Dealing with Knee Problems Cycling

Knee injuries seem quite common in cycling. I’ve had a few problems with knees, but hopefully have got over latest knee injury.

Things I suggest for Knee Problems

  1. Check Saddle Height. – Also be careful about changing your saddle height by more than a few mm at a time.
  2. Check cleat position. This is especially important if your look cleats don’t have any lateral movement keeping your feet locked in a certain position. I prefer speedplay which allow substantial lateral movement to enable your leg to find natural position.
  3. Visit Sports Physio. They may notice weakness in certain muscles which means your leg had difficulty maintaining straight, natural line when pedalling.
  4. Listen to the pain. If possible, you want to keep cycling a little, unless pain is too bad. You have to give an injury chance to heal. But, a little cycling may even help for mild discomfort. Try cycle in low gear, with high cadence. Keep to short easier rides whilst some discomfort is felt. It depends on the injury,  a doctor may advise total rest, but for mild injuries, a light bit of cycling may be fine. In my case, I rely on cycling to work, so I was mainly cycling with one leg and taking it slow.
  5. Try supplements you have nothing to lose (except money).
  6. Keep Trying different solutions. Different approaches may be able to help in different ways. I would try one thing at a time, and if it doesn’t work move on to next best hope. What worked for one person, may not work for another. Also, if you get rebuffed by your local GP, that doesn’t mean there aren’t others who may be more interested.
  7. Don’t get Carried away when recovering. Slowly increase mileage and intensity so your knee doesn’t regress.

My Experience

In this case, I feel visiting a sports physiotherapist was very helpful. (see: Cycling and physiotherapy)

The interesting thing is that the physio suggested the knee was fine, but the problem was in the unnatural movement of the leg due to weakness in certain muscles. In the past few weeks, I have been doing a couple of simple exercises to strengthen certain muscles. When I first did these exercises I was stiff for a few days – the muscles were untrained. But, since strengthening them they are stronger. The hope is that by strengthening these muscles it is easier to keep the leg moving in a straight line and avoiding creating friction on the knee.

I tried to make a video to explain what was happening. I don’t know how clear it is, but if you have bad knees and struggle to bend your knee keeping knee pointing straight in front of toes you might have a similar problem. I would of course, caution against using this video for self-diagnosis!

Finding a good Sports Physio

I was lucky to find a good sports physio in the local area. He seemed to have a good knowledge of sport specific injuries. The best thing to do is to ask around. You probably won’t have to go far to find a fellow cyclist who has experienced knee problems and hopefully found a good solution.

Other Treatments

If you get a successful treatment, you are apt to think it is the solution to every problem, but there are quite a few different types of knee problems so you may have to try different ones.

Supplements for Knees

I have been using a supplement of Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM. At worst you waste £10 a month on supplements that don’ make any difference. At best they can help regrow / strengthen cartilage damaged. As with most supplements, there is conflicting reports on their effectiveness, but there are enough positive reviews to make it worth while. It may well have been a factor

Preventing Knee Pain

  • Correct position on bike
  • Gym work to gain all round leg strength.
  • Don’t let the knee get very cold. Wear leg warmers

5 Responses to Dealing with Knee Problems Cycling

  1. tejvan April 24, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

    Thanks for comment Doug. It’s one thing I’ve learnt, strengthen legs! Glad you’re good for cycling

  2. Doug April 24, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

    As past sufferer of knee pain from cycling, I’ve made a few changes over the past few decades that has made all the difference.

    - Strengthen, strengthen, strengthen. Get to a gym that has a variety of leg machines and use them all. Normally, cyclists focus on the quadriceps, but all other quadrants need work also.

    - Consider using flat pedals without cleats or toe clips. This is explained better than I on the Rivendell website. Unless you’re a serious racer, the flexibility of moving your foot around the pedal, i.e. moving the foot forward when hill climbing, has helped greatly. You’ll take a lot of guff from your cycling friends, but smile and cycle on.

    My knees have never felt better, and I’m in my early 60′s.


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