Knee pain after cycling | Everything you need to know
Hurting knees can be a major issue for everyone not just for cyclists. Since bike loving people partake in such situations, they’re more vulnerable to experiencing knee pain after cycling.
The worst thing happened if you failed to take proper care after seeing symptoms. There are many ways to start feeling the symptoms.
In this post, we’re here to talk about the types of knee pain, causes, and of course, some advice on how to prevent and cure it. Are you ready?
Types of Knee Pain from Cycling
There are four common types of knee pain cyclists experience – Anterior, Posterior, Lateral, and Medial. Each of these types is caused by different factors.
Front (Anterior) knee pain – ‘Anterior’ pain
The Anterior pain is most commonly caused by poor fit of your bike. However, there are many other causes that depend on how you use your bike.
One of the main causes of Anterior pain is improper bike fit. Since we’ll talk about it in more detail in the sections below, let’s just briefly get across it. If your bike is poorly maintained, your bio-mechanics won’t work as intended. You’ll either need to apply more strength to the pedals, thus putting more stress on your knees.
The quads are very tightly wrapped around the knee, and when they get ‘overused’, the knee suffers. Now, there's a reason why you feel the pain at the front of your knee. It basically falls down to you using your muscles in an improper way. By generating more force, you put more pressure on your knees who act as supports to the joints.
In a nutshell, the fastest way that will lead you to experience Anterior pain in your knees is by adjusting your bike’s saddle ‘low’. Some cyclists say that this way you’ll get a significant boost in speed. This is mainly because it will help you to pedal faster, and that’s the reason for your is quads is ‘overuse’.
Back (Posterior) knee pain
While Anterior pain is connected to your quads, Posterior pain is related to the hamstrings. This further means that you’re most likely to experience it if your saddle is adjusted ‘high’.
Cyclists who want to ‘economize’ their pedaling usually adjust it this way. It is done as they can spare their quads and utilize their strength in a bit more efficient way. However, what most people don’t know is that this is the easiest way to burden your hamstrings. Especially so since the pain induced this way usually takes a while to kick in.
Mechanically speaking, the back pain is caused when the muscles get ‘overextended’ as opposed to the frontal pain which is felt when quads get ‘overused’. This over-extension is usually felt for longer periods of time and could lead to dramatic complications. What happens is that the stress is distributed across a larger group of muscles (larger ‘body’ of muscles, in a sense).
Lateral (outside) knee pain and Medial (inside) knee pain
Medial knee pain after cycling - it's felt on the outside whereas the medial pain is felt on the inside. There are many causes of the aforementioned pain, but in most cases we can blame tight bands and our quad muscles.
Generally speaking, lateral pain is most commonly experienced if the cyclist had suffered physical trauma on the knee – if it didn’t heal up right or if you hit the same spot on several occasions, the tissue gets weaker and will eventually start reacting ‘fast’.
Now, the story with medial knee pain is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Although there are numerous things that cause it, some of the most common ones is plain ‘physical impact’.
Cyclist who prefer downhill slopes and who ‘scale’ hills and mountains, as well as the cyclists who prefer taking their bikes in the wild often ride across rocks and ‘jump’ over various obstacles. By doing so they set ‘tremors’ that ricochet through their knees, causing vehement vibrations. One of the most common results of such cycling habits is medial pain in one or both knees.
Causes for Knee Pain in Cycling
Different people have different habits, different organisms, think and react differently. Hence what might ‘cause’ knee pain for a person, the same thing won’t necessarily affect the next person. However, there are several universal factors which are known to cause knee pain for everyone, regardless of your constitution. Such are:
These are ligament injuries, fractures, torn meniscus and tendon irritation. Every possible injury that you’ve survived up to this point, almost no matter how long ago can return. The bones heal just as efficiently as muscles do. However, as we grow older or go out of shape, our muscles get sore, and our bones get a bit flimsier.
This basically means that at a certain point you might, or might not start to experience a form of pain some previous injury have begotten you. A good way of prevention is to start doing knee strengthening exercise for cycling.
Poor bike fitting
We’ve mentioned ‘poor bike fitting’ in several sections above simply due to the fact that positioning of your bike parts is tightly correlated to how your body will respond to the bike. Adjusting the seat, the pedals, or the arms higher or lower means that your body will bend in turn, and if you’ve fitted your bike badly, what happens next is obvious.
Generally speaking, poor bike fitting can lead to all kinds of problems, not just hurting knees. A high and curved seat, long arms might make your back start to hurt, the muscles on your arms might swell, and of course, your knees will suffer as well.
