If you have ever felt pain in your joints around the knee area, the chances are that you could be dealing with knee cartilage. As a cyclist, it is one of the most frustrating and painful issues that you might need to deal with. However, many cyclists are wondering is cycling good for knee cartilage or could be aggravating the injury.
Is Cycling Good For Knee Cartilage? Surprisingly, cycling is one of the best options for those suffering from knee cartilage. Not only does it promote the strengthening of the cartilage, but it also improves the healing process. Inactivity can lead to swelling, which might aggravate the injury and possibly cause you more pain.
You must take it slow when cycling with knee cartilage, but this article aims to dive deeper into the issue and understand how cycling could potentially promote your healing to ensure that knee cartilage heals and you are back at 100%.
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What Is Knee Cartilage?
To understand whether you should consider cycling, we first need to look at what knee cartilage is. To understand this, we should look at the tibia (shinbone) and femur (thighbone). These two bones play an important role in the leg and they both meet each other around the knee. The articular cartilage covers both these bones where it connects around the kneecap.
In principle, a well-lubricated cartilage would allow both these bones to glide and function. For cyclists, this would mean extending and contracting the leg as part of the cycling movement. However, the cartilage might often get damaged due to trauma, which could be due to excessive bending or overuse of the muscle.
Cartilage damage is often characterized by excessive trauma to the legs or knees and the most common age for these injuries is between the ages of 15 and 30 when most people take part in pivoting sports. However, degeneration of the cartilage can take place as you get older, with most patients being over the age of 50 when experiencing this.
3 Benefits Of Cycling For Knee Cartilage
New medical studies have shown that to prevent knee cartilage and to deal with the healing process, cycling is one of the best sports that someone can take part in. To help you understand why and how cycling could help you, we will be looking at a few of the main benefits that you can expect when dealing with knee cartilage.
- Boosting Immune System
Cycling is one of the fundamental ways that you can use to get some exercise without pushing your body to the absolute limits. If you are suffering from any inflammation-related injury, cycling can help to reduce some of the pain. By boosting the immune system, you allow your body to create more white blood cells, which should help to reduce the healing time.
Aside from boosting your immune system, you are improving endurance. However, we would recommend that you start small and slowly build up the momentum and confidence to be comfortable when cycling.
- Strengthening The Muscles
Instead of having the joints bear the full brunt of cycling, you can improve the strength of the muscles, which surround the knee. These muscles would take over from the joints, which make up the cartilage and they could play a role in reducing the pain that you are constantly feeling when you are working out.
Cycling is one of the main methods you can use to strengthen these muscles and you would find that the stronger they become, the less emphasis is placed on the knee. Now, your muscles would endure most of the workout, reducing the overall pain that you are constantly dealing with.
- Improves Cardiovascular Strength
Our bodies often have numerous muscles, which are grouped into type 1 (slow twitch) or type 2 (fast twitch) muscle fibers. These muscle fibers work together to improve our cardiovascular efficiency when working out. The slow twitch muscle fibers work best for long extended workouts and the fast twitch fibers would work when you put in a lot of quick effort.
Cycling combines the use of both these muscle fibers, which would make it easier to train them. This means that if you are doing a sport and one of the fibers is in use, the years of cycling would ensure that the muscles can activate instead of taking excessive trauma, which would cause knee cartilage to aggravate.
How Does Cycling Help With Knee Cartilage
To understand how cycling helps with knee cartilage, we should focus on the movement your knees make when you are cycling. Once you get on the bike, your knees would move in a circular motion, which forces your knee joint to bend slightly. This would slowly stretch the muscles in the knee, assuming you are starting with a low cadence.
With each pedaling motion, you are stretching the muscles around the knee more significantly and this creates minor tears. Once you are done and you take a break, your muscles would start to regenerate tissue. This is what we refer to as building muscle. The muscle would strengthen around the knee area and take over some of the strain.
In essence, your upper leg muscles and hamstring muscles would start taking over from the joints when it comes to supporting your knee. As you can probably guess, this means less strain on the knee and more focus on the muscle. It would give the knee joints the perfect time to start recovering when they have been injured.
Does Cycling Aggravate Knee Cartilage?
One of the most common questions doctors face today is whether it would aggravate knee cartilage when you are cycling. The answer is a resounding “yes” and “no”. It would all depend on your cycling style and various factors, which might also include the bike. Here are a few things that could affect knee cartilage negatively.
- Incorrect Seat Height: The bike seat should be at the right height that allows you to fully extend your leg and contract it when you are pedaling. If the seat is not high enough, it could put more strain on the joints without activating the right muscle fibers.
- Starting Too Fast: Once you start cycling, your muscles are not developed. While the muscles would still take the brunt of the force, you need to give them time to develop. If you are starting too fast, you would put plenty of strain on the joints before the muscles can activate.
- Falling/Injuring Yourself: The final issue is kind of obvious, but if you fall, and you get your knee twisted or tangled, it could lead to massive injuries. Once again, you should start slow to ensure this does not happen.
It all boils down to taking your time to get used to cycling and ensure that you are comfortable before you become faster. Much like any form of exercise, it is baby steps and you need to give the muscle fibers time to learn and grow for the sport you choose.
Is Cycling Good For Knee Cartilage Summary
If you are suffering from knee cartilage, we would love to see some of your comments and understand how you would want to improve this. Let us know if you have experience cycling with knee problems and how you have managed to deal with it.