Cycling Knee Pain: Locations, Causes, and Pain Relief

Cycling Knee Pain: Locations, Causes, and Pain Relief

Cycling is a great way to stay active, experience nature, and reduce stress.

However, cycling can also cause knee discomfort. Cycling knee pain can be frustrating and incapacitating for cyclists of all levels, regardless if they are doing it for recreational or competitive purposes.

This article will examine the factors contributing to cycling knee discomfort, the areas it can affect, and the best ways to alleviate it.


Why Do Many Cyclists Suffer From Knee Pain?

Why Do Many Cyclists Suffer From Knee Pain?

Many cyclists experience knee pain due to poor bike fit, muscular imbalances, and overuse. Why?

An improperly fitted bike can increase knee joint stress, discomfort, irritation, and even injury. Cyclists may unnecessarily strain their knee joints when the bike is improperly fitted to their body.

For instance, an inappropriate pedaling technique can come from a saddle that is too low or not repositioned far enough back, which can cause cycling knee pain.

Ensure that your saddle and handlebars are always set to the correct height. If your bike is adjusted correctly, your knee will move at the appropriate angle.

Another usual factor that causes cyclists’ knee pain is muscle imbalance. The muscles surrounding the knee frequently become unbalanced in cyclists, which can cause pain and injury.

The development of iliotibial band syndrome, or lateral knee discomfort, illustrates a muscular imbalance in cycling. It could be brought on by an uncomfortable bike fit that makes the user engage in some muscles more than others.

Overuse is another common cause of cycling knee pain. Cycling is a repetitive motion, and overuse of the knee joint can lead to pain and injury. There may be instances when a rider cycles longer or harder than their body can handle. If this happens, the body doesn’t get adequate rest. 

The muscles’ and tendons’ connective tissue may be overused and irritated if symptoms like stabbing pain worse with more pressure on the knee. It can be caused by riding for long periods or by increasing the intensity or frequency of rides too quickly.

Other factors, such as poor posture, lack of core strength, poor pedaling technique, and lack of rest days, can also contribute to knee pain. It is vital to address these causes and take steps to prevent cycling knee pain from occurring or from getting worse.

Knee Pain – Locations and Causes

Knee Pain - Locations and Causes

Knee discomfort can manifest in various ways, and the affected area can provide clues on its cause. Among cyclists, the following are some of the most typical knee discomfort locations:

Patellofemoral pain syndrome

This cycling knee pain, which affects the region under the kneecap, is the most common. The condition, sometimes referred to as “runner’s knee,” is more frequent in athletes who compete in cycling and other sports that require running and jumping. 

The patella (kneecap) and the underlying bone are repeatedly stressed, which leads to patellofemoral pain syndrome. Different factors, including overuse, muscle weakness or imbalances, injury, or surgery, can cause this.

Iliotibial band syndrome

The iliotibial band is a thick, fibrous band of tissue that extends from the pelvis to just below the knee on the lateral thigh.

The knee, which is cushioned by a bursa filled with fluid, glides back and forth over the knobbly end of the thigh bone right above the knee as it is bent and straightened repeatedly. Because of that, inflammation may develop and become painful each time the knee is bent.

The friction between the iliotibial band and the underlying bone is frequently caused by overuse or muscular imbalances.

Anterior knee pain

It is the discomfort that a person feels behind or around the patella, also referred to as the kneecap. In the anterior knee, it causes a variety of joint abnormalities that have a range of symptoms and degrees of severity. 

Different causes bring anterior knee discomfort. Various symptoms of anterior knee pain might occur in different people, with soreness behind or at the kneecap being the primary symptom. 

Most cases relate to the following: structural or anatomical anomalies, structural damage, misalignment or patellar instability, muscular weakness, tightness or imbalances, excessive or repetitive use of the knee, patellofemoral instability, and fracture of the patella.

Medial knee pain

After a knee injury, symptoms of this knee pain may appear suddenly or gradually over time. This pain develops on the inner side of the knee.

