Common Cycling Injuries
Knee Pain In Cyclists
Causes of back pain in cyclists
Cycling is a very popular recreational and competitive sport in Singapore. Cycling related injuries, especially around the knee, are common and preventable. There are multiple reasons for knee pain in cyclists and these are focused on intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Intrinsic or cyclist-related factors include the following:
Weak quads or tight hamstring/calf muscles may lead to knee pain, especially if it involves cycling long distances or up hills. Sources of knee pain include:
● Tight iliotibial bands
● Patella or quadricep tendinitis
● Patello-femoral pain syndrome
While pedalling a bike may come naturally to most, there are several factors to consider which will significantly affect your cycling comfort and prevent injuries:
● Adjust your saddle to improve comfort: higher, lower, forwards or backwards.
● Relax your upper body: Do not apply too much pressure on your arms or shoulders as this will lead to upper back and neck pain after rides.
● Shift to an easier gear as you push off or when going uphill: this will all your muscles to warm up and reduce muscle aches.
● Go long and slow: This helps prevent lactic acid from building up in your muscles that may lead to aches and pains.
● Experiment with a variety of cadences: Easy gears will allow you to use a higher cadence and stress your muscles less. This is also good when going uphill and steep inclines. When on flat ground, you may use a higher gear with lower cadence for more speed.
● Practice pedalling drills: The “12 o’clock to 5 o’clock” pedal stroke is where you generate the most power. Learn to spin in circles to make each stroke pedal more efficient and fluid.
Poor bike fit
It is crucial to get bike-fitted if you are serious about cycling. It helps to improve your biomechanics; adjustments to the bike geometry are made to suit your body type and cycling style. Getting a bike of the correct size is just the beginning.
The heel-to-pedal method is a quick way to adjust your saddle height. Place your heel on the pedal and place the pedal at the 6 o’clock position. Your knee should be completely straight. If your knee is still bent, you need to increase the height in small increments each time. If your heel loses contact with the pedal, then simply lower the saddle accordingly. Your knees should bend at an angle of 30 degrees at each downstroke of the pedal. Reaching the optimal height may take some trial and error with lots of small adjustments along the way.
Crank length also affects the way you cycle and the height of your saddle. Cyclists with a low saddle height or on a small bike should use a short crank length to improve their pedalling efficiency.
What can happen with neglected knee pain?
We cycle because it is fun and it provides us with some form of exercise to keep ourselves fit. Persistent and niggly knee pain takes that fun out of cycling and prevents us from reaching our fitness potential. Undiagnosed structural injuries like meniscal tears and cartilage wear may eventually lead to arthritis which may prevent you from cycling altogether.
It is best to get any form of knee pain checked out so that simple problems may be addressed early before they deteriorate into something more complex.
We would always recommend a simple bike fit to ensure your bike is best adjusted to your body-type and cycling style. Minor knee injuries may be managed with rest, anti-inflammatory medication and physiotherapy to stretch out those tight muscles. Knee injections are a non-surgical technique to relieve pain and inflammation in your knees. Surgery is always a last resort if there are structural injuries detected on MRI scans.
Most niggly knee injuries get better with adequate rest and care. It is important to do some dynamic stretching before cycling and statis stretching exercises after your bike ride. Good stretching improves your physical performance and prevents delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
What to do now while waiting for diagnosis/treatment?
If you are experiencing persistent or worsening knee pain, protect yourself from further injury by avoiding strenuous physical activities, apply ice and compression to your knee to prevent swelling.
Do make an early appointment to see us for an accurate diagnosis and timely treatment.