Knee Pain Facts and Cycling Advice
Nearly everyone has experienced knee pain, whether caused by sudden injury, overuse, or an underlying condition such as arthritis.
Symptoms of knee injury can include pain, swelling and stiffness.
The good news is that most chronic knee pain is avoidable. To relieve and prevent knee pain and its causes, try these recommendations:
1. Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight makes men five times more likely (and women four times more likely) to develop knee osteoarthritis. Research shows that a 10% decrease in weight will result in a 28% increase in knee function. Low impact activities such as swimming or using a cross trainer are great for weight loss.
2. Strengthen the muscles which support the knee
Strengthening the supporting muscles will reduce stress on your knee joint. Strong muscles in the front of your thigh (quadriceps) and back of your thigh (hamstrings) help your knee joint absorb shock. The less strain on your knee, the better the chances are for pain relief and preventing further injury.
3. Tone your core muscles
Abdominal weakness will cause your pelvis to tilt forward, creating excessive low-back curvature and shifting the leg bones inward, causing strain on the knees. Abdominal exercise, Pilates and yoga are all great ways to work your core.
4. Be kind to your feet
High-heeled shoes increase the compressive force on your knee joints by 23%. Wearing heels also encourages tight calf muscles, another common cause of knee pain. Your knees will thank you for wearing flat shoes. If you’re a runner, replace your running shoes regularly (every 300 miles or so) to ensure good support for your arches and joints.
If knee pain persists, a physiotherapist can provide a rehabilitation programme to get you back to full physical fitness. Treatments may include manual therapy, sports massage, taping, stretches and strengthening exercises.
What are the benefits of cycling vs impact on the knees?
Cycling brings enormous and varied benefits for your health, whether riding for recreation or as a serious competitor. However, cycling is also a highly repetitive sport (an average cyclist might perform well over 5,000 revolutions an hour), so it’s easy to understand why many cyclists suffer from knee pain.
So how can cyclists take care of their knees?
- Make sure your saddle is at the right height by allowing one pedal to drop to the 6 o’clock position and observe the angle of the knee joint. There should be a 20 degree flexion in the knee when the pedal is at the bottom most point.
- Incorrect seat fore/aft position may also contribute to knee pain. Seated with the pedal in the 3 o’clock position, a “plumb line” hung from the most forward portion of the knee should intersect the ball of the foot and the axle of the pedal.
- If you are new to cycling, experiencing ongoing discomfort, looking to prevent injury or maximise efficiency, as well as seeing a physiotherapist who can give you strengthening exercises and help with your flexibility, we would advise that you have a professional “bike fit”. Diane Watson , who is a keen cyclists and resident physiotherapist at Redbourn Physiotherapy Clinic offers excellent advice on how to get the most out of your cycling.
- Use a slightly lower gear than you usually would. A lot of small efforts are better for your knees than fewer large efforts.
- Get warmed up by pedalling fast in low gears for a while before putting in any real effort.
- Don’t make big changes in your training program; increasing mileage by more than 10% a week is a risk factor for injury.