La Crosse is home to many of the best county roads and mountain bike trails in the country. With the warm weather comes new roads and trails to ride. In this mini-series for cyclists, we will cover common areas of injury that cyclists may experience and tips on how to prevent them from happening.
The Problem: Anterior Knee Pain
Cycling is a very repetitive motion that forces your knees to perform flexion and extension over multiple repetitions. Many times, cyclists will experience pain either above or below their knee joint for multiple different reasons. Anterior knee pain can be caused by several factors including tightness in the quadriceps, tendon inflammation, poor bike fit, and weakness in muscles above and below the knee. Often times it is a combination of multiple factors.
The Bike Solution
Anterior knee pain in cyclists has been attributed to improper saddle height and seat fore/aft position. According to past studies, the ideal saddle height is between 25-35 degrees of knee flexion measured at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Having your seat height too high or too low can cause excessive pressure on the joint which can cause pain. The other factor to look at for your bike is the fore/aft position of your seat. The ideal position can be measured with a straight line from the bony bump on the front of your knee (tibial tubercle) to the over the pedal spindle when the crank arm is positioned at 90 degrees. How far forward or backward you are positioned on your bike effects where the majority of force is being distributed down your leg. Both of these factors have been shown to be important in preventing knee pain when cycling.
The Body Solution
The other components of preventing knee pain is mobility of the quadriceps and the stability of the hips and ankles. The quadriceps are your primary muscle that extends the knee, which is extremely important for cycling. If the quadriceps are too tight, it can cause pain over the tendon that attaches across the knee joint. Therefore, stretching and foam rolling the quadriceps after rides and during cross training days is a great way to prevent them from overuse injuries. The other muscles to consider are your glutes and calf muscles. These are also important for driving the pedal down and extending the leg. If there is weakness in either of these muscles, then the quadriceps have to work overtime, causing issues. Therefore, having a quality strength routine to strengthen the supporting muscles will not only improve your performance but also help prevent future injuries.
If you are experiencing knee pain with riding, try these tips or schedule an appointment with Dr. Pat to get you back on the road and trails. Stay tuned for the next blog where we will talk about lower back pain in cyclists.
Dr. Pat will be back with more common cycling injuries, how to prevent them, and make adjustments to keep you on the trails!