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  1. #1
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Cycling and knees..Any precautions to prevent injury.

    A co-worker who runs and does mild cycling, said after a major run his knees hurt like hell..He and I share concerns along this field..I had to give up running due to sensitive knees...The last running I did I walked like a cripple and needed knee braces..I did no forms of exercise for about a year before I discovered cycling.I gave up running about 1o years ago. Have been cycling ever since, and for the most part, cycling seems less damaging to the knees.
    ..Sometimes after riding my right knee hurts,particularily lateral movements as the knee might twist inward. But it does not hurt in all movement.Mostly when it twists in an inward direction. Sometimes it just hurts walking with no physical exertion prompting the pain. After some hard rides, it does not hurt at all. I fear cartlidge deteoration. But, the pain usually results from one inward motion.
    Two questions...I am dependent upon my riding for emotional sustenance. .Think cycling is that hard on knees.? Any pedal stroke that lessens knee problems?
    Second question.ANyone else sense knee pain after a ride. Any ideas about what damage has been done to your knees. Think some knee pain is normal. ?

  2. #2
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    Three things reduce stress to the knees. First, a saddle height that allows your leg to be almost, but not totally, straight when the pedal is a six o'clock. Second, a pedal that allows a large part of the foot to be supported, and to move freely. BMX pedals are good for the knees. Road pedals the size of a quarter that lock your feet in one spot are bad for the knees. Roadies love them because "I can handle suffering, man..". Much of road bike culture is designed around increasing pain, in the name of "speed and efficiency".

    And, you need to select very easy gears. The macho thing is to ride on the big ring. Your knees would prefer riding in an easy gear at a high cadence. Spinning at a high RPM in an easy gear gives your heart and lungs a good work out, but gives your knees a rest.

    Folks who ride ten or fifteen hours a week soon build up a lot of supporting muscles in their legs that help take stress off the knees. Knee pain is more common with folks who ride hard two or three hours on Saturday, but don't ride during the week. Riding every day is a good way to prevent knee pain.

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    Do your pedals allow your feet to work in a normal position? My knee problems disappeared when I went from SPD to Speedplay Frog pedals: my feet sort of rotate outward, along the outside of the foot, and the Frogs allow them to take that natural position, which, in turn, removes a potential source of stress up the leg to the knee.

    And, although I generally agree with Alan about the benefits of spinning rather than mashing, I find that spinning too fast is painful for my knees: instead, I need a moderate amount of resistance. I also agree with him that saddle height may play a part: as little as 1 mm made a difference for me when my bike came back from the shop with the seat post slightly raised from where it had been. You might have the fit checked as a local shop known for that.

  4. #4
    bici accumulatori pinerider's Avatar
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    I have bad knees from hockey, biking is great for them, my knees only get sore if I'm doing a lot of mashing instead of spinning. I've been taking Glucosamine Sulphate for the past 6 months or so, it makes a real difference in how my knees feel. I still play ball hockey and ice hockey and my knees don't bother me at all since I've been taking the Glucosamine.
    I did a little running before taking the glucosamine, my knee swelled up and was very sore. Did some after taking things felt a lot better!
    ...!

  5. #5
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    The pain I ocassionaly feel is something I felt after I quit running, as I said...Guess, looking for confirmation that ocassional knee pain is common to many sports..So far has not gotten anything like after my getting out of running...
    My doubt, is that sometimes after a hard ride, I feel nothing wrong...Fact it hurts mostly when the leg pivots..What might that be a sign of.? If I walk and not twist the leg, the pain is not that great.

  6. #6
    Senior Member royalflash's Avatar
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    The advice that the previous posters put in looks quite sensible. Correct saddle height-sensible gears etc. I think that cycling is one of the least damaging exercises for the knees. It is really important I think to take care of your knees as once you have damaged them (which is easy to do) they will never be the same again. I am quite heavy (220 lbs) and running really puts my knees and lower legs under pressure. They used to get quite sore so I dont run much now. I also damaged my knees doing weight training. Even though I havent weight trained on my legs for a couple of years I sometimes still get the soreness back and this is nothing to do with cycling but is due to the previous weight training. Cycling though has never yet caused me any problems and I think that this is one of the best exercises that you can do without damaging your knees.

