Knee Pain After Cycling: What Should I Do?

knee pain from cycling

Is knee pain taking your love out of cycling? You don’t need to suffer through the pain, we can help you. 

Cycling is growing increasingly popular in the United States and as a result of that we’re seeing more and more people with knee pain because of cycling. 

Unfortunately most cyclists whether that be professional or recreational will experience some form of knee pain if they are cycling regularly. 

Due to the repetitive nature of cycling, overusing the knee joint is one of the most common causes of knee pain. 

Out of a study of 116 professional cyclists it was found that 94% of them experienced some form of overuse injury. 

Professionals obviously cycle more so are more susceptible to injury but if so many of them are getting injured even with the very best trainers there’s no shame in your knee pain. 

What you need to do is be proactive and do something about it, so many people just think the pain will go away. 

You can make vital changes to try and prevent injuries from occurring in the first place. 

Small changes can make a huge difference to improving your overall cycling experience and ending your pain.

For instance is your equipment set up to make your cycle comfortable and efficient? Are you cycling too much? Does your technique need to be altered? 

Many factors can contribute to your knee pain, it’s important to understand what pain you have and how you can change your cycling so you can stop the pain. 

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Knowing The Cause Of Your Pain

woman with knee pain caused by exercise

The knee is a complicated joint, as it works with the hip and the ankle the cause of your pain may not be your knee. 

Pain caused by cycling will mainly happen in four different areas of the knee, these being: anterior, posterior, lateral and medial areas of the knee. 

The good news is that pain in any of those areas are common and if you are seeking additional help for your recovery your physical therapist will be able to get you on the road to recovery. 

Anterior 

Anterior knee pain occurs at the front of the knee, usually on the knee-cap. 

This is the most common type of overuse injury that cyclists get as in most cases it is caused due to pedalling with a poor bike fit. 

The pain you experience is usually patellofemoral pain and symptoms can include:

  • Aching at the front of the knee 
  • Pain during exercise when bending the knee 
  • Pain after sitting for a long period of time
  • Clicking noises in the knee when standing up 

Posterior 

Posterior pain is the least commonly injured area of the knee as this is pain in the back of the knees. 

You may get posterior knee pain if you overwork your hamstrings and tendons whilst cycling, particularly if your muscles are tight and your saddle is too high. 

Symptoms can include:

  • Swelling 
  • Pain 
  • Instability in the knee 
  • Difficulty walking 
  • Medial And Lateral 

Medial and Lateral knee pain is fairly common with cyclists. 

This is pain down the sides of your knees and the cause is almost always your feet. 

Pain often occurs after your first ride with cleats as they might be poorly positioned or your body just isn’t used to them yet. 

The collateral ligaments will often cause your pain due to excessive rotation of the knee joint. 

Symptoms include:

  • Pain on the inside or outside of your knee
  • Feeling of instability 
  • Swelling 
  • Inflammation 

Check Your Bike Fit 

checking the bike

Checking your bike and your equipment is perfectly set up for you before you ride your bike is essential. 

The vast majority of knee pain or any sort of pain after cycling will come from something being uncomfortable during your ride. 

The chances are if you buy a bike from a store you’ll need to do some adjusting, this may take time and it won’t be the most exciting thing in the world but it could stop you from getting knee pain. 

If you are serious about cycling and are going for regular rides we recommend you seek assistance from a professional bike fitter or coach. 

There is nothing that’s going to aid your cycling more or prevent you from getting injuries than having a good bike fit. 

These 4 areas are key to your bike fit:

  • The saddle height
  • shoe/cleat position 
  • Handlebar reach and height 
  • Crank length 

You need to make sure you’re using your gears correctly as well. 

Pushing hard gears at low resolutions can put a lot of force through your knee, lower gears are generally better for your knee as you build up speed. 

Don’t Push Too Hard

couple cycling

As we mentioned before the main cause for knee pain in cycling is overuse, don’t do too much at once. 

