Knee Pain from Cycling
Cycling is sometimes thought of as a rehabilitation sport. Its low impact nature seems to promise conditioning without the threat of injury. But as with any repetitive motion, the body faces a real possibility of injury if the motions aren’t done safely. Knee pain from cycling is actually quite common, but also quite avoidable. Knowing the hows and whys of the body’s mechanics can help pedal pushers avoid this inconvenience.
Knee pain tends to develop over time. Its specific causes vary, but in many cases it stems from poor alignment. The patella (or kneecap) protects the knee joint. It’s made to move in track with the femur bone, and when it’s off track, the cartilage behind it will wear, tear and cause general irritation. The kneecap and the femur bone can fall off track when alignment is off. So, if the knees are turned outward or inward when pedalling, the kneecap will not move on its proper track. Be sure that your knees always move straight in line with your legs.
1. Fix Your Form
But when it comes to knee pain from cycling, there’s more than just a straight pedal stroke to watch for. There are several details in a cyclists setup that can affect whether or not bad pressure is being placed on the knees. If it’s within your financial means, getting a professional bike fit can shed light on these details and make a huge difference in your ride.
2. Adjust Your Bike
If not, you can watch our for several common mistakes on your own. One thing to check is the height and angle of the saddle (or the seat). If the saddle is too high or too low, it can make the angles on the knee to tight when pedalling. This will cause a strain on the connective tissue leading to inflammation and pain. You should also be sure that you have enough cleat float. In other words, don’t attach your cleats too tightly. Proper bicycling requires a little room for the feet to move. Otherwise, you may be forcing your feet, legs and knees to move in a rotation that doesn’t match their natural alignment.
3. Smooth Out Your Pedal Strokes
And speaking of rotation, pedal pushers need to make sure that they are pushing those pedals correctly. Rather than strictly forcing the pedals down, be sure to push through the whole rotation. This helps to prevent unnecessary and uneven force to the knee. Another way to avoid knee pain from cycling is to use common athletic care. Always stretch muscles before riding. Tight muscles are more likely to strain the patella. You should also condition those muscles that aren’t used as much as others in cycling. For instance, cycling strengthens the quadricep muscle on the outside, but doesn’t do much for the quadricep on the inside. This imbalance can cause an uneven pull on the kneecap. Use additional exercises and stretches to give attention to this muscle as well.
4. Take it Easy
Also, no matter how tempting it may be, don’t overfatigue yourself. Keep your ride length steady. Only increase your mileage and the intensity of your route gradually, rather than giving yourself more than you can handle all at once. Tired muscles will be less able to support your knee joint.
The Rolflex PRO can be used to prevent and treat knee pain associated with cycling. Click here to see how the Rolflex PRO compares to the everyday foam roller in rolling out the knee, specifically the Iliotibial Band.
Related articles: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain from Cycling.