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Top tips to help prevent gritty knees

Cycling is a low-impact sport; however, it’s not uncommon for cyclists to suffer knee pain. The repetitive motion could put a strain on the knee and cause aching and inflammation around the joint. In fact, a study revealed 23% of injuries suffered by professional cyclists are registered in the knee.

What causes knee pain?

“Gritty, grinding, clicking or crunching knees when cycling tend to be the symptom of a dysfunctional patello-femoral joint,” explains sports specialist physiotherapist, Stephanie Smith, founder of Pea Green Physio. “This is where the patella (or kneecap) sits at the front of the knee and glides up and down as the knee bends and straightens. This joint acts like a pulley to provide power and biomechanical advantage to the quadriceps when straightening the knee.”

There are three main areas in the knee where pain can occur:

1.     Anterior knee pain: focused on the kneecap at the front of the joint. This can be caused by overuse.

2.     Posterior knee pain: located at the back of the knee, this pain can be caused by the overextension of the leg.

3.     Lateral knee pain: occurs at the sides of the knee and can be caused by poor feet positioning on the pedals.

Help look after your knees with these top tips:

1. Start out slow

When you begin training again after a break, don’t overwork your joints by pushing yourself too hard. Start out gradually, avoid tough hill climbs, which can weaken your cartilage, and keep to a lower gear. This will help your knees adjust to the pressures of riding again.

2. Sit right

Make sure your saddle is at the right height. If it’s too low, you could be putting unnecessary strain on your knee joint; too high and you could overextend your leg. When the pedal is fully down your leg should remain slightly bent. Studies have suggested the correct saddle height could help reduce the risk of knee injuries.

3. Get into a good habit

If you ride with a side to side motion rather than up and down, this could lead to excessive rotation of the knee joint. The angle of your foot could also affect the alignment of your knee. Cleats on cycling shoes could help you apply more force while riding; however poorly fitted ones could increase the strain on your knees.

4. Include support from your diet

The repetitive strain cycling demands could put pressure on your knee joints and cause damage to the cartilage. A cod liver oil supplement, which is a rich source of omega 3, has anti-inflammatory qualities that could help protect your knees against possible injuries.

5. Lengthen out your legs

It’s not uncommon for people to have one leg slightly longer than the other. However, a difference of just 1cm could have a large impact on your knees. Check your stance and adjust your cleats or the length of the crank where appropriate. This will help give you a well balanced riding stance and alleviate pressure on your knees.