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Old 11-10-13, 08:04 PM   #1
vol
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Cycling and knee arthritis - experiences?

Some claim cycling helps prevent or reduce arthritis, some say it may worsen it or even cause it. I would be interested to hear first-person experience about this. Again, there are articles and theories out there, but no theory beats actual experiences in convincing people. Any experience sharing appreciated.
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Old 11-10-13, 08:11 PM   #2
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When I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritiis, I had wicked knee pain that made walking and stairs difficult and cycling and running impossible. After I got on the meds, I eventually started to feel better. Once I started cycling, my arthritis and flexibility further improved. I definitely believe that cycling helps with arthritis. Worked for me.
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Old 11-11-13, 05:41 AM   #3
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I suppose it depends on the rider and the bike setup and fit. I see people grinding uphill in the smallest cog/small chainring combo because they're never learned to shift, and my knees hurt just looking at them. Same with the folks who have their saddles far too low because they want to put both feet flat on the ground when stopped.
My knees were damaged in a car accident some years ago, and what finally got me healed was probably the IGH on my present commuter bike, which I've had for almost 5 years now. Being able to shift down at every intersection and start in a low gear really helped. Now I can start and climb out of the saddle again, but I don't think the gradual healing would have occurred if I'd kept doing that before I was ready to.
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Old 11-11-13, 09:52 AM   #4
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Here goes ..... I had a menisectomy in my left knee about twenty plus years ago and I am now bone on bone in that knee. About 3 1/2 years ago, when I restarted cycling, I experienced pain on the inside (meidal) area of my right knee, went to the doc who diagnosed arthritis in that knee. For my restart of cycling I bought a bike that was too big for me and had some issues with knee pain in both knees and some IT band issues. It took awhile to sort out what was arthritis pain and what was other knee pain. There are ongoing arthritis issues in my right knee and it has degenerated significantly in the past couple of years. My off the bike functionality is compromised: walking more than 1/4 mile is painful, kneeling, and lots of other activities of daily living are painful. However, on the bike pain is there, but limited and tolerable.

I have addressed the on the bike pain with physical therapy, a good bike fit and a bike that fits me well, and gearing that allows me not to push too hard (54/30 and 11/32). I have noticed over the past couple of years that when my mileage and speed peak, my knees will hurt while cycling. If I back off speed and hills and use bigger cogs in riding, then I can control the pain. And, more often than not, when my knees are hurting from off the bike activities, I can ride at appropriate gearing and my knees will feel better. So, I think that for me, cycling CAN make my arthritic knees worse, but it also CAN be fine if I do not over-do it.

I am on the way to a knee replacement. When it consistently hurts more than not while cycling is the tipping point for me in making that decision. But, if I manage how I ride now, then cycling does not seem to make things worse. Cortisone shots, supartz injections, and moderation in riding keep me on the bike. That is my experience.
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Old 11-11-13, 10:32 AM   #5
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My doc told me to take it easy when my knee hurts (it's getting old and degenerating (so is the rest of me, but my knee has to complain about it)) but not too easy. She said cycling is good for it, overall, and that's been my experience. When I stop cycling entirely my knee hurts. My theory is that my muscles get weaker and put more strain on my tendons or some crap. When I start in too high a gear, my knee hurts. The only way to keep my knee happy is to cycle frequently and keep the gears low and spinning fast.
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Old 11-11-13, 08:43 PM   #6
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Thank you all so much for sharing your personal experiences! They are really valuable! It seems having the correct fit and position and appropriate gear are very important and can make a big difference between helping and hurting the knees. It is good to know that taking it easy can improve arthritis once you already suffer it. Hope everyone gets healthier knees from proper cycling.
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Old 11-11-13, 10:12 PM   #7
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One more thought .... I saw a podiatrist about the angle between my foot and knee (he is a cyclist as is my PT guy) and he suggested some varus wedges in my cleats to take the load off my medial compartents. It did help and it is worth looking into orthotics or whatever will ease the load on your particular arthritis issues .....
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Old 11-11-13, 10:14 PM   #8
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I don't think cycling will improve or reduce arthritis in any meaningful way - I got hit by a car 15 yrs ago and have had two arthroscopic surgeries to clean up torn meniscus & clean out my severe osteoarthritis. The doc says I should have it done every 5 years, I say... whatever. I'll go back when it hurts regularly again.

I'm bone on bone in the right half of my knee, got a little left on the inside, and as mentioned - osteoarthritis in spades. My doc said I had the knee of an 80 yr old man, and that was when I was 35 (11 years ago)

I can't run, not even 50 yards, without excruciating pain. I can walk and even do some hiking, but I'll pay for it later. What I CAN do is a lot of cycling (a lot for me, probably not for a bunch of you, but around 3k miles a year). Sometimes it hurts, most of the time it's OK but my right leg is weaker than my left leg and probably limits my otherwise awesome sprinting ability (choke, cough splutter)

I refuse to let it limit me, other than not running. I'll get the knee replaced when I absolutely can't stand it anymore but I'm feeling OK about it right now.
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Old 11-11-13, 11:20 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
I don't think cycling will improve or reduce arthritis in any meaningful way - I got hit by a car 15 yrs ago and have had two arthroscopic surgeries to clean up torn meniscus & clean out my severe osteoarthritis. The doc says I should have it done every 5 years, I say... whatever. I'll go back when it hurts regularly again.

