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Tight Belt Syndrome – Sounds Stupid… It’s Not.


I have suffered through, for two and a half decades, a sore back.  Some days are worse than others but once I added cycling they were few and far between.  The bad days, though rare now, were (and are) almost unbearable.  Finding a comfortable position to sleep in can be an exercise in futility.  I always thought it was the result of a severe beat down I received while in a drunken, passed out stupor so I just sucked it up and lived with it.

Sitting down with my wife’s mom and stepdad last night they explained a new problem he was diagnosed with… He’s been losing weight lately and had developed the same pain I’ve lived with for so long.  Generally speaking, it’s a left side, lower back pain that radiates to the middle and down.  In my case, I could find temporary relief (a few to ten minutes) by stretching my right leg over my left, shoulders flat, letting my right leg dangle over
the side of my bed by 6-8″… It was a BIG stretch.

Come to find out that because my stepdad-in-law has been losing weight he’s been tightening his belt to keep his pants from falling down… Tightening his belt too much pinched a nerve – guess where.

Being skinny for all but a year of my life (and having next to no butt) had me constantly cranking down the belt to keep my pants up. Once I started cycling, not to put too fine a point on it, I got an ass so I didn’t have to crank my belt down to keep my pants up anymore. In short, I’ve given the nerve time to heal, swelling has gone down, yada, yada, yada.

Now, this information makes some things make sense but I haven’t checked this with my own doctor yet to make sure it’s right. The internet is flush with information on skinny jean syndrome but rather short on the tight belt version. My stepdad-in-law switched to suspenders on his diagnosis and that netted him tremendous results.

From what I’ve read, you should be able to fit two stacked fingers between your belt and skin, if you can’t you could end up with back pain. If you can’t keep your trousers up and keep them loose enough for the two fingers, suspenders are recommended.  I’m not about to jump on the suspenders bandwagon just yet (maybe 15 years hence) because I can live with those few and far between days now and again (I also learned that icing my back will help too…  I never even considered that) but I’d consider it if I ever went back to the bad old days where I was hurting three to four days a week.

Now, on another note, I read one article that suggested Lycra and Spandex clothing can cause problems as well, especially with “skinny jean syndrome” but I’m an everyday cyclist and I’ve never had a problem.  The point and reason for this post is to raise awareness so that others might not have to live with the pain for as long as I did.

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4 Comments

  1. Kecia says:

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing Jim!!

  2. elisariva says:

    I fully understand that chronic pain sucks! Now my two female cents on the fashion front: blue jeans – get a size the fits and doesn’t need a belt. Old Navy has jeans for under $20 that look great. Same goes for cords and khakis. Dress pants – don’t wear clip on suspenders!! You aren’t a farmer. But – dress pants with sewn in stylish suspenders – hot!

    Spandex – Castelli and other high end brands have cycle shorts that have a blended in waist band. Spandex expands with you so it shouldn’t bind, it is the elastic waist band some brands sew in that bonds.

    Don’t you love it though when the cause of your pain can be remedied with a tweek and not a drug??

    • bgddyjim says:

      Indeed! For jeans, that doesn’t always work and a belt is workable, you just can’t crank it down. Agreed with the slacks and suspenders (I have two suits with that setup). The spandex/Lycra deal is tricky. I don’t have a problem at all, I just through that in for others – bibs would be the way to go in that case.

      Thank you for the suggestions, I’ll add them to the post.

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