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    "Guess, looking for confirmation that ocassional knee pain is common to many sports..So far has not gotten anything like after my getting out of running..." A risky attitude to take, if you don't mind my saying so.

    Whether or knee pain is common in other sports, I would strenuously maintain that it is not (or need not be) an inherent part of cycling. I'm not a doctor, so I'm only conjecturing, of course, but I would worry that, if you consider some level of knee pain to be expected, you may wind up doing real damage. Do the opposite: operate on the assumption that knee pain is a sign of something wrong, at least on your bike set-up, if not with your knees themselves. Get the bike checked by a good shop, and if that doesn't work, get your knees checked by a doctor, perhaps one familiar with cycling and its attendant stresses.

  8. #8
    Senior Member demoncyclist's Avatar
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    See a good sports orthopedist. You may need orthotics to help keep your knees in line from poor foot positioning. I have flat feet and tend to overpronate (I walk on the inside edge of my foot more than the outside), which can put a strain on the lateral movement of the knees. Orthotics move my foot into a more normal position and have eliminated most of my knee pain. I also disagree with alan about clipless pedals. A properly positioned cleat on a solid cycling shoe is actually better for your knees. My LOOK pedals have more float than a set of old style pedals with properly snugged toe straps, and allow me to use both major leg muscle groups, which can help prevent knee injury by strengthening the entire leg.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Demon . When I ran I was a strong supernator. I would run through shoes in at most three months..( foot rolling outwards).
    Over the ten years I have been cycling knee pain has not been much of an issue..Felt streghtened yesterday's commute to work..Rode long and a hard ride and no pain.

  10. #10
    Senior Member jazzy_cyclist's Avatar
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    CZ - I don't think that knee pain is "normal". Once in a great while I get a little tendonitis when I get too excited and jump on the big [front] chainring for too long, although this seems to happen when I haven't been riding much. The other knee pains that people here have talked about are front of knee pain = saddle too low, back of knee pain = saddle too high, but you seem to be talking about a more lateral type of pain, is that right? As in when you twist your knee as opposed to keeping it straight but bending it as when you pedal?

    I have SPD pedals and they're fine for me, but lots of people have pedals with more "float", one reason being so their knees can move in more planes than just the vertical one. What type of pedals/cleats do you use?

    The other thing (maybe obvious to you from running) is that the more you can build up your quads, the more they will support the knee joint. I try to do a lot of leg lifts at the gym to help that, and it works quite well. Since I've been doing that, my knees have been holding up well when playing soccer.

    -Jim

  11. #11
    Toyota Racing Dev. PWRDbyTRD's Avatar
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    I get a burn right above my kneecap? is this normal? I'm new to biking also.
    Linkage...My 2004 Kona Hoss Dee-Lux My Mindless Banter
    Disclaimer: I'm 425lb...I put unnormal loads on my bike. This should help you in answering any of my questions.

  12. #12
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Crazy..Yeah, I have felt a lateral move adjacent the knee- well, when not pained-feels weak..Just wonder what that is...Until, I slept on it wrong last week- I had not felt much pain for the past 10 years...Our health plan, back there-10 years ago;did not get much quality care...Like clinic kind of treatment..They just recommended a knee brace and stay off of it until it feels better. A year of inactivity , it did.
    I just get paranoid about knee replacment....Would think that would be severe pain over the whole knee surface. Continue to be bothered by it- will need to visit the doctor...Has not been so bad the last two rides.

  13. #13
    The Rabbi seely's Avatar
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    I think I get what a few of you are talking about as well. I tore my PCL (?) early last season, and since then its bothered me on long or hard rides. As I recall its holding your knee together on the side. When I strained/tore it I couldn't walk for two days, and after that it took about 3 weeks to heal up reasonably well. Maybe some of you have issues there as well.

    My left knee is another interesting case, I cased a 4' drop off a staircase and landed directly on my kneecap. Fractured it, couldn't walk for a day, took 4 weeks to heal up decently, etc... still got pain there on long hard rides. I'm a bit worried about my knees as well. I started running again and so far they are ok but I am only doing short runs for now.

