Bike riding is a great way to have fun and stay fit, but it can also be the source of serious knee pain.
Whether you’re a beginner, or an experienced cyclist, you can be at risk of a condition called IT band syndrome. This is an injury caused by a stretching of the iliotibial tissue, a thick and fibrous tissue that runs from the hip to the knee. When cycling, the constant up and down motion of the legs causes this tissue to become stretched. Then, the tissues rub against the bony portions of the knee and hip, causing intense pain.
Beginning cyclists commonly complain of IT band syndrome pain. These rookie riders can cycle for hours without giving due respect to the needs of their feet and knees. Other causes of knee pain are poor sitting position, cleat alignment, hard riding or a faulty saddle. It can even be a result of simple body anatomy. The only way to reduce this pain is to ride more slowly. This allows the body more time to adapt to the physical stress of cycling. Minimizing hard riding and stretching before and after riding can also help lessen the effects.
Making changes to your bicycle might also help to reduce cyclists’ knee pain. Adjusting the seat higher or lower can be beneficial in taking stress off of the knees. Cyclists’ knee pain can occur when the seat is too high, or too low. If the seat is high, the pain will be felt behind the knee; too low, and pain develops in the patella. The only way to find the right seat height is to visit your cycle shop for a professional height adjustment. If you use cleats in cycling, they may need some adjustment as well. Cleats should not float too much internally, nor should they float externally. The ideal cleat position is neutral. The shoe position can be checked at your bike shop, and adjusted using the “fit kit” method.
Another common cycling-related injury is chondromalacia. This painful condition is caused when the cartilage behind the patella is under constant pressure, such as in cycling.
Strengthening the quadriceps muscles along the front of the thigh can help to relieve the discomfort. Physicians recommend simple exercises, like sitting on a chair and stretching the leg. Avoiding sideward movement while pedaling can also help lessen the pain.
It’s important to reduce your riding time until your knee pain subsides, or you may risk further injury. Rest your knee and apply ice packs to alleviate the pain. When riding, avoid bumpy surfaces and high speed cycling. Keep your muscles loose by applying ice and doing stretches before you ride. In cold weather riding, be sure to keep your legs warm.
Cyclists’ knee pain can indicate more serious conditions. If your pain persists or becomes worse, see a doctor or visit a sports clinic for a complete analysis.