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Cycling and knee pain

Updated: May 4

Find out about the causes of, and treatments for, knee pain from cycling


When we think of cycling, we often associate it with being:


● Non-weight bearing

● Easy on the joints

● A low impact form of exercise


However, knee pain is a very common complaint reported by professional and amateur cyclists. Read on to discover how cycling can cause knee pain, the different kinds of cycling knee pain, and learn what you can do to treat this condition.


Does cycling cause knee pain?


Cycling shouldn’t cause knee pain on a conventional, day-to-day basis. However, active cyclists may notice knee pain when cycling or even knee pain after cycling.


There are three main reasons that cyclists might feel knee pain:


● Change in training intensity

● Change in equipment (bike-specific)

● Our intrinsic anatomical and biomechanical make-up (cyclist specific)



What types of knee pain can be caused by cycling?


Cycling can cause pain in many different parts of the knee. For example, some people suffer from:

● Anterior knee pain: the front of the knee

● Posterior knee pain: the back of the knee

● Lateral knee pain: the sides of the knee


Whether you’re suffering from outside knee pain from cycling or inside knee pain from cycling, a qualified physiotherapist will be able to diagnose and help to treat the problem.


What are the causes of cycling knee pain?


The knee is a hinge joint that is designed to move in only one plane, performing extension and flexion movements. Your quadriceps muscle group attaches to your tibia (shin bone) via your patella, with some muscles extending on the inside of your knee and others on the outside.


If there is a muscular imbalance between these muscles, it can cause the patella to track out of its groove and cause symptoms like pain, a feeling of instability, and/or a clicking sensation.


Cycling-induced knee pain is usually caused by tightness in the fibrous tissue that runs along the outside of your thigh, called your iliotibial band, which in turn pulls at your kneecap (patella). Cyclists use their quadriceps the most in the downward stroke, which is when the greatest amount of pressure is placed on the knee.


The link between knee pain and cycling seat height


The position of your bike seat is very crucial for having correct knee alignment when cycling. Not only is seat height important, but you also need to consider seat fore/aft and tilt to ensure all joints are in the correct position.



Are there treatments for knee pain when cycling?


If you’re currently dealing with any sort of knee pain it is important to have it checked by a healthcare professional, so any related condition does not degenerate or progress into something worse. The podiatrists at Sports Podiatry and Physiotherapy Centre are all highly skilled and qualified to conduct the necessary knee assessments to determine the causing factors and educate you on the various treatment options.


Treatment options can vary from muscular retraining, strengthening, and releasing techniques on associated muscles as well as orthotic therapy, depending on the cause of pain. It is also recommended that you book in for a bike fit with someone who can assess your seat position as well as riding style and volume.


Talk to a professional about knee pain during cycling


If you’re cycling and suffering from knee pain, our team can help. We are also able to assist with cycling leg pain and all your other sports injuries.


If you have any further questions regarding knee pain, or if you are experiencing any other foot, ankle, or leg pain you can give us a call at (03) 9568 1011. Alternatively, you can book an appointment online to see one of our physiotherapists at www.msppc.com.au.



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