  14. #14
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Seely...PCL...We might share the same problem...Sounds like you tore a liagment? Have not seriously mentioned the condition to my new doctor, because it has not hurt all that badly..Now only sporadic...
    You are bothered as you twist your legs about your knees side to side...? Know what the PCL is?

  15. #15
    Campy or bust :p cryogenic's Avatar
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    PCL = Posterior Cruciate Ligament. Most people make a big deal about the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) but the PCL is just as important obviously. Basically there are two ligaments that connect your femur (thighbone) to your tibia (shinbone).. one front (ACL) and one rear (PCL). The PCL keeps your shinbone from moving too far backwards past the thighbone. I suppose too much twisting would hurt both of them. I looked at some info and most PCL tears/injuries are caused by smacking the front of the shinbone on something hard with the toes pointing downwards (like falling on your knees really hard) which pushes the shin backwards and tears the ligament. Also, it appears that having strong quads can take some stress off the PCL and cause less pain. I would assume also that having strong hamstrings would take stress off the ACL as well. I've recently gotten back into cycling and when I get leg pain, it's not in my knees. I actually get pain in my lower quads above the knees, but it's a definite muscular pain like you would get in your biceps after heavy lifting.

    edit.. just found some further info here: http://www.hughston.com/hha/a.pcl.htm or for those of you that can read bigtime medical mumbo-jumbo, here's a really informative one.. http://www.emedicine.com/pmr/topic102.htm

  16. #16
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Thanks Cryo...Seeley..The discomfort I often sense is a numbness adjacent the kneecap, but off to the left(right knee)..Comparing the two knees ,there is like a bony plate and the sensitive knee, the plate is not positioned the same as the healthier knee.

  17. #17
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    First, all good advice. But I would add in that it may be a good idea to see a physical therapist to check on any potential knee injury you may have.

    Second, it may be that you may need to STRENGTHEN the knee. Sometimes, one knee is stronger than another, and doing weight training activities to strengthen the muscles around the knee would help to strengthen the knee itself, which would make it less injury prone. Sooooooo... spend some time working with the leg press machine, squats, isolated leg lunges, hamstring curls and quadricep extension, and using the adductor/abductor machines to exercise the legs. For the hamstring curl, quad extension, squat, leg lunges, and leg press, try to exercise one leg at a time. That way, you fully exercise each leg separately, which negates the possibility of the stronger leg assisting the weaker leg while doing the exercise. Do make sure to use proper form when exercising, and hire a personal trainer to put together an initial weight lifting program so that you can be sure you are using proper form and are exercising correctly. Then over time (months and coming years of weight lifting), you'll be working to increase weights. Strength is built because of the ability of the body to adapt and heal from the exercise, which would lead to eventual growth. With the growth, you would need to increase the weights to continue to challenge the muscle so that it will continue to grow. Start with low weights, since you are having knee problems currently, and you don't want to overwhelm the knee by doing too much too soon. As your knee strengthens, you will be able to continue to add more weight to the exercises.

    Now, at the same time, you'll want to definitely check your bike fit and your form. If your seat is too low, you will definitely cause more stress on the knee. If you can get a bike fit, ask for something between 5 and 15 degrees for a bend in the knee when your foot is at the bottom of the pedal stroke. For some, this may be too high, and you'll want to check by letting someone watch you as you pedal on the trainer. If your hips are rocking while you're riding, that means your seat is too high, and you're straining to reach the bottom of the pedal stroke, which causes the hips to rock. In that case, just lower the seat slowly, milimeters at a time, then recheck and remeasure, and watch for hip rocking. It will take some time, but you'll find the optimal saddle placement over time. Then check things like pedal stroke. If your feet are pointing down while you're pedalling, you can switch that- you want to make sure as your leg comes down in the pedal stroke (like from 1 o'clock to the 6 o'clock) that you are not pointing your foot down. I see a lot of people doing that, and it not only puts a lot of stress on the knee, it also weakens your pedal stroke overall. The power in your downstroke comes from the ball of the foot, not the tips of your toes. So do make sure your foot is a bit flatter as your foot moves over the top of the pedal stroke and heads for the 6 o'clock position. I will try to find a chart and post it here for you (I will have to scan the page in the book by Ed Burke called "Serious Cycling" where he diagrams the most optimal positioning for superior performance when cycling).

