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Did I wreck my knees? (from pushing too hard)

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Did I wreck my knees? (from pushing too hard)

Old 08-21-08, 11:30 PM
  #1  
pannierpacker
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Did I wreck my knees? (from pushing too hard)

I started commuting in March. For the first 4 months, I never changed my gear, I would leave it at the highest setting. When I got to a hill I would stand up and pushing really hard and eventually climb it. It was fun and a good workout, but I noticed about a month ago that my knees were starting to get sore from it and at one point they were always sore, even when I wasnt going over hills. Since then I've started switching my gears and strive for rpms at around 60-70 a minute as I heard thats optimal for knee health. I also made sure my seat was up high enough so that my leg is straight on my down stroke.

Although the pain is less, I still feel it from time to time, and this occurs when I hardly stress my knees at all. I can ride on flat land in a very easy gear and I still feel a little sore later. It's like my knees are chronically sore now. I wish I could go back to my first few months of biking where no matter what I did to my knees they felt just fine afterwards. Did I mess up my knees for good? Am I going to have to deal with this for life now? It really sucks because I've been kinda having to limit my speed lately, for fear of hurting my knees again.
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Old 08-22-08, 12:33 AM
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Originally Posted by pannierpacker View Post
I started commuting in March. For the first 4 months, I never changed my gear, I would leave it at the highest setting. When I got to a hill I would stand up and pushing really hard and eventually climb it. It was fun and a good workout, but I noticed about a month ago that my knees were starting to get sore from it and at one point they were always sore, even when I wasnt going over hills. Since then I've started switching my gears and strive for rpms at around 60-70 a minute as I heard thats optimal for knee health. I also made sure my seat was up high enough so that my leg is straight on my down stroke.

Although the pain is less, I still feel it from time to time, and this occurs when I hardly stress my knees at all. I can ride on flat land in a very easy gear and I still feel a little sore later. It's like my knees are chronically sore now. I wish I could go back to my first few months of biking where no matter what I did to my knees they felt just fine afterwards. Did I mess up my knees for good? Am I going to have to deal with this for life now? It really sucks because I've been kinda having to limit my speed lately, for fear of hurting my knees again.
I'm not a doctor so I can't tell you about your knees. I can tell you about mine. I've had knee pain in the past and after correcting a few things on the bike it got better, but it took awhile.

The things I did off the bike were to make sure I stayed well hydrated and attempting to do a better job of giving my body what it needed nutritionally to maintain and repair itself.

It may not hurt you to bump your RPMs up a bit more into the 80 - 90 range.

You might also try taking some aspirin or ibuprofen before you ride to limit inflammation.

Good Luck!
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Old 08-22-08, 12:47 AM
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Originally Posted by pannierpacker View Post
I started commuting in March. For the first 4 months, I never changed my gear, I would leave it at the highest setting. When I got to a hill I would stand up and pushing really hard and eventually climb it. It was fun and a good workout, but I noticed about a month ago that my knees were starting to get sore from it and at one point they were always sore, even when I wasnt going over hills. Since then I've started switching my gears and strive for rpms at around 60-70 a minute as I heard thats optimal for knee health. I also made sure my seat was up high enough so that my leg is straight on my down stroke.

Although the pain is less, I still feel it from time to time, and this occurs when I hardly stress my knees at all. I can ride on flat land in a very easy gear and I still feel a little sore later. It's like my knees are chronically sore now. I wish I could go back to my first few months of biking where no matter what I did to my knees they felt just fine afterwards. Did I mess up my knees for good? Am I going to have to deal with this for life now? It really sucks because I've been kinda having to limit my speed lately, for fear of hurting my knees again.
Let`s see. Drop the seat an inch, stay off the big ring for awhile, take a bit of Ibuprofen. But, yeah, your knees are probably destroyed and your cycling life done.
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Old 08-22-08, 12:47 AM
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"I also made sure my seat was up high enough so that my leg is straight on my down stroke."

Not quite right. Set it so that you fully extend your leg with your HEELS on the pedals, without rocking the hips.
Shorter cranks also helped my knees. I'm spinning a lot faster in a lower gear. Speed is up a little and stamina is up a lot!
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Old 08-22-08, 01:45 AM
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Knee should be over the Axle of the pedal when the pedal is straight down. Thats what I have always heard/done.

I have books that talk about it, but I cant find it on the internet right now/It's late, I can't sleep.


