Imbalance between right leg and left leg

Often in the early part of the season, I got some mild knee pain. It’s been a recurring feature for many years. In the past, I woul just kind of grin and bear it. Hoping a combination of rest, riding and goodwill would see it disappear. These days, I’m a bit more impatient. Last year, I got fed up with knew pain and went to see a sports physiotherapist. (David Jones, Oxford Sports Rehabilitation). The experience proved very good. I could see the weakness in the leg muscles, and why the pain was occurring. Some simple exercises and it got better quite quick. I also went to David after April with pains in leg. He was the one who suggested it is likely to be a blood clot (something missed by other doctors on both sides of the Atlantic)

Photo doesn't have too much to do with knee pain. But, this is a really rather excellent beard

Photo doesn’t have too much to do with knee pain. But, this is a really rather excellent beard

After many miles in Nov and Dec, there was no problem at all. I did some leg strengthening exercises intermittently, but mainly just cycling away. But, towards the end of Jan, I started to feel a twinge in the knee. I booked an appointment, even though I wasn’t sure there was anything really wrong. As fate would have it, I turned up for appointment on wrong day and missed the appointment last week and had to rearrange it to this week. This Tuesday, during a ride, I felt a bit more pain in left knee – the problem arrived almost on cue for upcoming physio appointment. A simple bending of leg showed it was better than last year. But, still there was a substantial difference in strength between left leg and right leg.

The appointment was in a gym, so I went on a leg press machine. With my right leg, I could only lift 30kg. But, with my left leg, I could only lift 20kg. The Right leg was clearly 10kg (40-50%) stronger than left leg.

I found this really amazing. You just assume that if you cycle using two legs, they would be of equal strength. But, this imbalance in strength means the left leg fatigues quicker than right leg and into a ride, it’s harder to maintain the straight action. As the tired leg wobbles all over the place, stress is placed on the knee causing the pain.

I’ve been given some simple exercises to strengthen left leg. It involves jumping on to a block, and standing up from a chair on one leg.

It was a bit feeble as well to be only able to life 20kg. Cycling isn’t about raw strength, but if you can lift 40kg rather than 20kgs, it must help a little bit/

I’m quite hopeful the knee pain will disappear  over next few weeks. That’s the other good thing about physio; it’s much better to have an understanding of what’s wrong, and also the knowledge you can do some things to help.

Of course, knee pain can also be caused by wrong set up on bike. It may also be due to other factors, but for many people imbalances between left and right are quite common – so it’s worth checking out.


One Response to Imbalance between right leg and left leg

  1. sm February 1, 2013 at 8:53 am #

    I think I have (hopefully, had) this problem too, with pain in the left knee. The pain would come after long hard efforts and, until I read this post, I never thought it could have been an imbalance of strength, but it’s a logically theory. I tweaked and tweaked the bike set-up but nothing could shift the dull aching pain in the knee.

    And then I bought a fixed gear which I ride with a pretty tough gear ratio. The knee pain has since disappeared. I leave my left leg clipped in at the many traffic light stops during my commute, so I’m always pushing the big gear from a standing start using my left leg first. Perhaps this has strengthened it somewhat, along with riding fixed too of course.

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