    For your friend who runs, remind them that running is a high impact activity, while cycling is a low impact activity. The higher the impact, the more stress on the joints involved in the exercise. For running, it's the knees, so when the foot makes contact with the ground, the vibrations caused from the foot hitting the ground will travel up the legs and into the kneecap. This repetitive stress will cause pain in the knee over time if not exercised properly. But this vibration can be dampened by wearing better shoes too, so you may want to check with your friend and see if they have the proper shoe for running. Try Niketown, Fleet Feet, or Vertel's. They all have a good staff and can recommend a better shoe for running if you're having problems with dampening the vibrations from running, which causes the knee pain. Cycling is definitely less stress on the knee- we have the protection of the bike itself, which has (for the most part) material to absorb a lot of the vibration of the road while riding, which keeps a lot of the stress off the knees. If you are feeling some pain still, consider your gears. If your gears are too low, then you may have problems with spinning. This is primarily due to the fact that with less gears, you have less control of the wheel itself. When the speed of the wheel is faster, and the speed of the wheel is faster than the speed of the legs, that means you have very little control of the wheel. This creates a bouncing effect, and this bouncing comes from small vibrations at the pedal, where the foot will disconnect with the pedal, creating vibrations that will travel through the ball of the foot, up the knee and into the kneecap. You will notice that your tailbone is bouncing in the saddle as you attempt to increase your speed. As long as you have lost control of the speed of the pedal, this vibration will continue. The solution is to use slightly larger gears. Increase your gears until you stop bouncing in the saddle.

    Conversely, using too high a gear would also create knee pain also. Mashing on the gears creates a large stress for the knees. I always tell people to watch cadence. For hills, your speed should be 60 - 80 RPM's, and for flats, you should maintain 80- 100 RPM's. 90 would be a good cadence for flats for the average cyclist. If you are mashing up a hill at less than 60 RPMs, you will have to decrease your gears- whatever it takes to take stress off the knees. You don't want that grinding of bone against bone as you mash your way up the hill, compressing the kneecap and the joints- that's causing your knee pain.

    I will look up that diagram and get it online sometime soon so you can check your foot positioning while you're pedalling.

    Koffee

  18. #18
    Sloth Hunter Trouble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by demoncyclist
    See a good sports orthopedist. You may need orthotics to help keep your knees in line from poor foot positioning. I have flat feet and tend to overpronate (I walk on the inside edge of my foot more than the outside), which can put a strain on the lateral movement of the knees. Orthotics move my foot into a more normal position and have eliminated most of my knee pain. I also disagree with alan about clipless pedals. A properly positioned cleat on a solid cycling shoe is actually better for your knees. My LOOK pedals have more float than a set of old style pedals with properly snugged toe straps, and allow me to use both major leg muscle groups, which can help prevent knee injury by strengthening the entire leg.
    Next week I have an appointment with a podiatrist to get othotics. My problem is with my left knee medial collateral ligament. My left foot pronates and I tend to walk on the inside edge and this stresses the MCL. I have a callus on the outside of my left big toe.
    The key to lessening knee pain is keeping the biomechanics of your foot, knee and hip in line.
    I'm hoping this orthotic will help.
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  19. #19
    Epitome of Mediocrity
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    If your feet still want to point out further than they are allowed to using Speedplay Frogs or Looks, you could try Kneesavers from Bikescor.com. They can add from 20mm up to 35mm to your crank arm. This allows up to 20 degrees toe out (works for me). Don't know if this is the problem here, but just for the record....

  20. #20
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alanbikehouston
    Road pedals the size of a quarter that lock your feet in one spot are bad for the knees. Roadies love them because "I can handle suffering, man..". Much of road bike culture is designed around increasing pain, in the name of "speed and efficiency".
    I don't get this statement. Isn't the idea to have a stiff-soled shoe so that the shoe takes up the point-loading rather than the foot? In that case, the pressure is distrubuted over the entire sole of the shoe. As a recumbent rider, I sort of agree with the pain aspect; in fact that's why I got a recumbent. But I'll readily admit that not everyone's road bikes hurts them.

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