I had hip pain from my seat being to high & knee pain from it to low. but I have it right now.



http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?t=86422


edit: if you do the leg straight think on the down I think you do it with the heel of your foot on the pedal not your ball.
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Old 08-22-08, 02:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun View Post
"I also made sure my seat was up high enough so that my leg is straight on my down stroke."

Not quite right. Set it so that you fully extend your leg with your HEELS on the pedals, without rocking the hips.
Shorter cranks also helped my knees. I'm spinning a lot faster in a lower gear. Speed is up a little and stamina is up a lot!
Great advice. and in so few words. Your knees arent destroyed LOL. They need some rest. If you make the modifications above (short cranks, high saddle position, low gear) in a couple of months you should feel just fine. You NEED to acquire a HIGH CADENCE think 100+ rpm.

GOOD LUCK!
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Old 08-22-08, 06:22 AM
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Originally Posted by EatMyA** View Post
Great advice. and in so few words. Your knees arent destroyed LOL. They need some rest. If you make the modifications above (short cranks, high saddle position, low gear) in a couple of months you should feel just fine. You NEED to acquire a HIGH CADENCE think 100+ rpm.

GOOD LUCK!

Do those things mentioned above. Take it easy over the winter. By next Spring you will be good as new.
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Old 08-22-08, 06:47 AM
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I'm no doctor, so you might want to see an actual one, but I'll bet a doctor would prescribe a couple weeks off the bike. Might be a good idea.

If you're lucky, a minor injury now might have taught you a good lesson and prevented a worse injury later.
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Old 08-22-08, 06:52 AM
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Spin higher cadences, and don't hammer up the hills so hard for a while. Ibuprofen or Advil can help a lot. I also take Glucosamine and Fish Oil for my knees if/when they start acting up.

RICE: rest, ice, compression, elevation

If the pain is towards the rear of your leg behind your knee, try lowering the seat. If it's at the front of your knee, try raising your seat.

Also make sure your cleats are fit right if you use clipless pedals. You should have plenty of float either direction. If the cleats prevent your foot from rotating enough in or out, it can cause problems.

Good luck.
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Old 08-22-08, 06:53 AM
  #10  
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Originally Posted by EatMyA** View Post
Great advice. and in so few words. Your knees arent destroyed LOL. They need some rest. If you make the modifications above (short cranks, high saddle position, low gear) in a couple of months you should feel just fine. You NEED to acquire a HIGH CADENCE think 100+ rpm.
Agreed, 100%. Would anyone care to define "short cranks?" I use 140's, that being the shortest I can buy easily, but some people consider 165's short. I'm not short, by the way; I can ride 175's without damaging myself, but 140's are much more pleasant and as far (as I can tell) far more efficient.

High cadence is a lot easier with short crank arms. I normally pedal around 120 rpm.
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Old 08-22-08, 06:56 AM
  #11  
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Sheesh man, learn how to ride a bicycle. Have you ever heard of spinning? Learn how to do it, or you will destroy your knees. You should aim for a cadence of 80-100 rpms. That might feel ridiculous at first, but it will feel natural after you do it a while. There is a reason why professional cyclists -- who ride 10,000 to 20,000 miles a year -- spin at a high cadence. Not only will it help prevent knee injuries, it will build up your aerobic capacity, increase your endurance and make you a better rider.

Also, your saddle height should be set so that there is a slight bend in your knees at the bottom-most position of your crank.

Seriously, start spinning now before you totally screw up your knees. If your computer doesn't have a cadence function (and most don't) you can easily calculate your rpms by counting how many times you turn your cranks in 15 seconds, and then multiply that number by four.
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Old 08-22-08, 07:31 AM
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I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on television, but you're describing behavior and symptoms that I recognize from having abused my knees as well. My personal advise is as follows:

1. Take a Mulligan - forgive yourself and relax - you're going to be OK. You've manned up to admitting to the Bike Forums universe that you've overcooked it starting out and learned from your mistake of grinding up hills in your Godzilla-gear without any real conditioning.

2. Stop riding and see a good orthopaedist and tell them what you did. I was off the bike for a couple of years and my first ride back was the insane Diablo Mountain climb, which I naturally did at time trial pace and by the time I got back down off the mountain, I couldn't bend my left knee. As Dave Ramsey would say - "I've done stupid with zeroes behind it." It was then, at age 21, that I realized I was no longer invincible

3. Treat the inflamation. The reason you're in pain is that your knees are more than likely swollen with inflamation. Follow whatever advice they give you, but don't let them tell you you're finished or keep you on meds for more than a month or two, tops. Ice is good, as are anti-inflammatories like Ibuprofin mentioned earlier.

