Fibular Head Pain and Cycling

A woman holds her shin as if experiencing pain, her bike laying to the side of her.
Image Credit: DmitriyTitov/iStock/Getty Images

Nothing can ruin a cycling trip faster than knee pain. When every push of the pedal causes discomfort, you'll either be in constant pain or opt to end your ride early. Pain that comes from the head of the fibula can be caused by a number of things, so it's important to talk to your doctor as soon as it happens. With some medical care, you'll be back to enjoying your bike before you know it.


Fibula Basics

The lower leg is made up with two bones, the fibula and tibia. The tibia, which is also known as the shinbone, is the larger of the two, while the fibula is narrower and located on the outside of the lower leg. This bone, which extends all the way down to the ankle, helps you maintain balance. If you're experiencing pain from the fibular head, you'll feel discomfort on the outer side of your knee, just below the kneecap.


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Causes of Pain

Knee pain is often caused by overuse, so it's not an uncommon issue for cyclists. Fibular head pain can be caused by tearing or stretching of the lateral collateral ligament, which attaches the thighbone to the fibula. This injury causes pain, stiffness and swelling along the outside of the knee, as well as numbness in the foot. Pain in the outside of the knee can also be caused by a tearing of the lateral meniscus, which is a piece of cartilage located just over the fibular head, or by biceps femoris tendinitis. Various types of arthritis also cause outer knee pain.



Your knee pain may require you to take a break from physical activities for a bit. If a torn lateral collateral ligament or torn meniscus is to blame, your doctor may recommend you wear a brace, rest the knee and take over-the-counter pain medication until the pain is gone. Physical therapy can help strengthen the joint as well. If the tear is severe, surgery may be necessary. Arthritis is harder to treat, and the treatment depends on the type of arthritis you have. For instance, if worn cartilage is causing osteoarthritis, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, your doctor may inject corticosteroids into the joint. Sufferers of the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis may require medications that suppress the immune system.


Cycling Adjustments

Before you climb back onto your bike, take a few minutes to prepare your knees for a ride. You might find that wearing a compression bandage on your knee gives the joint some extra support. Stretching before you cycle warms up your muscles and helps prevent injury. Your doctor or a physical therapist can show you some stretches that work for your specific type of knee injury. Trying a different type of bike may also help; a recumbent bike, which places the rider in a slightly reclined position, takes some of the stress off of your knees. Because certain injuries, like biceps femoris tendinitis, can be caused by a seat that's too low or a seat that's positioned too far forward, have an experienced fitter adjust your bike. If your physical therapist has cleared you to ride, cycle on flat terrain and use a fast cadence, with low resistance, to lessen the stress on your knees.




Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

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