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Biking and Your Knees

May 5, 2011

Biking is a fun way to increase fitness. British studies have found that cycling just 20 miles a week can cut the risk of heart disease or heart attack in half. Cycling 30 minutes a day can help you drop 10 or 12 pounds in a year with no changes in your eating habits. Bike riding, with its combination of effective aerobic exercise and time spent enjoying nature, can also reduce stress and depression along with the physical ailments that can stem from stress.

There is one thing about biking that can be a negative: knee pain.

Overuse

The knee involves three bones: the femur, or thigh bone; the tibia, or shin bone, where the muscles of the thigh which move the knee attach; and the patella, or knee cap, which floats on top of the knee joint. There is one more bone, the fibula, which is parallel to the tibia. The knee joint has two articulations: one between the femur and the tibia and one between the patella and the tibia. When the knee bends, it rotates as well as flexing and extending. Both the quadriceps and the hamstrings are engaged in movements of the knee. In short, the knee is a complicated joint.

Overuse can make any part of your body hurt, and the knee is no exception. With such a complex joint, there are plenty of potential sources of pain. While a little muscle soreness is nothing to be afraid of, pain can keep you from getting back on the bike and enjoying another ride. The solution is to increase your time and distance gradually — about 10% per week. Work your way up to longer, hillier rides and higher gears.

Alignment and Bike Set Up

The height and angle of the saddle, the length of the crank, and the position of the pedals all can affect your knees. Make sure the bike is a good fit for you, and adjust everything to suit your body.

The best way to do this is to get assistance from your trainer or from the experienced people at a bike shop. Your investment in this step will pay off in greater comfort and less chance of knee pain.

Conditioning

Stretching before a bike ride doesn’t “warm up” your body and it doesn’t lead to fewer knee injuries. Stretching after your ride is a better bet. Better still is building overall conditioning into your daily routine.

Biking is a good all-around exercise, so you may think that a regular schedule of cycling is all you need. In fact, the movements of cycling never extend the knee. All that work is done with the knee flexed. This can lead to imbalance.

The strength of the core muscles also affects the likelihood of knee pain. Weak core muscles can lead to poor form in cycling, resulting in an increased chance of injury.

Regular stretching and strengthening can solve these problems. Contact Innovative Spine Rehab of Arkansas to develop a conditioning program designed specifically for you. You’ll enjoy your bike rides without sacrificing your knees.

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