Cycling is a wonderful sport– a fantastic way to get non-impact exercise while having fun. Many people enjoy riding in groups and some prefer to ride solo. Some switch to cycling from other impact sports since it is supposed to be not so harsh on joints. Some take up cycling after an injury while others might be training for a triathlon.
Whatever your reason to cycle, it is important to be aware that knee pain is quite common amongst cyclists and can get worse quickly if left untreated. Primary causes of cycling related knee pain range from bike alignment, quadriceps weakness, lack of warm up and cool downs, over-training and over-use. The key is to prevent knee pain in the first place.
Listed below are the most crucial methods to prevent knee pain:
- Make sure you pay attention to your bike set-up: No two cycles are the same and no two cyclists are the same. Your bike needs to be fitted to your frame. This is called cycling ergonomics. If you need help with this seek professional advice from a sports health professional.
- Ramp up your training sensibly: Take advice from your coach or an experienced peer. Making sudden changes and over-training are the major causes of knee pain.
- Be diligent about a proper warm-up and a cool down program: Avoiding warm ups or cool downs can lead to injuries must quicker. Different muscles undergo strain and stress during cycling as compared to running or other sports. Learn a short and simple routine that you can stick to. A sports physiotherapist will be the best person to guide you.
- Take care of your legs: They undergo a lot of overuse each time you cycle. Incorporate a daily stretching or foam rolling routine that will prep your muscles for all your rides- no matter short or long distance. A rolling and stretching program for your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves is a must especially after the long- distance rides.
- Take recovery into consideration: Treat your legs to a sports massage to get all the knots and kinks out. If you ride 2-3 times a week then a monthly sports massage is a smart idea.
- Strengthen the knees and the core: Hit the gym; learn a home-based mat program; cross-train. The stronger your quadriceps muscles are the lower your chances of ever experiencing knee pain. Core muscle strength drives your rides- they can take the load away from the leg muscles. So invest in some time and effort outside of your cycling for strength training and enjoy improved cycling performance.
- Lastly but most importantly- don’t ignore any pain, let along knee pain: The longer you ride with knee pain- no matter how minimal- the more serious the knee problem will become. Apply ice packs daily for a few days along with taking a short break from cycling; but if the pain has not subsided in a week’s time consult a sports physiotherapist or an orthopaedic surgeon. Patella-femoral syndrome (muscular imbalance leading to patella tracking issues) and patellar tendonitis (inflammation of the patella tendon) are the two common cycling related knee problems. These can be treated effectively if addressed in a timely manner. Delaying treatment could mean having to give up cycling altogether.
So ride long, ride strong but keep knee pain at bay with these simple tips.