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Massage for cyclists: how it can help knee pain when cycling

Massage for cyclists: how it can help knee pain when cycling

About this post

Get a better understanding of how massage can help treat knee pain when cycling.

Posted by

Emily from Urban


  • Massage
  • Physiotherapy
  • Sports


Cycling might be known as a low-impact, gentle-on-your-joints exercise but persistent pedalling can still cause some issues. Whether it’s because your saddle’s the wrong height or you’ve simply pushed yourself too far, knee pain is one of the most common side effects that cyclists experience.

Sound familiar? Physio and massage therapy can help. From the saving grace technique of myofascial release to helping clear the muscles of lactic acid, here’s why a cycling massage should be your go-to the next time your knees give way.

Up to 60% of cyclists experience knee pain

Research says that as many as 60% of cyclists suffer from knee pain at some point, for a range of reasons. But it’s not the same for everyone – there are different areas of the knee that can hurt, and they can have different causes.

Most common types of knee pain when cycling

Anterior knee pain

This is the most common type of pain, caused by the continuous motion of the kneecap pressing against the thigh-bone.

It feels like a dull ache around or under the kneecap and gets worse when you’re climbing or pedalling hard. If this sounds familiar, it’s likely that your bike doesn’t fit you correctly. 

Posterior knee pain

This type of pain is less common, but it’s usually felt behind your knee. This could be a sign that your bike seat is too high or too far back, causing your knees to overstretch.

Medial and lateral knee pain when cycling

Pain on the inner (medial) or outer (lateral) sides of your knee suggests misaligned bike cleats. These alignment issues can put extra stress on your knee ligaments.

Iliotibial band syndrome (IT band syndrome)

IT band syndrome is a common inflammatory problem that cyclists can get. It’s when the iliotibial band gets tight and starts to rub against your knee, causing uncomfortable pain every time you bend your knee. 

Myofascial release is the go-to cycling massage for releasing tension in your knees

We asked our massage expert Monica Paslaru, also founder and director of Elemental Massage, about treating cyclists with knee pain. 

Monica’s favourite technique to use is myofascial release, a technique that focuses on the connective tissue around your muscles. She explains that it “works to release the fascia around the kneecap by mobilising the knee joint.”

When this tissue around your knee becomes tight from cycling, your therapist will use pressure to release the tension and bring movement back to the area.

Your pro will start by feeling the range of movement in your knee 

This will help them to understand how much movement you currently have. They’ll move your legs side to side to feel how relaxed or how tense they are.

Monica says: “The more relaxed you are, the better for the therapist because it means your muscles, your joints, your tissues aren't resisting. Instead, they’re allowing the healing process to happen.

“Once I've gauged the range of movement, I can also check flexibility in the muscles. It's really important that your therapist is working very slowly to allow the fascia to unwind and release on its own.”

This technique makes it easier for your pro to feel where your knee is pulling and which areas feel like normal. The aim is to release the fascia around the kneecap to get it moving like normal again  – it’s a great technique for reducing any tension.

Features in these Urban treatments:

Watch Monica perform myofascial release on a client in the video below.

How massage can improve your cycling performance

1. It reduces inflammation and increases blood flow, helping with circulation

This means more nutrient-rich blood is able to reach your knees, speeding up healing time and easing pain.

2. Massage clears the muscles of lactic acid to help you recover quicker

Massage helps to remove waste products from your muscles which reduces post-exercise soreness and speeds up recovery between rides.

3. It can help improve muscle strength, knee joint stability and muscle flexibility

A combination of massage and targeted stretching can tone the muscles around your knee, which is crucial for knee joint stability.

It’s also important for muscles like the vastus medialis oblique, which helps to move your knee joint and steady the kneecap. It works as your body’s shock absorber, so it needs to be pretty strong to keep your knees protected.

By increasing range of motion, massage helps cyclists improve their pedal strokes and reduces risk of injury.

4. It gives your body a well-needed rest and helps you de-stress

After a long ride your muscles can suffer from micro tears, which your body will work to repair. This is what causes soreness after a workout, but this process is what helps your muscles grow stronger – but this can only happen if you give your body enough time to rest.

If you don't let your body recover, you’ll feel extra tired after your next ride and won’t be able to push yourself as hard. 

As cycling can be physically demanding, cycling massage is a great way to relax and give your body the time it needs to recharge. 

At-home massage techniques for knee pain

Foam rolling helps target tight muscles

Use a foam roller to target tight muscles and the fascia, focusing on the quadriceps, IT band, and calves. Roll slowly and apply gentle pressure – if you feel a tender spot, keep pressure on it to help it release.

Stretching to stop stiffness

Add stretches into your post-ride routine to help with muscle flexibility and stop stiffness. Spend extra time on the quadriceps, hamstrings and hips.

Self-massage to ease tension

Use your hands or a massage ball to apply pressure to areas of tension, such as the calves. Try different techniques like kneading or circular motions to see what works best for you.

To sum up

Your cycling shouldn't have to hit the brakes because of knee pain. Once you start to recognise the signs, understand the causes, and incorporate regular cycling massage into your routine, you’ll be able to treat existing knee pain when cycling and protect yourself against future injuries.

Book a massage

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