4. Get a proper bike fitting. Go to a high-end LBS that does professional bike fittings with tools and/or lasers and crap you don't understand. It's been my best cycling investment to date.

5. EASE back into it. Get 1,000 miles of base in before you start to breath hard on a ride. Build your miles up gradually. You might not even want to start back with commuting. You might want to start with easier, flatter 10 and 15 mile rides with an unloaded bike. Save the racks, fenders, baskets, lights and panniers for when you're strong enough to hammer the hills on your commute route.

Disclaimer: Yes, I have my own opinions and some of them are probably wrong, but I nearly destroyed my knees trying to keep up with fast group rides on a bike with a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed stuck in high gear when I was 14. That was over 20 years ago and I'm still on the bike.

Last edited by nmanhipot; 08-22-08 at 07:35 AM.
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Old 08-22-08, 08:51 AM
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I've had knee surgery and can tell you that you don't want to go there if you can avoid it. Knee injuries can go on and on and on. I tend to do the same thing you do and ride with a low cadence and I've been racing for almost 20 years. I've taken to riding a relatively low geared single-speed bike which forces me to spin more since shifting up into a taller gear isn't an option. Ease up and get in the habit of spinning. Try riding at least one gear lower than you think you should. Another thing that may help is stretching as it reduces the tension on your joints when you're not riding. I'm not a doctor but it seems to help me.

As the previous poster mentioned, it would be a good idea to have the fit of your bike checked out by someone who knows what they are doing.

It probably wouldn't be a bad idea to take a couple of weeks off the bike too. I can say that but I know I probably wouldn't have the self discipline to actually do it myself.
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Old 08-22-08, 09:05 AM
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As a runner and biker, I can tell you that knee injuries can take a long time to heal if it's related to wearing down the cartilage. You should probably take some time off, actually utilize your gears, and probably see a doctor.

"Unlike other connective tissues, cartilage does not contain blood vessels. The chondrocytes are fed by diffusion, helped by the pumping action generated by compression of the articular cartilage or flexion of the elastic cartilage. Thus, compared to other connective tissues, cartilage grows and repairs more slowly."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartilage

In general, biking shouldn't be all that hard or take a lot of effort if you properly utilize your gears. Also keep in mind that in order for your knees to track properly (improper tracking can cause pain and wear your cartilage), you need to do a variety of leg exercises...you need to build up your stabilizer muscles as well.
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Old 08-22-08, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by pannierpacker View Post
Since then I've started switching my gears and strive for rpms at around 60-70 a minute as I heard thats optimal for knee health. I also made sure my seat was up high enough so that my leg is straight on my down stroke.
You started striving for 60 rpm? I'm afraid to imagine what you were doing before that! The optimal actually starts somewhere around 75 rpm and up from there. 50-60 is what most beginner cyclists do and it's too slow. It sounds like you were around the 40-50 range, and pushing hard. That IS brutal on the knees, especially with an improperly positioned saddle.

*sigh* Why, why don't people do a tiny bit of research beforehand and easily avoid problems instead of just jumping into things and messing up their health?

It's like my knees are chronically sore now. I wish I could go back to my first few months of biking where no matter what I did to my knees they felt just fine afterwards. Did I mess up my knees for good? Am I going to have to deal with this for life now? It really sucks because I've been kinda having to limit my speed lately, for fear of hurting my knees again.
Whatever you did to your knees is probably not permanent. But you need to see a sports medicine specialist ASAP and possibly do some physio and other treatments. Part of the treatment may include getting off the bike for a while.
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Old 08-22-08, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by pannierpacker View Post
Did I mess up my knees for good? Am I going to have to deal with this for life now? It really sucks because I've been kinda having to limit my speed lately, for fear of hurting my knees again.
Welcome to the club, start off with staying off your bike until you see an orthopedic. They will give you an xray and let you know if anything is seriously f'd up. Mostly likely your tendons are inflammed from trying to do to much. Expect to be off the bike for a long time, sorry dude, life can be cruel at times.
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Old 08-22-08, 01:24 PM
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I don't need to be a doctor to know that an X-ray will not show connective tissue damage - only bone damage. An MRI is the type of scan usually used to detect connective tissue injuries.
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Old 08-22-08, 01:40 PM
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+1 on taking it easy for a bit. I had the same thing happen to me, my knees were used to walking to the train, not riding. After a few months they're strong. like bull.
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Old 08-22-08, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by chephy View Post
You started striving for 60 rpm? *sigh* Why, why don't people do a tiny bit of research beforehand and easily avoid problems instead of just jumping into things and messing up their health?
Because most people think, "It's a bike. My f***ing four year old rides a bike. Who needs to research it."

