Cycling is becoming an increasingly popular activity across Australia, whether it is competitive sport, exciting mountain biking or a leisurely outing with the family. Unfortunately, most cyclists will find themselves injured or experiencing some pain at some point, regardless of fitness or the level of activity. Those people who frequently jump on their bike are prone to some type of discomfort simply from the repetitive action of cycling on a regular basis.
The good news is that cycling injuries can be quite easily treated. Here are some of the most common injuries experienced by cyclists and some tips on how to fix them.
Knees experience a large range of motion and load through cycling and the majority of cyclists will experience knee pain to some degree. With regular cycling, the load on the knee can irritate the joints, muscles and tendons which then results in pain
The knee joint is a hinge joint, allowing the leg to extend back and forth, and has little side to side motion. It comprises three articulating surfaces – the thigh bone (femur), which rests on the top of the shin bone (tibia) and the kneecap (patella) which sits in the groove at the bottom and front of the thigh bone. As the knee bends and straightens, the kneecap moves up and down this groove. Tendons are structures that attach muscles to bone, and the patella tendon attaches the thigh muscle (quadriceps) to the shin at the front of the leg.
When the surfaces between the thigh bone and the kneecap become irritated, inflamed and painful, it is known as Patellofemoral Joint Pain Syndrome. The pain is usually felt in the front of the knee but can be felt anywhere in the kneecap. This injury can be exacerbated by weak or tight muscles in the leg, poor movement patterns and poor load management.
Other knee pain is experienced when the patellar tendon can become overloaded and cause pain directly over the site of the tendon, just below the kneecap. This is called Patellar Tendiopathy and it can be the result of loading tendons too quickly or in the wrong way.
Treatment for Knee Pain
These two knee conditions can be treated with some relatively simple fixes:
● Ensuring appropriate load management: Training loads need to be increased gradually – don’t push for too much too soon so damage is minimised.
● Improving capacity of the knee: Strengthening the muscles in the legs will help provide support to the knee and increase its capacity – focus on hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and glutes.
● Improve the fit of the bike: Even really small adjustments to your bike will alter your position and technique enough to reduce the load from the knee and will also optimise performance. Start by taking a look at the seat height and position, and the cleat position.
Lower Back Pain
Regular cyclists will often experience lower back pain to some degree, generally caused by hours curled over in the same position. It is similar to those people who have an office job and are sitting still in the same position for an extended period of time. Having the body in the same position for too long places pressure on various joints and muscles in the body, including the lower back.
Treatment for Lower Back Pain
If you’re a keen rider, then there’s not a lot you can do to alter being bent forward but there are ways you can improve things. Again, this type of pain can be relieved with some simple changes:
● Increased and varied mobility: Changing exercises will offset the amount of time spent in the cycling position and therefore alleviate the pain it causes.
● Improving core strength: Strengthening the core and lower back muscles allows for better stability and support while in the cycling position, reducing the strain put on the back.
● Alter the bike fit: Leaning too far forward or having a seat that is too high puts pressure on the hips and lower back. Adjusting the reach and seat height to a better ergonomic position will reduce load on muscles and tendons.
Physiotherapy for Cycling Injuries
If you have been putting up with knee pain or lower back pain for some time already, you should seek some professional treatment to stop it getting any worse and preventing new issues developing.
Make an appointment with a specialised Sports Physiotherapist who really understands cycling injuries and they will devise a plan to suit you, not only to reduce the pain but just as importantly, to identify the contributing factors. A treatment plan specifically for you may include exercises, a load management plan and even looking at your bike fit if necessary.
Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy wants you to move better and live a healthy, active life and their expertise will have you back on the bike as soon as possible.