Movement may be restricted, there may be severe pain, or there may be widespread side knee pain. There could also be some medial knee swelling.

Numerous factors can result in medial knee discomfort. These include sustaining an injury, such as a hit to the outside of the knee, engaging in sports that require sudden knee twisting or pivoting, using the knee frequently, getting older, and the knee joint wearing down.


The cartilage on the underside of the kneecap softens and degrades due to chondromalacia (patella). Pain occurs when the thigh bone (femur) and knee collide. Flexing the knee may cause dull, agonizing discomfort and/or a grinding sensation.

It may be more likely to develop in those with abnormal knee cap alignment, tight or weak knee muscles, excessive knee activity, and flat feet.

Cycling Knee Pain Relief Methods

Cycling Knee Pain Relief Methods

Different cycling pain management and relief techniques can help reduce knee discomfort and ward off harm.

  • Stretching: Stretching the knee muscles can aid pain management and injury prevention. It is essential both before and after cycling to maintain flexibility and lower the chance of injury.
  • Strength training: Increasing the muscular strength around the knee can aid with pain relief and injury prevention. Squats, lunges, and leg presses are examples of such exercises.
  • Bike fit adjustments: Modifying the bike’s fit can help lessen the strain on the knee joint. It may entail altering the handlebar, cleat positions, and seat height. You can get assistance with this from a qualified bike fitter.
  • Ice and Rest: This helps lessen the discomfort and possible swelling. Regular rest days and avoiding overuse can also aid in preventing the onset or worsening of knee discomfort.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter medicines like Ibuprofen or naproxen can help lessen pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy: Seeking a physical therapist’s advice can help locate and address any muscular imbalances or structural problems that might be causing cycling knee pain. A physical therapist can also create a customized exercise plan to focus on particular regions and help with pain management.

When Should You Stop Cycling?

When Should You Stop Cycling?

You need to pay attention to your body’s signals and behave appropriately if you feel pain or discomfort when cycling.

You should stop cycling to allow an injury or condition to recover if there is persistent discomfort, limited range of motion, weakness or weariness, increased inflammation, or difficulties doing daily tasks.

You can progressively resume cycling activity with strength-building knee exercises if your therapy has been non-surgical and mild. You can increase your activity intensity and duration over time.

Depending on your doctor’s advice, you should wait a few weeks to several months before engaging in any sports activity after a major surgery.

It’s also crucial to note that mental and emotional health should be considered along with physical symptoms while determining whether to stop riding. Take a break from riding if it’s making you feel stressed or anxious.

When To See The Doctor

When To See The Doctor

You need to seek medical help when you encounter any cycling-related or knee pain symptoms that don’t go away or worsen despite self-care techniques.

See a doctor if you have persistent discomfort, difficulty bearing weight on the affected knee, swelling, loss of range of motion, redness or warmth to the touch, problems going about your usual activities, or trauma.

Professionals in this area, such as a doctor, physical therapist, or orthopedic specialist, can help accurately identify the source of pain and create a treatment plan.

Orthopedic doctors can give you comprehensive care that addresses the root of your knee troubles, so you can eventually get back to cycling. Depending on its severity, they may suggest non-surgical or surgical alternatives for treating your knee problem.

The non-surgical treatments for stabilizing the knee include orthotics or supportive braces, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, and RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). The best option for long-term relief, depending on how bad your issue is, may be arthroscopic knee surgery.


Cycling knee pain is a problem that affects a lot of cyclists and is caused by a mix of things like lousy bike fitting, muscular imbalances, and overuse. You can address the issues by acquiring an appropriate bike fit, stretching, doing strength training, and taking rest days.

Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is also worth mentioning because that will provide the necessary nutrients for the body to repair and heal itself.

Consultation with a professional in this field, like a physical therapist or sports medicine doctor, can also help identify and address the underlying causes of knee pain.

When cycling, paying attention to your body and responding appropriately if you feel any pain or discomfort is crucial. It will help you know what to do next and prevent aggravating your cycling knee pain.


Last Updated on June 7, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic

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