The Theory Behind My Cycling Knee Pain Cure
The theory is that hot castor oil draws inflammation out. Its classified as an old wives tale, but my very modern and well-educated naturopathic doctor swears by it. And so do I, now. I have also used it with stunning success for the pain in my Achilles tendon, which was also caused by vast amounts of cycling. As with my cycling knee pain, castor oil has succeeded where hundreds if not thousands of dollars of other treatments have failed.
What Is Cyclist Knee
Itchy joints are sometimes a side effect of Cyclists knee, also known as IT band friction syndrome. This condition is commonly observed by cyclists who suffer from genu varum or flat feet, as well as IT bands. The pain is caused by the muscles insertion point. Friction occurs over the lateral femoral condyle at the outside of the knee.
My Cycling Knee Pain Cure
This is what I did: I bought a bottle ofcastor oil for $13. I lowered myself to the floor to pull my moth-eaten $20 heating pad out of the dusty recesses of the bathroom cabinet . Then I smeared large quantities of castor oil on my knees, put a kitchen dish towel on top of that, covered that with a plastic packet, and topped it all off with the heating bag. Lovely.
I left the heating pad on my right knee for 15 minutes, and then switched to my left knee. It was oddly soothing, considering that I have always been taught that inflammation needs cold, not heat. Then I put the whole messy heap away, shaking my head at my own desperation.
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How To Fix It:
The major cause of tightness behind the knee has a saddle that is too high or too far behind. It is best to look out for the level of your saddle if you are experiencing pain or tightness behind the knee. But above all, I would suggest that you get a bike that fits you perfectly or change your saddle completely if you have to. If you are suffering from a saddle sore and don’t know what to do with it.
Knee Pain In Cycling: An Overview
When we think of cycling injuries, we tend to think of acute injuries, like a broken collarbone. These are usually caused by crashes or falls.
Chronic injuries on the other hand are much more common in cycling. These are the kinds that develop over a longer period of time, and stem from overusing a certain muscle or muscle group. They include things like lower back pain, tendonitis, and knee pain, and tend to accompany endurance sports where long hours of training are involved.
Multiple studies have found that more than 90 per cent of professional road cyclists have experience at least one chronic injury in their career, with the knee being the most common site of pain. It was also noted that these injuries were often severe enough to necessitate time off the bike in order for them to heal.
The numbers are even worse for recreational riders who suffer from inexperience and poor bike fits. Some studies have suggested that knee pain is more common in recreational cyclists than in professionals, and when we look more closely at the causes, it makes sense. So lets dive right into it: here are the most common causes of knee pain in cycling.
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Book A Bike Fitting Session
As we have established, poor bike fit is the most common cause of cycling knee pain. Therefore, the first thing you need to do is book an appointment with a professional bike fitter as a preventative measure.
You can download apps and watch YouTube videos, but there is no substitute for a session with a bike fitter to make sure your bike fits you just right.
A bike fitter will use measurements and formulas to ensure your bike is the right size. But they will also know what to tweak with regard to handlebar height, reach, seat post height, crank length, and so on.
When your bike fits you correctly, you will not only prevent cycling knee pain but also ride faster and more comfortably.
Apply Ice To Reduce Inflammation
If youre feeling pain, especially for a couple days or weeks in a row, chances are good that some inflammation has built up in your knee.
Ice is natures anti-inflammatory, says Dr. Metzl. Fifteen minutes of ice after exercise can do a painful knee a world of good, both from the anesthesia of cold, and the reduction in the cytokines that cause tissue irritation. Check out these spin shoes for indoor cycling that can help reduce your risk of injury.
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Book An Appointment With A Personal Trainer
Get your trainer to create a program for you that specifically aims to increase your strength so as to avoid cycling knee pain. For example, cyclists have notoriously weak hip flexors, and strengthening these can help prevent knee pain. If you cant afford a trainer, consider buying one of the excellent books on the subject, such as Weight Training for Cyclists: A Total Body Program for Power and Endurance.
Top 3 Stretches To Avoid Knee Pain When Cycling
Bring your knee to your chest, place the same side hand on the outside of your knee. Place your other hand on top of your foot. Pull your foot towards your chest and push your knee across to your opposite shoulder.
Hip Flexor / ITB Stretch
Place a pillow on the floor in front of the chair. Place your toes on the chair and your knee on the pillow. Put your other foot out in front with your knee bent 90 degrees and in line with the knee on the pillow.
Stand with your back to the table and place your toes on the table. Place a rolled towel in the crease of your knee. Lean backwards and push your hip forwards.
