Is Cycling Good for Runners Knee? (What To Do About It!)


Runner’s knee is one of the most common running-related injuries and can happen to beginners and experienced athletes alike. If you’ve noticed knee pain during or after your run, it’s likely a sign that something is going awry.

Here is a video explaining what is a runner’s knee,

Does Cycling Worsen Runners’ Knee?

Yes, it is possible for cycling to make the runner’s knee worse. While cycling is a lower-impact workout than running is, it can still cause knee pain.

This can be due to a variety of factors, including:

Overexertion

Cycling too often or too hard can lead to overexertion. The knees take and exert the force needed to push the pedals, so the harder you push, the more stress you’re putting on the joints. Beginner cyclists who have not yet built up their legs to take this kind of load can end up injuring themselves.

Bike fit

If your bike is not properly fitted to your body, you may end up with worse knee pain than when you started. Having the wrong setup can feel uncomfortable during the ride and an incorrect saddle position may put extra pressure on your kneecaps, which could lead to pain.

Not warming up

Hopping right on your bike and taking it for a spin could lead to knee pain, especially if you’re new to cycling. It is important to do a dynamic stretching warm-up before a ride to prevent injury and make sure your body is ready for the exercise.

(Source).

If you notice any pain in either knee (whether it’s one you’re experiencing runner’s knee with or not), you should stop cycling. You don’t want to risk making your injury worse or prolonging your recovery. As with all injuries, it’s important to consult a doctor or physical therapist before beginning any new exercise.

Is Cycling Better for Your Knees than Running?

Yes, cycling is considered better for your knees than running, but that doesn’t mean running will destroy your knees. Cycling is considered a non-weight-bearing activity, meaning it doesn’t put a ton of impact on your knees and joints. (Source)

It’s also likely going to cause you less muscle soreness overall than running does because it’s such a low-impact activity. This doesn’t mean you aren’t working hard, of course – it simply means your body isn’t taking as much force as it does with running.

Running places a lot of stress on the joints in the legs because it requires force to push off the ground .This issue is compounded the more miles you run (whether it’s at once or by increasing  your weekly mileage).

There are ways to keep your knees safe as you run, like warming up properly and only increasing your mileage each week by a small percent, but overall you’ll likely experience fewer knee problems with cycling.

Is It Ok to Cycle with Knee Pain?

You should avoid cycling with knee pain. If you are noticing some slight knee pain or discomfort as you ride, it’s likely that your bike isn’t properly set up or fitted to your body. You’ll want to correct this as soon as possible in order to avoid injury.

One of the first things to check when you’re fitting your bike is the seat height. Your saddle should be at a comfortable height. For an ideal fit, you’ll want your foot to be able to sit at the lowest pedal position without locking your knees (Source).

Not only will this mean your seat isn’t too high, it will also ensure that it’s not too low, causing an excessive bend in your knees.

If you still experience knee pain after making some adjustments to your bike and body position, you should consult a physical therapist. You can also invest in getting a professional bike fit, which usually ranges from $100-$500.

What Is the Fastest Way to Fix Runner’s Knee?

It may sound counterintuitive, but the fastest way to fix a runner’s knee is to rest as long as you’re able to. You don’t want to rush through the recovery process as that will only make things worse (Source).

In addition to resting your knees, here are some other methods you can use to speed up your recovery and get back on the pavement:

  • Ice your knee for 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours until the pain eases
  • Wrap your knee with an ace bandage or other type of wrap that will compress the area
  • Elevate your leg with a pillow any time you sit or lie down
  • Take ibuprofen or other NSAIDs to relieve the pain and inflammation
  • Do strengthening and stretching exercises, especially ones that target the quads (you can reach out to a physical therapist for specific exercises)

Here are three signs that your runner’s knee has improved:

  • You can fully bend and straighten your leg without any pain
  • You don’t feel pain when you walk, jog, or jump
  • Your knee feels just as strong as your non-injured knee

Few more tips in the following video,

If your knee pain hasn’t gone away within three days, or if you don’t notice any improvement, you should reach out to your doctor. They can set you up with a physical therapist or refer you to another specialist.

How Can I Prevent Runner’s Knee?

Fortunately, runner’s knee is preventable. There are a few things you can do to avoid injuring your knees from running:

Stretch the muscles surrounding your knee

You should do a light warm up and some stretching before every run (yes, even before the short ones). Pay special attention to warming up and stretching the quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles.

Strengthen your legs and core

Having strong legs and a solid core is key for injury prevention. Plyometric exercises – those explosive, jumping motions – can be especially helpful for runners. You should aim to add at least two weight training sessions a week to your running routine.

Use cold therapy

Even with the best intentions, your knees may be sore after running. Utilize ice packs and other cold therapy to soothe these sore joints after a run. This will help decrease inflammation and pain.

Take a break

Cycling or swimming are great cross-training options for runners. Both of these activities will give your knees a much-appreciated break while still being a cardiovascular workout. This can be especially useful if you’re particularly injury-prone.

Drink more water

Staying hydrated is key for preventing injury and optimizing muscle function. Get in the habit of drinking a glass of water before each run and bringing any necessary hydration during longer runs.

(Source)

Some more tips in the following video,

Things to keep in mind

Runner’s knee can happen to anyone, but doing consistent strength and conditioning can help prevent this common injury. As with any injury, it’s important to pay attention to your body’s cues so you can notice the first signs of something going wrong.

Aprill Emig

Based out of Duluth, MN Aprill loves to write about the outdoors, education, and all forms of adventure. You can find her mountain biking, running, or playing roller derby.

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