Getting rid of knee pain after cycling
You might’ve experienced postponing your next ride after doing a number on your knees with the last one. And it gets even more troublesome if the pain ever catches you far away from home. We know because it’s actually quite common to get sore knees from cycling.
But cycling a lot isn’t necessarily a threat to your joints. In fact, it can very much be the opposite. Here’s what you should know about making your rides pain-free once and for all.
When is cycling bad for the knees?
Only when you do it the wrong way. In fact, cycling is easier on your joints compared to other activities like running. And cycling-related knee injuries are mostly due to overuse or uneven loads. Oftentimes, these are due to accumulated trauma from bad habits that include:
- Improper form
- Poor bike fit and cleat placement
- Weak muscles
- Drastically increasing your training load
Understanding knee pain after cycling
Did you know that cycling over 20 mph is comparable to running a 6-minute mile? It’s no secret that cycling is physically demanding. And if you’re not careful, it can lead to serious problems down the road. Here are some common cycling-related pains and what they mean.
Front knee pain
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Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (Runner’s Knee) is the damage on the cartilage separating your patella (kneecap) and femur (thigh bone). Symptoms include dull pains in the upper kneecap, especially while kneeling, squatting, or using the stairs.
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Pain, swelling, and weakness in the lower kneecap, aggravated by bending the knee, could be Patellar Tendonitis (Jumper’s Knee). This happens when the patellar tendon, the link between your kneecap and tibia (shin bone), gets damaged through overuse.
Inside knee pain
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Bad form and improper cleat placement can push your feet too wide apart on the pedals. This pushes your knees towards each other while cycling, eventually leading to damage in your medial collateral ligament (MCL).
Outside knee pain
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The iliotibial (IT) band is a tissue that connects your hips and knees, running through the outside of your thighs. And it’s the repeated friction on this connective tissue that causes sharp pain on the outside of your knees.
Pain behind the knee
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Although relatively uncommon, this one has a more straightforward cause: hyperextending your knee. And it’s mainly due to being seated too high on the saddle. This also causes excessive stress on your hamstrings, specifically the biceps femoris.
Fix your sore knees from cycling
If you act on them right away, most common knee pains don’t usually turn into more serious injuries. Here are some proven remedies that are readily available – even at the comfort of your own home.
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RICE or “rest, ice, compression, elevation” aims to isolate the source of stress, ease pain/inflammation, and secure the problem area. And it often works for minor pains within a few days.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
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These medications are widely available over-the-counter. The most common types of nonspecific NSAIDs include high-dose aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
This type of medication works by stopping inflammation. But in the process, it also affects the stomach lining. As a result, nonspecific NSAIDs commonly bring digestive problems as a side effect.
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Massage therapy works by increasing blood flow resulting to tension release, pain relief, and injury recovery. Many massage techniques avoid the delicate joints themselves, targeting the surrounding muscles instead. With a little consultation, a professional physical therapist can sort out your specific knee problems. And you can always get your doctor’s advice if you’re uncertain about what’s best for your knee troubles.
Conversely, it doesn’t take a lot of learning to self-treat the most common knee pains with a handheld massager. By massaging certain muscles around your knee, you can resolve pains like Bursitis and IT Band Syndrome.
Get rid of knee pain after cycling with good habits
There’s certainly a right way to approach cycling. Apart from simply not overdoing it, this would also involve building healthy habits around it. These will allow you to avoid injuries and get the most out of each ride.
Manage your weight
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Having to bear the excess pounds places your knees at greater risk of various overuse injuries. Moreover, obesity can even worsen the effects of inflammatory arthritis.
Along with a healthy pace and mileage on your rides, a balanced diet can further help you prevent these issues. This is also an opportunity to focus on foods that strengthen connective tissue, improve bone density, and curb inflammation.
Train your muscles properly
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It might seem like you don’t need every muscle group during a ride. But that doesn’t mean you can keep neglecting the others. While your legs do most of the work, you need core and upper body strength for stability.
Strength training would also help improve your technique and prevent muscle imbalances. As an added bonus, your knees also get a break from the repetitive stress it gets from cycling.
Invest in a quality bike fit
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A professional bike fitting session involves going through hands-on tests, interviews, and various measurements. To get you that optimal fit, this exhaustive process fine-tunes the following:
- Handlebar distance
- Saddle height
- Cleat positioning
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Making your ride as comfortable as possible pays off in the long run. That’s because an awkwardly fitted bike forces you into the wrong posture, putting even more stress on your knees. So, what seems like a luxury expense could save you from even costlier medical bills in the future.
Gradually ramp up your training routine
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This is another key part of a healthy training program. For this, you can’t go wrong with the 10% rule – never increase your miles by more than 10% a week. This prevents you from developing overuse injuries and unpredictable recovery times. In addition, having a proper warm-up and cool-down routine would also greatly reduce your chances of injury.
Cycling is good for your knees if you do it right
Burning as many calories as running with less knee strain is one of the reasons why cycling is so rewarding. It can even help you develop stronger muscles and joints.
That said, it’s also easy to do this wrong and do more harm than good. But by making it a sustainable lifestyle, you’ll get to enjoy cycling and its health benefits for a long time.
Looking to improve your whole training routine? You can start with a handheld massager. It’s a portable and easy-access recovery solution that even professionals trust.
- Cycling vs Running | Which One You Should Pick For Your Fitness?
- Patellofemoral pain syndrome
- Patellar tendonitis (jumper’s knee): Treatment and recovery
- Medial Collateral Ligament Injury of the Knee
- How to treat (and avoid) iliotibial band syndrome
- Guide to Over-the-Counter (OTC) Anti-Inflammatories
- 12 Weight Loss Tips that Can Specifically Help If You Have Arthritis
- 10 Foods That Help Reduce Joint Pain
- Why You Should Invest in a Bike Fit this Season
- 4 Ways to Fix Anterior Knee Pain from Cycling