Many problems with your knees can be avoided but not drastically increasing your workload whilst cycling. 

In an attempt at last minute gasps for fitness people will suddenly increase their mileage which frequently results in a condition commonly called spring knee. 

People might have brushed off the cobwebs from the winter and finally decided to do some training ready for the summer. 

If someone goes from doing little to no exercise to all of a sudden a 2 hour cycle you are going to have some sort of pain.  

Overtraining can lead to fatigue and burnout which makes you more susceptible to any injury, not just knee pain. 

You need to make sure you’re giving yourself adequate rest between sessions as if you push your body past its physical limit too often it can lead to chronic injuries. 

Improve Your Technique And Strength 

woman squatting

Improving your cycling technique is probably something you’ve never even considered. 

For most of us recreational cyclists out there the last form of cycling training we received was when our stabilizers came off and our parents pushed us away on a bike that one last time. 

Most of us just think about holding on and making our feet go round which are important parts of cycling, you stop both of them and you’re going to get a nasty impact injury. 

However with proper cycling form you can ride more efficiently and hopefully reduce pain.  

Correct technique starts with having a good bike fit. 

However even power distribution is vital to prevent injuries down the line. You want to make sure you’re giving an equal 50% from each side, this will also help you increase your speed. 

This is where both the technique and strength come into place. 

Strength training, particularly in your core, is great for injury prevention. A strong core will improve your stability and improve your endurance. 

Obviously building leg muscle is also key and we recommend the following exercises:

  • Squats 
  • Lunges
  • Leg press
  • Hamstring curls 
  • Warm Up And Cool Down

Failing to do a proper warm up or cool down is one of the main causes of muscle injuries. 

Yes it can be a little tedious, you just want to get out on your bike. 

Just spending 10 minutes at the start and end of your cycle can put you in a much better place both physically and mentally. 

For a start, warming up gets your body ready and it increases both your range of motion and heart rate. 

We recommend these simple stretches before your cycle:

  • Hamstring stretch 
  • Hip flexor lunge
  • Supine twist

After your cycle a cool down allows starts your recovery process off in a great way,

The cool down will reduce your heart rate and help you avoid injury, unless you’ve sustained one on the cycle itself. 

You should start your cool down by gradually reducing your pace until you come to a stop. 

Finally we recommend these stretches after your cycle:

  • Lunge stretch 
  • Hip Flexor lunge 
  • Thigh stretch

Treating Knee Pain At Home

Treating Knee Pain At Home

Hopefully you manage to stay injury free as you cycle but if you do find yourself with pain after you cycle appropriate rest is vital. 

You may have heard of the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation). In most cases the best form of treatment for your knee pain is rest. 

If you keep your leg elevated with regular intervals of icing the inflamed area you should notice a reduction in your pain. 

It is so important that you give your body time to rest and recover, not doing this risks further and more damaging injuries. 

If you can get your hands on a foam roller this can speed up your recovery time and ease any inflammation or pain. 

Using a foam roller around your knee and the surrounding muscle groups can stimulate the blood flow. 

These are only advice for minor pains, if your pain has lasted longer than a couple of days it may be time to seek additional help. 

Physical Therapy Can Help You 

physical therapy can help you

Luckily, here at Intecore PT we specialize in treating knee pains of all kinds. 

If you feel like your pain is bothering you, don’t suffer in silence, we can help you.

Your physical therapist will make a custom made plan to help you on your road to recovery.  

We will make sure your knee feels better and moves better, reducing your pain, swelling and stiffness. 

If you feel like you’d like to come to our clinic to speak to a physical therapist why not try our FREE 20 minute Discovery Session. 

In this session you will leave knowing exactly what is wrong, it’s perfect for anyone who wants to know how physical therapy works. 

Our highly trained team of physical therapists will look forward to welcoming you to our clinic. 

Andrew Vertson
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