Bad training/cycling regime
Bad habits often don’t seem too obvious to us. But in this case, they can actually harm you. What we mean by a ‘bad training regime’ can actually be also defined as ‘overexerting yourself’. Let’s explain this in a little more detail on examples:
In the first scenario, you’ve been cycling for a couple of months and feel propelled to take on obviously dangerous challenges. AS you might’ve seen in a movie, some friend might suggested it, it doesn’t really matter. In obvious cases, where your constitution isn’t ready for what you’re about to do. Hurt and pain are sure to follow.
In the second scenario, you’ve been hurt before so you’ve decided to rest a month or two. You might’ve spend days looking at the beautiful skies, wishing nothing but to cycle as you heal up. For quick recovery, stretches for cycling knee pain are highly advisable, though not mandatory.
No matter how good it might feel to be on the saddle again, you shouldn’t stick to the same route lengths and at the same pace as you used to. Your stamina must’ve degraded over the period where you were taking it easy. And as you start to pump up the tempo, you will pedal harder, thus increasing the risk of hurting your knees.
Whereas the previous ‘cause’ of hurting knees is referring to what you shouldn’t be done. And in this cases, it refers to how you should or should not be doing certain things.
Luckily for us, most traditional bikes are made in such an ergonomic way that they won’t necessarily lead you to harm if you use them as intended.
However, different people have different physiologists, so what applies to the next guy (or girl) doesn’t necessarily apply to you.
From a bio-mechanical perspective, how do you actually start feeling knee pain?
You might be pedaling with more force than you need, you might be cycling in a speed that’s not really economical for you, or you’re simply using a bike that was not made for someone of your physiology.
Knee Pain Symptoms
First of all, it’s important to understand that knee pain is a serious issue. If you start to experience any of these symptoms, address the matter with diligence. People who thought that it will pass on its own have, in most cases, regretted it dearly. Some of the most common knee pain symptoms are:
Swelling or Stiffness
Knees usually get swollen due to physical trauma, although that’s not always the case. If something’s gone awry internally, it is possible that your knee got swollen due to the damaged muscles.
On the opposite end, stiffness is basically your body’s reaction to something feeling wrong – your body sends signals in forms of stiffness that you should not exert yourself to the point where you did so far. If you experience this, it might be a good time to start doing knee strengthening exercise for cycling.
The bad thing about this symptom is that it could mean a lot of things. Some people feel pain in their knees when the weather changes. Others have experienced physical trauma on that particular spot maybe decades ago. But the point is that you should not simply forget about it and let chance bring what may.
Redness, warmth on touch
Mostly, swelling is caused by ripped muscle fibers (and in some cases, by actual ripping and stretching of the muscles, joints, and so on) while redness, as well as warmth on touch are symptoms that refer to muscle inflammation.
Again, everything falls down to the fact that you’ve overused a certain muscle or group of muscles, and your knees suffered in turn. Cyclists are the first people to experience redness on the knees as they’re using them for as long as they are actually cycling.
Not taking a break and pedaling at extremely high speeds will most likely bring you closer to finding out how it looks like.
General feeling of weakness
Bones, unlike muscles don’t get tired, so if you actually start to feel your knees going weak, that means that this notion of infirmity is likely to morph into pain pretty soon.
The muscles send signals to our brain when we’ve reached the limit of tiredness and proceed into the sphere of actually punishing ourselves. If we proceed with exerting ourselves even when our muscles feel sore, your knees will start to shake. This scenario resembles a feeling of panic or hopelessness the most.
Popping noises usually indicate that something’s not where it should be – be it a muscle, tissue, or a bone. There’s a silver lining for people who’ve experienced knee pain and recognized it through popping noises. It looks scary, and it certainly feels scary, so in most cases, you’ll react before it gets worse.
Inability to straighten your knee
The inability to straighten out your knee is caused by something major. It could mean you’ve ruptured a tendon, it could mean the physical trauma inflicted on your knee hasn’t healed up totally yet, but it’s certain that you need to visit a doctor if the situation gets this dire.
Knee Pain Prevention And Remedy
Watch your weight
Your knees support your weight while you walk and cycle. And logically the more you weigh, the more stress on your knees. Consider doing some yoga exercises, switch your diet up a bit, and you will have taken out a very important risk factor.
Get in shape
Getting in shape and losing some weight are related, but not actually the same. While losing some weight sounds and appears to be hard, getting back in shape might even be harder. In first case, your body needs to be ready for the second stage of the process. Preparing the muscles to do what you require them to.
Practice your technique
One of the main causes of knee pain relates to bio-mechanical issues of cycling. Knowing this, pay a bit more attention to your technique, improve it and take out the bad habits you’ve recognized during the process.
Even though there are many ways to open the doors to knee pain, there are just as many ways to keep it out. As a side note, let’s remember that different people react differently to interior and exterior signals, such as pain, so some people will perceive certain symptoms as actual symptoms of something else.
You will probably experience some of these symptoms during your life, you might be actually feeling some of them right now, but it’s good that now what’s going on and how to prevent it from happening ever again.