Kneecap Pain in Cyclists: Why it Happens, How You Can Fix It

Comparably, researchers at the University of Idaho determined that trained cyclists with patellofemoral pain exhibit quad muscle dysfunction when compared to healthy cyclists. This research, presented in this month's edition of the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, indicates that restoring quad function is equally important for cyclists as it is for runners.

Changes in running and cycling technique may also take the pressure off the patella. A recent study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that a 10 percent increase in stride rate (i.e. quicker shorter stride) decreased the force on the kneecap with running by 15 percent. A slower stride rate can lead to over striding and excessive heel strike, which research indicates increases impact forces during running. Cycling experts also recommend pedaling a smaller gear with a faster cadence rather than mashing a big gear at a slow cadence.

More: TRX Exercises for Cyclists

The bad news is that patella pain can turn from a minor annoyance to a major problem if left unheeded. The more reassuring news is that following these recommendations can usually ward off a loss of valuable training and racing time.

Problem: patella (kneecap) pain
Exercises: strengthen quads and lateral hip muscles
Run Fix: increase stride rate, avoid "overstriding"
Bike Fix: smaller gears, higher cadence pedaling
Avoid: leg extension machine, heavy lunges/step-ups, excessive downhill running/stairs

More: Avoid Lower Back Pain From the Bike

Try adding these exercises to your daily routine:

(Photos by Ian McMahan, author)

Side Plank (obliques, glutes, lateral hip)

Hold position for 30 to 45 seconds, 3 to 4 sets

TRX Squat (quads)

Keeping knees behind toes and back straight, try 20 to 30 small repetitions, 3 to 4 sets

Sidelying Hip (glutes, lateral hip)

Raise and lower leg while lying on side, 20 to 30 repetitions, 3 to 4 sets

Note: All exercises should be taken to the point of muscle burn, add or subtract repetitions as needed.  If pain or discomfort persists consult a sports medicine physician.

More: 4 Exercises to Boost Cycling Power

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