I ride a road bike and I have been fitted by me, this is because where I live there are no professional fitters. I prefer ridding on the hoods, but since I changed my fitting this year and moving the bars up I can go for extended periods(90 minutes) on drops also.

I had a couple of episodes of left shoulder and left flank pain, on the edge of the chest, at my nipple level.

Here are the episodes:

  • after a couple of short sprints I hit a pothole, I instantly had localized chest pain ( this was not on the flank, was like 2 cm lower and to the centre of the body from the left nipple ) and pain on the back around same place. Only with deep breaths. Went away in 20 minutes of easy pedalling.
  • left shoulder pain after 5 hours of riding, I felt it at clavicle and towards the shoulder joint. I used hoods and drops on the ride
  • left shoulder pain after 4h hours of riding, mostly a clavicle. I was feeling it with each drive of the right leg, used hoods mostly as it was hilly course, drops only a little.
  • left flank pain, at the edge of the chest, at nipple level. This was after a long hill, that took around 1h to climb, it had steep sections of up to 10% and I was breathing deeply all the way ( but not heavily, I didn't reached LTHR for example ). I was feeling pain only with deep breaths. I rested for a while, then begin descending and in about 20 minutes the pain was gone.

I saw a doctor after the first episode and she ruled out cardiac problems, she asked me if I was out of breath and had crushing pain, which I didn't, and she also took my pulse and listen to my heart. I also had an EKG made by a sports doctor, which she interpreted as normal and made some blood pressure tests while resting and after standing which were both very good.

Regarding the last episode, I can find the spot where the pain was , I just have to raise my left hand, and search at chest edge at nipple level for a bit and I can find it, if I put pressure there then I feel sharp pain, the spot seems to be on a soft tissue when pressing against the rib.

I also have bad flexibility of lower back and hamstrings, I can barley touch my toes when bending over, and most of the stretch is from the upper back, my lower back is not horizontal. This makes me think that there is something with my position on the bike.

Any idea what could it be and how to fix it?


  • Heck, I can barely see my toes. Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 22:02
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    Sounds like when you hit the pothole you strained a muscle, and it hasn't fully healed yet. (It takes at least 6 weeks to fully heal a muscle strain, sometimes 6 months -- perhaps you should give us a timeline for your problems.) Once you've strained the one muscle the other muscles in the area will "guard" it and will get sore "in sympathy". You need to cut back a bit and give the area a chance to heal. Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 22:07
  • Thank you @Daniel. The timeline of events is like this: pothole hit 5 weeks ago, first shoulder pain 3 1/2 weeks ago, second shoulder pain 2 weeks ago, flank pain 5 days ago. Hope it help. Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 18:41
  • I think that's consistent with the strained muscle theory that Carey and I outlined. The pain moves around as each set of muscles "guards" the previously irritated set. Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 22:01

1 Answer 1


With the usual disclaimers that I'm not a doctor, etc, it sounds like you strained an intercostal muscle when you hit the pothole. Intercostal muscles are the muscles between your ribs; they assist in breathing, which explains why you experience pain with deep breaths. As with any muscle strain, the only cure is time and resting the muscle. Wrapping your chest with an elastic bandage might help. Consulting the sports doctor would be better than asking me, but my bet is he'll tell you the same thing.

But to answer your actual bike question, I don't think it has anything to do with bike fit. It's a physical injury.

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