Before diving right into the advantages and disadvantages of cycling on the body, as well as its relationship with knee pain, we would like to analyze what exactly knee pain is, along with the various forms of knee pain and their causes.
Basic anatomy of the Knee
When you simply look down at your legs, the first joint you see is the knee. It’s a vulnerable joint that takes a huge amount of stress from everyday activities like lifting and kneeling, as well as high-impact activities like running and aerobics.
The knee comprises the following parts:
- Tibia. This is the shin bone, which is the largest bone in the human lower leg.
- Femur. In the human body, this is the thigh bone, also known as the upper leg bone.
- Patella. This is known as the kneecap.
The quadriceps muscles (located on the front of the thighs), which straighten the legs, and the hamstring muscles (found on the back of the thighs), which enable the leg to bend at the knee, are both engaged in the knee. Each bone end has a layer of cartilage that absorbs shock and protects the knee. The knee comprises two long leg bones that are joined together by muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
What causes knee pain anyway?
Knee pain is a common complaint among adults, and it is usually caused by general wear and tear from everyday activities such as walking, twisting, standing, jumping, running, climbing, and lifting.
Athletes who run or take part in sports activities that require jumping or rapid rotation are more likely to experience knee discomfort and problems. However, whether caused by the aging process or injury, knee pain can be frustrating and even disabling in some cases.
The most frequent reasons for knee pain are related to the aging process, injury, disease, or repeated stress on the knee. Sprained or strained ligaments, fractures, dislocations, cartilage tears, meniscal tears, tendon tears, tendinitis, and arthritis are all common knee problems.
Aside from the aforementioned causes, knee pain can also be caused by severe physical activity, lack of exercise, injuries such as muscle sprains or strains, and sitting in a confined space or sitting on knees for an extended period of time.
The most common causes of knee pain are as follows:
- One of the most common types of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative process in which the cartilage in the joint progressively deteriorates or breaks down. It frequently affects middle-aged and older people. Excessive joint stress, such as repeated injury or being overweight, can cause osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the knees by inflaming the joint and damaging the cartilage. Rheumatoid arthritis typically strikes people at a younger age than osteoarthritis.
- Sprained or strained knee ligaments and/or muscles. A sprained or strained knee ligament or muscle is usually caused by a strong hit to the knee or a sudden twist of the knee or a collision of the knee with another body.
- Torn cartilage. A knee injury can damage the menisci (pads of connective tissue that act as shock absorbers and also enhance stability). Sprains are frequently associated with cartilage tears. To minimize the risk of a knee injury, precautions may include wearing a brace while partaking in an activity. To repair the tear, surgery may be required.
- Tendon inflammation can occur as a result of excessive usage of a tendon during activities like running, jumping, or cycling. Tendonitis of the patellar tendon is also known as jumper’s knee. This is common in sports like basketball and volleyball where the force of landing on the ground after a jump strains the tendon.
Effects of Cycling on the Body
Physical activity is required to stay fit and healthy always. Regular physical activity and exercises can help prevent certain diseases like obesity, heart disease, insomnia, mental health issues, diabetes, and arthritis. Cycling on a regular basis is one of the best and most efficient ways to lower your risk of health problems associated with sedentary living.
Cycling is a low-impact, healthy exercise or workout that people of all ages can enjoy, from children to adults. It’s also entertaining, cheap, and good for the environment. Cycling is an aerobic activity, which helps works your heart, blood vessels, and lungs work properly.
Regular cycling has the following health benefits:
- increased cardiovascular fitness
- increased muscle strength and flexibility
- improved joint mobility
- decreased stress levels
- improved posture and coordination
- strengthened bones
- decreased body fat levels
- prevention or management of disease
- reduced anxiety and depression.
Despite these advantages, cycling is frequently associated with injury, with up to 85 percent of all recreational cyclists reporting an overuse injury. Cycling’s unequal pressure distribution causes the neck, hands, wrists, back and shoulders, knees, and perineum to be the most commonly affected areas.
Cycling has been associated with:
- genital numbness,
- elevated PSA,
- erectile dysfunction (ED),
- lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS),
- and prostatitis.
Several of the research that suggested these links were underpowered, did not use valid and reliable clinical outcomes or had inadequate control group comparison. As a result, current data on cycling’s influence on urologic and sexual function is still evolving, but it’s safe to say that while there are numerous positive benefits to cycling as a recreational activity, there are also risks to be aware of.
Is cycling good for knee pain?
Exercising can be difficult when you have knee pain. You want your workout to feel good, not just get through it so you can deal with inflammation and discomfort eventually.
Knee pain may necessitate modifying your exercise routine and selecting the proper shoes. Rather than engaging in activities that are difficult on your knees, you will select exercises that will provide you and your muscles with a pain-free workout.
Cycling is an excellent form of exercise for everyone, but it is especially beneficial for people suffering from knee pain. Biking is a low-impact exercise that puts less strain on weight-bearing joints. This exercise is not only beneficial to the knee but also the hip and feet. Even better, the motion of your legs pushing on the pedals exercises specific joints, and can effectively minimize pain or stiffness. Cycling can also help boost your knee’s range of motion, so if you suffer from both pain and stiffness, your bike may help.
Cycling offers these low-impact benefits to cyclists’ knees and other joints, as well as a great cardio exercise. Exercise can benefit your overall health, strengthen your heart and lungs, and even enhance the muscle tone function of cyclists.
