Guide: How to Keep Knee Pain From Cycling
Cycling is a popular activity for exercise and getting around. However, some people have concerns about its impact on knee health. While cycling is often praised as a low-impact sport that is easy on the joints, it's important to note that the repetitive actions of cycling, like pedaling over 5,000 times, can cause pain and potential joint problems.
Research shows that up to 60% of recreational cyclists experience knee pain from overuse at some point. But this doesn't mean that cycling is always bad for your knees. In fact, cycling is good for your overall health and is considered joint-friendly. If you have knee pain, here are some solutions to consider.
Increase the Miles and Speed Moderately
The main reason why cyclists hurt their knees is because they suddenly start riding longer, faster, and/or harder than they have been. This puts too much strain on their connective tissues and causes inflammation in their joints.
To solve this problem, it is important to gradually increase your riding mileage or time by 20 to 25 percent each week. However, there is a limit to how much you can increase.
According to Dr. Safran-Norton, it is important to gradually increase your cycling mileage and speed to allow your body to adjust to the demands of the activity.
It is crucial to be cautious not only when increasing your mileage over a week, but also during each individual ride. For example, if your longest ride is 40 miles, don't suddenly go for 80 miles the next week. Instead, increase your mileage gradually, such as going for 50 miles first, then 60 miles the following week, and so on, until you reach 75 or 80 miles.
Proper Bike Fit and Adjustment
One important thing to prevent knee discomfort while cycling is to ensure that your bike fits your body properly. Dr. Jessica Davis, a specialist in sports medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, says that adjusting the bike correctly is crucial because an ill-fitted bike can put more stress on your joints and cause knee pain.
Improper saddle fit can lead to stress, pain, and injury. You can do a quick check by placing your pedals at the 6-o'clock and 12-o'clock positions and resting your heel on the lower pedal. Your leg should be straight, so when you're clipped in, your knee should have a 20- to 25-degree bend.
When both feet are parallel to the floor (at the 3-o'clock and 9-o'clock positions), your forward knee should be over the ball of your foot.
If the front of your knee is painful, try raising the saddle slightly or moving it back relative to the handlebars. If the back of your knee is painful, try lowering the saddle slightly or moving it forward a bit in relation to the handlebars. Remember, even small adjustments can have a big impact, so avoid changing your settings all at once.
Getting a professional bike fitting at a local cycling shop or from a certified bike fitter can greatly help in preventing knee problems.
Strengthen Your Core
What does your core have to do with your knees? It has a lot to do with them. Your core, which includes your hips and glutes, is really important for generating power when you pedal.
Also, it helps keep you stable while you ride. If your core gets tired, it can affect how you pedal. Having a strong core helps keep your body stable and spreads the work evenly, which takes some strain off your knees.
A study published in a physical therapy journal shows that doing exercises to strengthen your core can help reduce the risk of injuries in your lower body, including knee pain.
To make your core stronger and protect your knees while cycling, try doing exercises like planks, Russian twists, and leg raises during your workouts.
Before starting a cycling session, it's important to do a thorough warm-up to get your muscles and joints ready for the activity. According to Dr. Amanda Weiss-Kelly, a sports medicine specialist at the University of California, a proper warm-up with dynamic stretches and light cycling can increase blood flow to your muscles and make your joints more flexible, which reduces the risk of hurting your knees.
A study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine shows that a dynamic warm-up can improve joint flexibility and help prevent injuries in athletes. Doing dynamic stretches like leg swings, hip circles, and knee lifts can prepare your body for cycling and make it easier on your knees.
Correct Pedaling Technique
To reduce stress on your knees while cycling, it's important to pedal correctly. Dr. Robert Smith, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery, says that a smooth pedal stroke is key.
He explains, "Pedaling in a circular and fluid motion puts less strain on your knees and evenly distributes the force throughout your leg."
Here's a drill to help you improve your own pedal stroke: When you're going up your favorite hill, use a gear that's at least two teeth lower (thus easier) than what you normally use. This higher cadence is gentler on your joints. Focus on pedaling in a circular motion, rather than in ovals.
This technique helps distribute the workload evenly across different muscle groups and reduces strain on your knees.
Furthermore, a great bike computer can assist you in avoiding cycling too hard. The Coospo bike computer connects to heart rate monitors and cycling sensors, allowing you to use this real-time data to determine if you're exerting too much pressure on your knee.
When you ride your bike safely and take necessary precautions, cycling can be a safe and enjoyable exercise.