Picture Recipe for Dealing with Cycling Knee Pain

Bruce Tretter has a recipe for knee pain and injury prevention from his sports doctor.

For me, it’s all a big smile: cycling = physical + mental + emotional stability.

One morning this January, though, I woke up with my right knee feeling like I’d smashed it into a wall while I was sleeping. The only thing is, there’s no wall next to my bed. I kept riding. My knee got worse and even grew a half ping-pong ball sized bulge right on the knee cap. Still, I blew it off until my dear ol’ retired doc mom said, “Just get it fixed.” I get ‘blunt’ very well.

The next day, two hours after I’d checked in with my excellent nurse practitioner, I was seen by and had my knee drained painlessly by a sports medicine specialist who told me I might be back in three months after the cortisone he injected wore off. He could’ve date stamped that bad boy because almost exactly three months to the day, my knee was screamin’ at me much more than right before it was drained.

The sports doc told me the problem was that my knee cap (patella) wasn’t tracking correctly over my thigh bone (femur). There are two medical terms: patellofemoral syndrome or chondromalacia. The doc told me draining again wouldn’t fix the underlying problem, which boils down to asymmetric muscle pull on the patella. “Get some PT (physical therapy).” Again, very blunt. “Yah, ok,” though “OW!” is what I thought. I knew PT would involve bending my body into shapes it wasn’t meant to twist.

I think that very same day I scribbed off an article about food or biking and mentioned something about my tweaked knee. Incredibly quickly, I got a comment on that article from Jesse Dimick, who runs SPTA (Sports Physical Therapy Associates) only a few blocks from me right here in Westborough, MA. Cool!

I called Jesse, made an appointment and was treated over the next couple months by his associate Kelly Nickerson, who patiently and expertly taught me stretching and strengthening exercises designed to make my patella track properly. You can see a sample of some of those stretching and …

… strengthening exercises in the pictures here.

I never stopped riding. The pain in my knee decreased noticeably and steadily. Within ten days, I was riding pain-free—and have been ever since.

Now, here’s the deal, which I’m admitting very happily: I bought the program. I do those stretching and strengthening exercises everyday, which has greatly improved my flexibility and comfort overall, not just on the bike. Like Jesse said pretty much verbatim the other day when I popped in to offer to write about his place, “It’s not just about therapy after an injury, doing those exercises is about preventing injury”. Yah, right on, Jesse!

Even better: ride on! And, all definitely worth a smile!

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Images courtesy of the author

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About Bruce Tretter

Bruce Tretter helps people feel comfortable making practical, flavorful and quick & easy meals for themselves---even if they’ve never boiled water---through Gotta’ Eat, Can’t Cook step-by-step picture book and short video directions. He’s a father of 3, Former Naval Intelligence Officer, current school board member, and avid cyclist.

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