How To Reduce Your Cycling Knee Pain

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It doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete or an everyday commuter. Cycling knee pain, known as patellofemoral pain syndrome can be a very frustrating and painful condition.

What causes cycling knee pain?

Cycling knee pain (patellofemoral pain syndrome) is often caused by athletic overuse or high-impact use of the knees.   With bicyclists, this is usually a result of overuse.

Another condition that can cause pain is Malalignment of the patella (kneecap). This can cause or exacerbate issues that already exist.

How does knee pain effect professional cyclists?

If you’re an athlete, knee pain can be very disruptive and frustrating. You might have to reduce your activity and training or stop all-together until the pain resides.

Knee pain and how it effects bicycle commuters

For everyday bicycle commuters, knee pain can also be a huge problem. This is especially true for those who rely on their bike to commute everywhere within an urban area.

Knee pain can prevent you from riding to and from work. The grocery store. Visiting your favorite places such as coffee shops. Or just going out to meet friends and family, greatly effecting your social life.

What to do if you experience knee pain

If you’re experiencing very painful symptoms of knee pain, it’s important to go see an Orthopaedic professional. A professional can examine, diagnose, and effectively provide treatment whether it’s surgical or non-surgical. And can answer any questions you may have about your condition.

These specialists can offer targeted treatments for the orthopaedic issues that are at the root of your biking knee pain.

What is the most common source of cycling knee pain?

The most common source of cycling knee pain is from a condition known as patellofemoral pain syndrome.

A common cause of this condition is usually brought on by athletic overuse or high-impact use of the knees (among bikers, overuse is the more common culprit.)

Malalignment of the patella (kneecap) can also cause or irritate existing issues. Patellofemoral pain syndrome causes pain both during activity and while at rest. It may also cause crackling noises and sensations in the knee joint.

What can you do to reduce the pain?

To reduce or eliminate the pain that you’re experiencing, there are a few changes that you can make to your cycling activity. Start by reducing the intensity or duration of your activity.

When you visit a Sports Medicine physician they will recommend the following:
  • Adjusting your bike seat to a height where the knees only bend slightly.
  • Riding in lower gears to reduce strain on the knees.
  • Positioning your knees straight rather than leaning inward or outward.

Do you need to stop cycling if the pain doesn’t go away?

If after making the following adjustments above doesn’t effectively reduce or eliminate your knee pain, you should take a temporary break from cycling.

Taking a break from cycling by driving or taking public transportation will allow your knees to rest. Resting your knees will help you determine whether cycling is the source of your symptoms. And will also help prevent further musculoskeletal damage from occurring.

Are there effective treatments for cycling knee pain?

An Orthopaedic specialist will provide you with specialized treatment that will eliminate the cause of your knee pain. Which will hopefully allow you to return to cycling without requiring surgery.

For those with severe knee pain, surgical treatment may be the only option.

Non-surgical options:
  • RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation).
  • Physical therapy.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications.
  • Use of orthotics or supportive braces to stabilize the knee.

NOTE: If your condition is severe, arthroscopic knee surgery may be recommended as the most effective solution for long-term relief.

How long should you wait before returning to cycling?

Even if your treatment was minor and didn’t require surgery. You should still start cycling again gradually, and do strength-building knee exercises.

It’s important that intensity and duration of activity is slowly increased over time.

Also keep in mind that after surgical treatment, you should not participate in athletic activity for several weeks to several months. This will all depend on your doctor’s recommendations.

Will orthopaedic issues affect your long-term ability to cycle?

Cycling is a generally a low-impact sport. So an injury such as patellofemoral pain syndrome should not prevent you from cycling in the long-term.

However, it may be necessary to adjust and moderate the intensity of your activity to prevent further injuries. And of course eliminate cycling knee pain.



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