A guy in a Subaru flagged me down while I commuted home on my bike the other day, yelling “Hey man! Hey!” Since typically getting yelled at on your bike by a driver isn’t the start of a good experience, I kept going. But he persisted, and I addressed him cautiously after he caught up to me with a light in downtown Salt Lake City. His message turned out to be a diagnosis: “Your bike seat’s too high.”
He had my attention. I had wondered the same thing recently after I adjusted my bike seat to fit my dad, who rode my bike when visiting from out of town. “Really? You think so?” “Definitely, I fit bikes for a living – it’s too high. Drop it an inch or two and it will be way easier on your joints.” I grabbed an Allen wrench after I got home, dropped the seat and rode to work the next day. My knee, which had been so sore for two months that I was unable to squat to pound tent stakes, immediately felt better. Two days later, two months of fairly chronic pain (I commute 35 miles per week) had disappeared, and I hadn’t even submitted a copay much less been exposed to damaging radiation, drugs or scary needles.
There’s a few lessons to be learned from this experience. The first: patients often have the means to heal themselves – a process that can range from eliminating potential causes of pain, changing diet or exercise habits, or, in this case, listening to a dude driving down the street in a Subaru.
I guess the other lessons learned are related to the first. Even though I’ve learned from 20 years of managing back pain that I possess extraordinary, singular capabilities to heal myself, this simple solution still didn’t present itself as obvious until I had pedaled in pain through eight weeks of my summer.
The guy in the car reminded me that good health requires vigilance, faith in your own body and the open-mindedness to listen to a stranger on the street.