cyclists knee pain

Knee pain is awful! Back in 1999, mine was so bad that I had to take about 6 months off the bike…. and during that time I visited several different people from different fields of health care while I was attempting to figure out why I was having such intense pain.

I didn’t have a traumatic accident, I had just raced the weekend before, on Monday I rode around on the Mt bike with some friends, did my usual Tuesday evening intown Atlanta slug-fest & on Wednesday…..BAM! I couldn’t even ride to the ride. I had to turn around and pedal home with one leg, it was that painful. I went 6 months without riding at all.

I went to Physical Therapist, and then a knee doctor who said he could A) give me a cortisone shot, B) cut my IT band, or C) let me take the Homeopathic route….. which also meant ‘figure that out on your own’. I was confused & didn’t know where to go next for help.

Finally after Spring came around someone suggested I see a chiropractor, let’s call her Dr. Sukie. She checked out my leg & suggested that I get a massage. I steadily got massages once a week for two months and my knee slowly got less painful & less noticeable when going up and finally when going down stairs.

I started to get back out on the bike & I was very thankful to be once again cycling. I was over-weight and of course, slow – but I didn’t have any knee pain!

Later, I learned about foam rollers and doing Myofascial release on them. It is basically a self-massage that you can do most anywhere.
check out the guide on myofascial release guide.

Now when someone tells me they have knee pain or tendinitis, I can almost immediately tell them where the pain is coming from and how to do myofascial release to get rid of it!

Why knees are painful

I got weak knees.
– Really?
Yes, if I’m not careful they hurt.
– You knees hurt because your knees are weak?

This may not always be the case for everyone, in fact really it is the tight leg muscles that equal knee pain! As long as your knee pain is not from trauma, such as an accident, then it is from tight muscles and muscle imbalances.

If muscles are too tight and weak, then you may feel pain in your knees, the cause can be doing activities out of the ordinary for your body, an increase in activity, or overly used leg muscles (repetitive movements, such as cycling and running). How many pedal strokes per mile? We will figure you pedal with an average cadence of 90 RPM’s and you ride 20 miles in an hour – a good average speed. 90 revolutions X 60 minutes = 5,400 revolutions of EACH leg for each hour of cycling. How many hours does it take you to do your longest ride – how long do you take to stretch and assist your muscles in recovery afterward? (beer does not count here!)

Remember the quads and hamstrings have many tendons that hold the knee together. Often times when these muscles get too tight they pull on the tendons. Think of your muscles as rubber bands and your tendons as strings – as you pedal the rubber bands can stretch and come back easily, but as the rubber band tightens they then pull on the strings which can not stretch. This in turn causes friction in the joint, which causes pain.

photo by Jay Bergesen

The best cure for this is NOT to mask the pain with BenGay, cortisone shots, knee braces – but to loosen up the tight muscles that are actually causing the tightness. Muscle length tension relationships are essential to muscle recruitment, meaning that if your muscles are too tight then that muscle is not firing on all cylinders and you are not performing at your optimal.

The tighter a muscle becomes, the more inactive it tries to be, causing other muscles to engage more to compensate. When this happens the chance of an injury occurring is increased. Injuries take months to recovery from. So, what is the number 1 way to keep improving in any sport? Prevent injury!

Stretching, massage, and self myofascial release are ways to prevent this from happening.
Massage and myofascial release are the best ways to loosen up tight muscles and stop the pain.
Check out my increased Flexibility program.