Riding a bike can help riders whose knee pain is caused by a chronic condition such as arthritis. This includes joint pain and difficulty moving. While other exercises may be too difficult due to arthritis, bike riding is frequently a fantastic choice for those with arthritic knees.
Now that we’ve proven that cycling is a great form of exercise for anyone suffering from knee pain, let’s move on to your individualized bike. There is no one-size that fits-all solution for the best type of bike for bad knees. You must have the proper fit in order to find the right bicycle. Anybody at your local bike shop can assist you in getting a bike that is tailored to your specific proportions. Having the right size bike will make sure riding doesn’t make your knee pain worse.
Another factor to consider before jumping in is the condition of your knees. If you’re new to exercise, it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor first. Consider your joints’ current limitations and work within the range. Your doctor or physical therapist can advise you on whether cycling is safe for you and how to implement it into an exercise plan that will benefit you without worsening your joint pain. More ways to protect your joints:
- Move gently. Warm-up your joints by moving them gently at first. You could start with five to ten minutes of range-of-motion workouts before moving on to the aerobic activity.
- Get the proper equipment. When riding outside, always wear a bike helmet, eye protection (such as simple sunglasses), and brightly colored clothing. Consider wearing bike gloves to help shield your hands from vibrations and injuries if you fall. Before you leave, plan your route. Dedicated bike paths keep you away from traffic.
- Start with a short ride. Begin with five or ten minutes of low-resistance exercise. Begin slowly and gradually increasing the duration and intensity of your ride as you progress. Work your way up to 150 minutes per week of moderately intense aerobic exercise (that’s 30 minutes five times per week).
- Stop if anything hurts. Pay attention to the pain. When your joints begin to ache, take a break or change gears to reduce resistance on hills, for example. “Sharp changes in severity can cause stress to the patellofemoral joint [where your kneecap meets your thigh bone] and raise inflammation in the knee,” according to the study. Discuss with your doctor when pain is normal and when it is more severe.
- Stretch every day. If you have a flare of RA or an increase in OA pain, you should continue to be active. Basic stretching may help relieve some of the pain.
- With these in mind, you’re good to go.
Best Solutions to knee pain
Self-care measures are effective for many types of minor knee pain. Physical therapy and knee braces can also help ease the pain. However, in some cases, your knee may require surgical repair.
Our proposed solutions would be divided into two categories: prevention and treatment. As the name suggests, Preventive measures aim to prevent knee pain (both now and in the future), whereas treatment solutions aim to provide a long-term and permanent solution to your knee pain.
Although it is not always possible to prevent knee pain, the following tips will help you avoid injuries and joint degradation:
- Maintain your weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your knees. Every pound you gain puts more strain on your joints, raising your risk of injury and osteoarthritis.
- Be in good shape to participate in your sport. Make time for conditioning to gear up your muscles for the requirements of sports participation.
- Perfect practice is essential. Make sure your tactic and movement styles in your sports activity are as good as they can be. Professional lessons can be extremely beneficial.
- Get strong while maintaining flexibility. Muscle weakness is a leading cause of knee injuries. Your quadriceps and hamstrings help the muscles on both the front and back of your thighs that support your knees benefit greatly.
- Be smart about exercise. If you have osteoarthritis, chronic knee pain, or recurring injuries, you may need to change the way you exercise.
Some patients with knee difficulties may wrap their knees during exercise or sports activity. people generally do this because it feels nice. While it will not harm your knee, it will not help you avoid injury. If you wrap, be careful not to wrap excessively tightly, as this might also cause a knee problem.
Before recommending a course of treatment, the problem must be properly diagnosed using an X-ray, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Computed Tomography (CT) scan, Arthroscopy, and/or Radionuclide bone scan. These would assist the doctor/orthopedist in determining where and what is causing the knee pain so that a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs could be developed.
Self-care measures may be used to ease pain before referring to a physician. Rest and relaxation, ice and heat treatment, compression knee straps to keep the joint in place while allowing free movement, and knee elevation are all options (either by resting it on pillows or sitting in a recliner).
If initial treatment methods do not provide relief, and X-rays show destruction of the joint, the orthopedist may recommend a total joint replacement for the knee, also referred to as knee replacement.
Green, W. J. &Longson, A. (2017, December 14). Basic knee anatomy. Morgon Stanley Industry View. Retrieved from https://kneepaininfo.com/basic-knee-anatomy/.
Zach Neir (06 October 2021). Cycling Knee pain: what causes it and how to avoid it. Cyclingnewscenter. Retrieved from https://www.cyclingnews.com/features/cycling-knee-pain-what-causes-it-and-how-to-avoid-it/
Mayo Clinic (11 May, 2021). Knee Pain- symptoms, causes, prevention, and solutions. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/knee-pain/symptoms-causes/syc-20350849.
I HAVE 10+ YEARS OF EXPERIENCE IN THE FIELD OF MEDICINE. CURRENTLY I HAVE MY PRIVATE PRACTICE IN MUMBAI. I HAVE WORKED WITH PREMIER HOSPITALS, SUCH AS LILAVATI HOSPITAL IN MUMBAI. I ASPIRE TO PUT MY KNOWLEDGE IN MEDICINE, USE IN PROVIDING HEALTHCARE AND FITNESS SERVICES TO PEOPLE AND HELP ENHANCE MY ABILITIES IN MEETING THE EVER-GROWING HEALTHCARE NEEDS.