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How To Avoid Posterior Knee Pain
To avoid pain behind the knee in cycling, check your saddle position. For example, a saddle set too high or too far back can lead to posterior knee issues. Play with your saddle position to try and address this issue or do a professional bike fitting. Additionally, integrate foam rolling and stretching to help relieve symptoms.
Alternatively, if you use a bike with coaster brakes, pedaling backward to stop can strain the hamstrings and result in posterior knee pain. More rest between rides should give your tissues time to adapt to this new movement.
How To Protect Your Knees
Move more/ You never want to stay in the same position for hours, says Schmidt. Stand up on the pedals, slide back in the saddle, and shift around every 10 minutes or so, he adds, especially as terrain changes. Varying things refreshes the system and keeps pain from setting in.
Increase cadence / When youre pedaling slow and hard, youre only going to put more stress on the knee, says Schmidt. So spin light and fast. Shift into an easier gear and increase your cadence to 90 to 100 rpm for relief.
Pay attention to pain / Most of the time, ignoring pain wont cause irreparable damage, but it may prolong recovery time, says Feldman. And the more time you rehab, the less time you can spend on the road. If your knee hurts on the bike, cut your ride short, and assess what you can do to fix it.
Follow a maintenance program / Use the moves in this article twice a week to strengthen your hip flexors, glutes, and core. And warm up before every ride by pedaling easy for 10 to 20 minutes and activating those same areas, says Baptiste.
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How To Recover From Cycling Knee Pain
Cycling is often prescribed as an excellent exercise to do if you are recovering from knee injuries. This is because cycling is a much lower impact exercise than running.
But cycling is repetitive, as you make thousands of pedal strokes during a single ride. This means that any imbalance, injury, or irritation, can quickly turn into a severe chronic injury.
Before you start training after getting cycling knee pain, you need to take preventative action. This includes getting a professional bike fit, setting your saddle correctly, and maintaining proper form.
Cycling knee pain is strongly connected with rest days. The fewer rest days you have, the higher your risk of chronic cycling knee pain.
If you schedule in enough rest, your body will have time to recover and repair any damage done to the tissue. Continuing to train while you have cycling knee pain will cause more damage rather than make it better.
You need to listen to your body, follow a training plan and ensure you get enough rest. Men are often the worse culprits for not listening to their bodies. They often fight through the pain and dont do anything until its too late.
After each ride, you may want to ice your knees to reduce any inflammation.
Why Do I Have Knee Pain When Running
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome or Runners Knee is a dull pain around the front of the knee.
It may be caused by a structural defect where you have imbalances in the supporting muscles of your knee. It can also be caused by a certain way of walking or running which means your knee is out of alignment, and the force from walking or running puts too much stress on the knee joint.
Often people try to address the knee pain directly but fail to fix the root cause which could be your walking or running pattern.
One of the services you can choose at our clinics is a Free Running Evaluation, which allows you to get an expert analysis of your running pattern so you can discover how to get rid of knee pain when running and improve your performance.
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Area : Iliotibial Band Syndrome
Another painful condition thats very closely related to patellar compression syndrome is called iliotibial band syndrome.
The iliotibial band is a thick brous strap of tissue that runs all the way down the lateral thigh, from the pelvis to just below the knee. Its a structure that has a habit of tightening up over time and pulling the patella off centre if your vastus medialis oblique muscles arent strong enough to counteract.
Because of where it sits, as the knee is repeatedly bent and straightened, it moves back and forth over the knobbly end of the thigh bone just above the knee, cushioned by a uid-lled bursa. Its at this point that inflammation can occur, which is then irritated each time the knee is bent.
Most commonly seen in runners, its an unpleasant condition thought to be exacerbated by weakness of the gluteus medius muscle another essential core muscle that gets neglected by cycling and also by wearing cleats that point the toes too far inwards.
How to manage iliotibial band syndrome
Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images
In the acute phase of the injury, the mainstay of its treatment is the same as any for an inammatory condition: rest, ice and regular anti-inammatory medications such as Ibuprofen, if tolerated.
Rehabilitation after this is very similar to that described above for patellar compression syndrome, but with a focus on building up the gluteus medius muscle instead of the vastus medialis oblique.
How To Treat General Knee Pain:
Every knee condition is a little bit different, but the truth is, many chronic knee injuries will be treated similarly. Here are some ideas that will help most chronic knee injuries that you come across.
Get Some Rest: When you first start having some knee pain, stop. Take a break. If you rest early and enough, you might just catch your injury before it becomes too serious.