Same thing goes for running. "I've been walking since I was one. Just do it faster, what's the big deal?"



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Old 08-22-08, 01:52 PM
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What someone abused their knees because of ignorance? Yes I did that too. I honestly think a lot of bicyclists do that. This must be a common issue. Take a few months off. Most of it or maybe everything will go away with time. Still biking, more after that than before in fact. No problems here , the question is what it feels like in 40-50-60-70 years.. I cant know. I dont know or feel your knees but just from my personal experience you can ride on np after some rest . I dont think you wrecked your knees for good
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Old 08-22-08, 10:26 PM
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Thanks for the advice everyone. For those suggesting time off of the bike, please keep in mind that I don't use a car and that my bike is my primary vehicle for getting to work and everywhere else.

Also question:
What is spinning? Is that just running at high RPMs?

Also I have biopace chainwheels. Is that making this worse or better?
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Old 08-23-08, 12:08 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by pannierpacker View Post
Also question:
What is spinning? Is that just running at high RPMs?

Also I have biopace chainwheels. Is that making this worse or better?


Yeah spinning is turning the cranks at a faster (optimal) RPM.

As far as the bio-pace rings they have been proven to be not much effective as to their original design, but they will not hamper you either. Since your bike is your main transportation I say to just take it easy for a while in an easy gear. Run at a cadence of 80-90 RPM which is a good crank speed and dont push it. Use your gears, thats what they're there for. Just practice on spinning for now. Soon you'll be okay. The very best thing to do is to get a professional fit, but a good ball-park method is to check out one of the many on-line bike fitting methods for now.

Just spin and take it easy.
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Old 08-23-08, 12:47 AM
  #23  
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Get yourself properly fitted on the bike. I has all sorts of knee and lower back pain until I finally got my bike fitted the way I want it. Now, I can push hard and have no pain in my knees or back. High rpm's really helps. Standing all the time on a high gear can ruin your knees. Imagine driving a car on high gear all the time even when climbing. The engine will eventually break down from all the stress.

Use your gears. There's a very good reason they are on your bike.
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Old 08-23-08, 01:10 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by pannierpacker View Post
Thanks for the advice everyone. For those suggesting time off of the bike, please keep in mind that I don't use a car and that my bike is my primary vehicle for getting to work and everywhere else.

Also question:
What is spinning? Is that just running at high RPMs?

Also I have biopace chainwheels. Is that making this worse or better?
I think Bio Pace is better for me, and in general, kind of designed for "cruising" at a steady cadence. Not that beneficial for a lot of stop & go.
Supposedly, the arms are the slowest 6 & 12 O' clock. That means your leg isn't changing directions quite as rapidly, so your foot is less likely to come off the pedal at the top of the stroke. (or spin faster before it does)

Since you have to ride your bike, I'd suggest just taking it easy and avoid mashing. If it takes you more time to get where you're going, so what.
when I went to my 160MM cranks from the 170's, I forgot to raise my seat the necessary 20MM to compensate.
I went for a 10 mile test run to check out the cranks,. After about a mile or so I realized I'd forgotten to raise the seat. Instead of heading home to fix it, I figured "big deal", I'll do it when I finish the ride.
I was a bit carried away, trying to set new spinng speeds and basically "hammered" my knees. I was still pushing down hard and ran out of stroke.
Anyway, I had knee pain for about 2 weeks and was really getting concerned. I don't have a car either, so I'm in the same boat. I just backed off and kind of took the "enjoy the ride" approach and things are OK now.
So, just take it easy and don't worry about setting any cadence records. Keep to a lower gear and just worry about getting there. Don't be "macho" about it!

BTW, one of the best investments I made was a $12 computer. I discovered I was actually a bit faster in a lower gear and spinning a bit faster. That taught me that just because you are pushing harder, doesn't necessarily mean you are going faster.
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Old 08-23-08, 06:00 PM
  #25  
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Think swimming not weight lifting..
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