I'm bone on bone in the right half of my knee, got a little left on the inside, and as mentioned - osteoarthritis in spades. My doc said I had the knee of an 80 yr old man, and that was when I was 35 (11 years ago)

I can't run, not even 50 yards, without excruciating pain. I can walk and even do some hiking, but I'll pay for it later. What I CAN do is a lot of cycling (a lot for me, probably not for a bunch of you, but around 3k miles a year). Sometimes it hurts, most of the time it's OK but my right leg is weaker than my left leg and probably limits my otherwise awesome sprinting ability (choke, cough splutter)

I refuse to let it limit me, other than not running. I'll get the knee replaced when I absolutely can't stand it anymore but I'm feeling OK about it right now.
Yep...... everybody get knocked down ...... how quick are you going to get up?

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Old 11-11-13, 11:20 PM   #10
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I'm not sure about arthritis but I have a 10 mile cycling knee as the result of a basketball injury about 18 years ago. When cycling my knee starts to complain at 10 miles every time, if I go 20 I'll be limping the next day, and the last time I did 40 I had to be helped to the car.

Yes, my bike is properly fitted.

I finally realized that what irritates it is high torque, not the revolutions. It's hilly enough around here that high pressure on the pedals is unavoidable, even in granny low gear, so I recently added an electric assist kit to my bike. I press the magic button on the steep hills and the pressure I have to apply to the pedals via is cut in half, and my knee is much, much happier for it.
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Old 11-12-13, 03:51 PM   #11
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"Again, there are articles and theories out there, but no theory beats actual experiences in convincing people."

I think statistics, when available, beat the heck out of anecdotal stories, but I lack statistics and have my story: my left knee had been bugging me, and it has completely stopped since I started cycling. That is probably also related to my much decreased running mileage, as cycling is now my primary aerobic exercise. I only run about once a week now, sometimes less frequently.
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Old 11-12-13, 04:18 PM   #12
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"Again, there are articles and theories out there, but no theory beats actual experiences in convincing people."

I think statistics, when available, beat the heck out of anecdotal stories, but I lack statistics and have my story: my left knee had been bugging me, and it has completely stopped since I started cycling. That is probably also related to my much decreased running mileage, as cycling is now my primary aerobic exercise. I only run about once a week now, sometimes less frequently.
Here is one study for you. Science or at least one study seems to agree with you.

Effect of moderate aerobic cycling on some systemic inflammatory markers in healthy active collegiate men
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3048343/

"Cycling at a moderate intensity for 45 minutes increased systemic markers of inflammation (WBC, serum IL-6, IL-10, and CRP concentrations) and stress hormones, but this increase has no clinical value and is not harmful for health. Therefore, repeated moderate cycling has an anti- inflammatory effect and may protect individuals from chronic disease. Changes in inflammatory indices in active (regularly exercise during the week) compared to nonactive (sedentary) individuals are small."

another article:

Regular cycling can ward off arthritis and reduce effects, says hospital consultant and orthopaedic surgeon
http://road.cc/content/news/49150-re...ultant-surgeon

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Old 11-13-13, 11:53 AM   #13
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For me, cycling seems to help my arthritic knees.

I believe the benefit is in two areas. First, building up the muscles of the legs helps to support the joint. Second, when I am riding regularly, I also lose weight.
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Old 11-13-13, 04:37 PM   #14
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I have severe arthritis in both knees and was about to be scheduled for replacement on both of them. I was told to find some exercise and lose some weight, so I bought a cheap wally mart bike and started riding. I got hooked and started riding a lot, lost weight, gained muscle and am now 2 years past when I was supposed to have had the replacement surgeries. My knees still bother me, but nowhere near what it was like before
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Old 11-14-13, 06:54 AM   #15
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I'm not sure about arthritis but I have a 10 mile cycling knee as the result of a basketball injury about 18 years ago. When cycling my knee starts to complain at 10 miles every time, if I go 20 I'll be limping the next day, and the last time I did 40 I had to be helped to the car.

Yes, my bike is properly fitted.

I finally realized that what irritates it is high torque, not the revolutions. It's hilly enough around here that high pressure on the pedals is unavoidable, even in granny low gear, so I recently added an electric assist kit to my bike. I press the magic button on the steep hills and the pressure I have to apply to the pedals via is cut in half, and my knee is much, much happier for it.

You know, I never thought about this being a good (if not best) reason for electric assist bikes, but I'm glad you have that system! I feel like I want to bike all the way through my 60's if possible, but the way my knees are now, I may be relying on just such a system in the future. This makes me really appreciate the electric assist bikes now...before I had a narrow mindset of "Those are bikes for lazy people", but I have been educated and humbled to learn just how useful that is. Thanks for bringing me up to speed!*

*Pun really not intended, but I'm gonna go with it anyway.
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Old 11-14-13, 09:23 AM   #16
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I've got arthritis in both hips and knees. Had to stop walking for exercise on weekdays so that I could continue hiking and backpacking on weekends. doc suggested a bike for weekday exercise but arthitis in hips was sever enough to prevent me being able to get my leg over the bar. So I bought a recumbent trike. It not only gives me my weekday exercise without pain, but also seems to lessen the pain I feel from hiking, especially after the Monday and Tuesday rides.
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Old 11-16-13, 11:46 AM   #17
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If you have range of motion restrictions in your knee joint, shorter crank arms can help. Most decent cranks are available with 165mm arms (170 being standard), some are available down to 150mm but you have to search them out, and BMX arms can be had as short as 110mm. And you can have your existing cranks shortened in many cases:

http://bikesmithdesign.com/Short_Cranks/index.html

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