Knee Pain After Cycling: Common Causes and How to Treat It


Knee Pain After Cycling: Common Causes and How to Treat It

Written by Allison McNamara

If you noticed more people cycling over the last year or two, you are not alone. We saw a surge in cycling during the pandemic in 2020 and it remains a popular outdoor activity for many, especially during the summer months. Many people like to get outside and hit the road on their bicycles because it is great exercise and is considered a low-impact sport. However, knee pain can be a common occurrence with bicyclists.

If you are struggling with knee pain when cycling, we can get you caught up on injuries or pain you might expect, the causes and how to get back on your bike in comfort.

Common Cycling Knee Injuries

Here are some common knee injuries that are associated with bicycling:

  • Overuse syndrome/Patellafemoral Syndrome (PFS):

    This describes an achy pain in the front of the knee. You might also feel popping, crackling, or clicking when squatting, going up and down stairs, or bending and straightening your knee.

  • Tendonitis/Tendonosis:

    This can also be an achy pain in your knee that is especially worse right around your patella (kneecap.) You may notice this pain with bending/squatting, jumping, and going up and down stairs. In biking injuries with knee pain, this describes irritation to the patellar tendon, which is the band of connective tissue that originates at the base of your quadriceps muscle group (front of your thigh), connects to your patella, and then attaches to your tibia (shin bone.) While tendonitis and tendonosis differ slightly, they both will become nagging injuries that never really heal until you seek treatment and change your cycling habits.

  • Chondromalacia Patella:

    This may feel like a grinding type pain beneath your kneecap or surrounding your kneecap when you bend or straighten your knee. It is from a breakdown of cartilage behind your kneecap and the result is irritation of your kneecap rubbing against your femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone.)

Causes of Knee Pain after Cycling

The knee pain or injury you may be experiencing in some cases can simply be the result of overuse, but here a few other common causes.

  • Increasing your training load significantly/volume too quickly
  • Adding in too much hill work too quickly
  • Riding in an incorrect gear
  • Incorrect seat position
  • Positioning your cleats incorrectly
  • Muscle imbalances – having muscles that are too weak and/or too tight to support your knees while riding your bike.

Treatment Options

If you are experiencing knee pain during or after riding your bicycle, it is recommended you see your doctor. In most cases they will recommend physical therapy. This is one of the best ways to rehabilitate your knee and repair the damage. A trained PT can evaluate you and determine what the best plan of action is to decrease your knee pain and get you on the road again.

It is also highly recommended that you bring your bike to a reputable bicycle shop to see if they can assess your seat height and angle, your cleats and foot positioning, and your handlebar positioning.

Our team of licensed therapists provide physical therapy for knee pain to help improve function and relieve pain. If you are experiencing pain, request an appointment at Professional Physical Therapy. We are here to help you reach your goals and get your life healthier and more comfortable today!

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