifestyle as an avid cyclist. He has been obsessed with sports for as long as he can remember. He has competed in soccer, baseball, track and field, and football. You will often find him riding his bike in the Santa Monica Mountains, along the coast, or speeding around town with his Velo Club LaGrange mates. He currently resides in Culver City with his wife and two daughters.
This newsletter is brought to you by Dr. Gutierrez.
Hello, I'm Dr. Andrew Gutierrez. If I haven't met you in the office yet, I look forward to meeting you soon. As mentioned above, I am an avid cyclist so I figure I would write the sport I currently do the most (my football days are over!)
COMMON CYCLING INJURIES:
Cycling is known to be one of the best ways to maintain weight and boost a person’s overall health because it’s an intense cardiovascular exercise that is relatively easy on the joints of the body. It is no wonder the number of cyclists in the United States has increased to about 80 million. Despite its rather low impact, cycling does come with its fair share of injuries. According to studies, half of the cyclists have suffered from neck problems, 42 percent have injured knees, 36 percent their groin and buttocks, 31 percent their hands, and 31 percent their back.
NECK PAIN FROM CYCLING:
The most common complaint from cycling is neck pain, which is usually caused by tightness in the muscles that start at the base of the skull and run along the sides of the neck all the way to the shoulders. It is often the result of too much pressure being transmitted through the upper body. The neck musculature becomes fatigued from carrying the entire weight of the head in extension for a prolonged period of time in the same position while riding. It tends to be complicated by working at a desk which can cause reduced flexibility in the upper back or neck with poor adaptation to sustained posture. Muscles like to be active and moving, so holding a static position you aren’t familiar with or for longer than you are used to can make them painful and stiff. Pain and stiffness in the neck can radiate to the middle part of the back. Rotating and bending your head can be difficult, making it feel “blocked”. Your spine is one of the strongest parts of your body, but it can be very sensitive when over-strained leading to a painful muscle spasm. Because the neck is less protected than the rest of the spine, it can be more vulnerable to injury.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?:
There is no substitute for a proper and professional bike fit to increase your comfort on the bike and decrease your risk of injury. However, there are some simple tips to alleviate an existing neck injury and to decrease the chance of them occurring in the first place.
The first tip is to relax your upper body while riding. This can be achieved in several ways. One way is to relax “your death grip” on the handlebars by wiggling your fingers every so often during your ride to ensure that your hands are relaxed and not creating unnecessary tension. Another way is to keep a slight bend in your elbows to allow them to work as shock absorbers of the bumps in the road. By having your elbows “locked out” the road vibration gets transferred to your hands, neck, and shoulders which can cause numbness in your hands and fatigue your muscles respectively. A third way is to “lengthen your neck”. Do this by using your back muscles to pull your shoulder blades down away from your head. This allows the upper shoulder and neck muscles to relax and decompresses the cervical spine.
If your neck issues still persist after implementing the above suggestions, you likely have a fit issue. In an ideal world, about 60 percent of your body weight is positioned at the rear of the bike and 40 percent at the front. This can change depending on your flexibility and experience level but is a good rule of thumb. If too much weight is placed on the handlebars, your neck, shoulders, arms, and wrists will take a beating.
It is important to evaluate that your reach is not too long and your handlebars are not too low. This will shift your weight forward and force you to hyperextend your head to look up to see the road ahead. This places more stress on your neck and upper body, compounding the small but ultimately significant impact of posture issues that have already been created in daily life.
A simple solution to shorten your reach is to flip your stem if it is angled downward so that it is angled upward. This will raise the level of your handlebars effectively bringing them closer to your body. Another option is to swap your existing stem out for a shorter one to again bring the handlebars closer to your body. One other simple solution is to add spacers below your stem if there is enough room on your steerer tube again raising the level of your handlebar. If neck pain continues to plague your riding, chiropractic care, and a tailored exercise program can be of great benefit.
I look forward to meeting you at the office soon. If you have any questions regarding a specific cycling or sports injury don't hesitate to call our office.
Dr. Andrew Gutierrez, DC, CCSP
Santa Monica Chiropractor