Try taking three days off of the bike. I know that days off dont sound fun, but your body will thank you and 3 days off at the beginning is less than 2 weeks that you might have to take off if your injury progresses.
If your injury starts to get better after 3 days off then try to slowly build back into riding. Dont increase your ride time by more than 12% each week. If you dont make any progress over those 3 days, then it might be time to seek some medical help for more advanced treatment.
Ice Your Injury: When you experience an injury, whether you see it or not, your body experiences some degree of inflammation. This inflammation impedes range of motion and can hinder your ability to restore normal activity.
The proper way to ice an injury is to ice for 15-20 minutes 3 times per day. Place ice cubes or crushed ice in a plastic zip lock bag. Then place a small washcloth over your knee and set the ice on top. Wrap the ice in place by using some sort of compression wrap.2
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When To Seek Professional Guidance
While mild exercise and sufficient rest are usually enough to get you back on your bike, some injuries require professional advice. If the pain persists or prevents you from peddling altogether, you may need to book an appointment with a physiotherapist or GP.
Sexton advises injured cyclists to especially look out for pain that is sharp, severe or disruptive of your sleep schedule. Other red flags include swelling, locking, or clicking of the knee, as well as back pain or pins and needles in the leg. These symptoms call for an immediate halt to any biking and an urgent consultation with a medical practitioner.
Although it may not feel like it now, try to remember an injury is not a cycling death sentence. While it can feel like a major setback, the recovery process is a valuable opportunity to reevaluate your training and develop the tools to minimise the chances of relapse.
So, dont deflate those tyres just yet youll be back on the open roads in no time.
Overload And Spring Knee
Finally there are cases where a cyclist suffers from knee pain simply because theyve done too much, too soon. Commonly called spring knee its frequently a result of a sudden increase in mileage in an attempt at last minute fitness gains.
George says: You can get tendinitis in there often riders have a break over winter then they go out and carry on riding like they were theyll get tendinitis because the muscle just isnt ready. From that point of view, they need load strength work in the hamstring if theyre getting a dull aching pain. Its important to stretch the hamstring then too.
He adds: From a coaching perspective only ever add 10% of duration if someone suddenly goes from nothing to 4 hours, theyre going to get pain. Same for intensity if you increase intensity you need to back down on volume and ensure youre getting rest.
Spring knee is also sometimes associated with over-gearing, so it’s often a good idea to use smaller gears and higher cadence until the problem subsides.
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How Does Knee Structure Impact Injury
Before we dive into the details its important to form a basic understanding of what lies beneath the skin and the structures involved when we talk about knee pain. In the simplest terms, the knee joint acts as a hinge between your hamstrings, which bend the knee, and the quadriceps, which extends as you straighten the leg. The patella sits right on top of this hinge acting as a pulley to increase the force a cyclist generates through the quadriceps, which leads to increased pedalling efficiency. Understanding the structure of the knee is vital to its protection, and treatment, and avoiding damage while ensuring recovery is targeted and successful.Keep reading to learn more about how cycling knee pain can be overcome with some simple, quick exercises.
The relationship between the knee cap, quadriceps tendon & surrounding major muscle groups is key to maintaining healthy knee alignment, pedaling power & efficiency, while avoiding long term damage.
Kinesio Tape To Increase Blood Flow
CrossFitters and volleyball players at the Olympics use this tape, which has a purpose.
The use of Kinesio tape is helpful with injuries, explains Fulop. If applied correctly the tape will lift the skin slightly, increasing blood flow to the injured area. Blood flow brings healing nutrients and oxygen to the injured tissue. This is also a great tool to use at home if anyone is experiencing knee pain.
An affordable option is this KT Tape that comes in variety of colors, from classic black to neon green, and is hypoallergenic, lightweight, breathable, and comfortable on the skin.
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How To Prevent Knee Pain After Biking
The best way to prevent knee pain that keeps you off your bike is to treat it before it becomes chronic. Over time, lack of care and overuse can lead to more damage that causes unrelenting pain.
First, take a break from cycling and check out your bicycle setup. The height of your seat is essential to the health of your knees. Most cases of knee pain are because of a poor-fitting bike with a seat that is either too high or too low. Go into a bicycle store and ask for a professional fit. Your bike specialist should also take several personal factors into account, including your fitness level, riding style, and typical biking routine.
Take this opportunity to reevaluate the intensity of your rides as well. Perhaps you are riding too frequently or for too many miles during each session. Maybe it is as simple as changing your route to avoid steep hills that require forceful pedaling. Be honest with yourself about whether youre overdoing it.