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Knee Pain After Cycling

by
author image Rob Harris
While studying journalism in the Army and at the University of Missouri, Rob Harris developed a lifelong love of physical fitness and nutrition, contributing often to a dairy industry newsletter. He has also worked with and created blogs for several family businesses including a professional dog kennel and a flower shop, where he used his experience as an avid gardener to grow plants for sale.
Knee Pain After Cycling
Knee pain experienced by bicyclist Photo Credit luckyraccoon/iStock/Getty Images

Cycling offers endurance and cardiovascular training, but it sometimes comes at a cost: pain in your knees. This pain typically appears only if something on your bike isn't adjusted correctly or if you're pedaling with your feet at an odd angle. Always consult with a doctor about your knee pain to ensure no serious injury exists.

Adjusting Your Bike

A likely cause of knee pain after riding your bicycle is a seat that's not adjusted correctly. When your legs don't move in the proper range of motion, cycling can become painful for your knees. Your knees should remain slightly bent at the low end of the pedal cycle, and your knee should fall directly over the ball of your foot when your pedal is parallel to the ground. Have a friend hold the bike steady for you while you test your positioning. Move your seat up, down, forward or backward to ensure you have the proper positioning to help prevent knee pain.

Fixing Your Feet

How your feet sit on the pedals can pull your knee in different directions, eventually causing pain. As you pedal, your knee should stay pointing straight ahead, not tilted out or in toward the bike. Although this is often a minor adjustment, holding your knee in the wrong position over a long ride commonly leads to knee pain. If you've never had knee pain after cycling before, consider what might have changed. For example, if you recently pulled a leg muscle and just got back on your bike, you might be positioning your leg differently to compensate for a weak or sore muscle. Ask a friend to watch you ride toward him to ensure both knees are positioned properly.

Gearing It Down

Riding in the wrong gear and with the wrong cadence makes your legs work harder than they should, often leading to knee pain. Higher gears, especially when riding uphill, might make you feel like you're getting more of a workout, but you could be stressing the muscles surrounding your knees. This is especially true if you're suddenly changing your routine rather than gradually building up to the higher gears. When the muscles become tight, they pull on the knee and can cause pain. Also, if you're pedaling more slowly -- at a lower cadence -- you must push harder with your knees at each pedal rotation to maintain the same speed. Using a faster cadence can reduce the stress on your knees.

Caring for Your Knees

When you have a small amount of knee pain after you exit your bike, take a day or two off from riding to care for your knees. Continuing to ride could make the problem worse, leading to a more severe injury. Keep your knee elevated with a cold pack to reduce inflammation, and give it a couple of days for the pain to subside. If the pain persists after two days, consult with your doctor about potential problems and whether it's appropriate to continue riding your bike. Also talk with your doctor if you experience sharp pain in your knee rather than a dull ache.

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