Cycling as a sport is enjoyed by scores of people around the world from all walks of life. It’s an amazing form of exercise that can improve overall health.
But while it is a low impact sport, pedalling for long intervals coupled with the force produced between the pedal and the foot creates great pressure on the lower body. So improper pedal movements can expose a cyclist to muscular and skeletal injuries in the lower body.
Posture problems and/or excessive movements in the foot can add to the development of overuse injuries which can affect your performance. Factors such as poor training, faulty bicycle, and poorly fitting shoes can all contribute to lower body injuries in cycling.
The function of the knee is very important in cycling and is often the cause of concern for many. With knee pain and limited function of the knee, the training capacity and performance of a cyclist can significantly reduce. Cyclists often report pain on the front side of the knee (anterior knee pain) and the knee cap.
According to a study by Kennedy et al. on 18 cyclists with and without anterior knee pain, it was discovered that those with knee pain had irregular cycling patterns, signs of runner’s knee, and weakness in the extensor muscle located on top of the knee.
With large reaction forces generated from the feet up to the ankles and knee joint, the knee cap can get exposed to overuse injuries. The reaction forces are typically at their highest when the knee is bending while doing the downstroke.
Amongst the causes of knee problems such as biker’s knee is misalignment of the knee cap, knee moving away from the midline, low arch or flatfoot posture, and/or increased hip angle.
Poor pedal form can also increase the risk of knee injuries. For instance, a low saddle increases the torque in the extensor muscle at the knee as the bending action in the knee is now at a greater height than it should be. This affects the movement patterns of the quad muscles.
IT band syndrome is another condition cyclists frequently report due to the constant friction between the fibres in the IT band and the round projection on top of the femur bone on top of the knee.
Again, this friction can be increased because of movement problems over several hours of cycling, such as a tight IT band, internal twisting in the tibia bone, and a flatfoot posture. Achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis are also associated with cycling.
In the case of plantar fasciitis, poor foot posture, improper training, incorrect seat height, poorly fitting shoes, and/or difference in leg length can all cause the development of the condition.
For effective treatment, recovery and pain management, both internal and external factors need to be considered which can cause or contribute to lower body problems.
Treatment programmes often involve stretching exercises to alleviate tightness in the soft tissues around the knee. This is important to promote flexibility and allow pain-free cycling for extended periods.
The use of foot insoles can be beneficial in addressing the flatfoot posture during the treatment process. MASS4D® insoles optimally support foot posture to reduce the internal rotation of the leg and improve the alignment of the lower body. This decreases the excessive stress placed on the joints and reduces muscle fatigue caused by improper movements in the pedal stroke.
MASS4D® insoles support your feet to help improve power pedal stroke and limit unwanted torque in the feet, ankles, knees, and hips.
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Reference: Kennedy T., Rowan F., Condon F., Kenny C. I., Anderson R., Dunne C. (2012) Anterior Knee Pain in Competitive Cyclists. Irish Journal of Medical Science: September 2012, Vol. 181, Suppl. 6, pp. S129-S189
Reference: Callaghan J. M. (2005) Lower body problems and injury in cycling. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies: July 2005, Vol. 9, pp. 226-236
Reference: Caselli A. M., Rzonca C. E., Rainieri J. J. (2005) Secrets To Treating Bicycling Injuries. Podiatry Today: August 2005, Vol. 18, No. 8.
Pilates refers to a series of exercises that target the core – the abdomen, obliques, lower back, inner and outer thigh, and so on. The movements involved in pilates also help to improve flexibility and posture while promoting core stability.