Is Cycling Bad For My Knees?
Any physical activity increase your risk of injury if you do not take the time to warm up and ease into the activity. Some people fear that cycling is a dangerous activity for people with bad knees because the knee joint helps pedal the bike. However, most cycling knee injuries are the result of poor preparation or overuse. Those with bad knees do not have to avoid cycling as long as precautionary measures are taken. Another important factor to consider is that most knee pain is not an acute issue. Chronic knee injuries occur over time. As with any physical activity, it is important to consult a doctor before beginning a regular biking routine.
Common Pains for Cyclists
Knee problems are not uncommon, but it is often the result of improper posture. Anterior knee pain, knee bursitis and knee contusions are the three main knee pains experienced when cycling. Each injury is the result of different incidents and must be treated individually.
- Knee contusions are the most basic knee injury, resulting from a fall or crash. Scrapes, bumps, bruises and cuts are all types of knee contusions. Though they can be treated over the counter, bumps, bruises and deep cuts should be examined at the physicians in case it is a serious injury.
- Knee bursitis refers to the inflammation of small fluid-filled sacs around the knee. The job of these sacs is to prevent friction on the joint and knee cap, but from time to time they may become inflamed. When this happens there is a sharp pain that occurs every time the knee moves. The biggest cause of this injury is over-use. If the problem continues the doctor may prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication or inject a cortisone shot into the problem area.
- Anterior knee pain is also common, but more specific. This includes conditions such as patellofemoral and chondromalacia. These conditions occur when the knee cartilage breaks down under the knee cap and causes an imbalance. From time to time when the injury occurs a popping can be heard when the knee moves from above or below the knee.
Causes of Knee Pain
A major cause of knee pain is weak external rotator muscles. The increased rotation of the leg causes stress on the bone alignment. This results in more pressure being applied to the knee. Aside from this extra pressure, muscle weakness and tears can also create problems. Before cycling, the leg muscles must be stretched because cyclists have incredibly strong calf and leg muscles. The joints help move these muscles, but cannot handle the extra weight and pressure if warm ups are not completed. This will help build endurance as well. Finally, muscle imbalance can also be a problem as muscles increase in size. Take the time to work out the rest of the body and complete flexibility exercises like yoga to avoid balance issues.
Solutions for Knee Pain
Cycling does not have to end if pain is occurring. Visit a physician and discuss options, but most importantly take the time to prepare for injury. Some of the smallest changes can be made to take the pressure off your knees.
- Get a bike adjustment. Few people realize that most pain comes from improper bike posture. Visit a bike store and ask that the handle bars and pedals be adjusted to fit your body. No one person has the same shape and bikes are designed for “one fits all.” This isn’t true! If the feet are angled when riding it can cause intense pain and a simple adjustment will fix this.
- Control the temperature. When it is warm outside the knee must stay warm as well. Use knee pads or insulators to help control the temperature and keep the joint moving properly.
- Fill in dead space. Dead space in the shoe can create many problems for stress on the knee joint. Once the space between the arch and insole inside the shoe is filled the energy is properly transferred across the foot to the knee. This will help relieve pressure.
- Take breaks. It is not unlikely that a knee hurts because it is over used, so even if you are training for a marathon be sure to rest. Over using your knee can lead to severe, permanent problems.