Knee pain is a common injury that cyclists have to deal with at some point in their riding career lifespan. Why you may ask?
The knee joint and pain associated in the joint, is not always specifically related to the knee joint itself. The knee is essentially a hinge joint between the ankle and hip, so you also have to look at the ankle, hip, and lower back to get a clearer picture of what might be contributing to pain.
Due to the nature of cycling being a very repetitive biomechanical movement, with up to 5500 revolutions of the pedals in just an hour, any slight biomechanical change to body position on a bike that the human body doesn’t agree with, can lead to a flow on effect of more pain. This can include equipment changes, bike set up, new shoes, new pedals, new cleats, or worn older cleats.
There are different regions of the knee that pain typically occurs, anterior knee pain, posterior knee pain, medial knee pain, and lateral knee pain. Today we will discuss anterior knee pain.
Anterior knee pain, is pain that resonates in the front part of the knee. This type of pain is common amongst the cycling population. It usually relates to tight Quadriceps, or Illiotibial band (fibrous tissue that runs along the outer part of the upper leg between the knee/hip region). This excessive tightness can pull on the Patellar (knee cap) which is the main area of pain experienced. This is usually related to overuse, lack of body maintenance, or bike fit problems, (with a common example being the bike seat being positioned too low or too far forward). If your Quadriceps are tight, the muscles are short, and what can be seen is that when pedalling, the knee’s will tend to go outward, even if your cleats are as straight as an arrow!
If you haven’t had trauma directly to the knee that has damaged cartilage / meniscus etc, then overuse repetitive movement issues are likely causes of pain.
What can you do for anterior knee pain?
Firstly, go back to your bike fit. Have you recently changed your bike position or changed equipment such as bike shoes, cleats etc.? If so, and knee pain has originated without great changes to your training load and volume, this could be where to begin investigating. A good bike fit from an experienced bike fit professional would probably be a good starting point. Alternatively, a sudden increase in training load can lead to overuse and cause pain.
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All the best, from the Euro Cycle Tours team.
Note: This is not individualised training advice, and all athletes should consult with an exercise or medical expert about their specific health needs.