Every day, podiatrists treat cyclists who have sustained overuse injuries by pushing themselves beyond their limitations. Here are some of the most common cycling injuries and their causes. As with all athletic injuries, pain that is persistent indicates a need to seek treatment from a sports medicine specialist familiar with cycling injuries.
Knee Pain: Some intrinsic knee problems like swelling, clicking, or popping should be immediately evaluated by a sports medicine specialist. Cartilage irritation or deterioration, usually under the kneecap, can be caused by a biomechanical imbalance, improper saddle height, or faulty foot positioning on the pedals. Riding in too high a gear, too far uphill, or standing on the pedals all may aggravate the problem. Cleated shoes or touring shoes with ribbed soles that limit side-to-side motion can cause knee pain if the knees, feet, and pedals are misaligned.
Shin Splints: Pain to either side of the leg bone, caused by muscle or tendon inflammation. This may be related to a muscle imbalance between opposing muscle groups in the leg. It is commonly related to excessive foot pronation (collapsing arch). Proper stretching and corrective orthoses for pronation can help prevent shin splints.
Achilles Tendinitis: Irritation and inflammation of the tendon that attaches to the back of the heel bone can be caused by improper pedaling, seat height, lack of a proper warmup, or overtraining. This condition is usually seen in more experienced riders, and can be treated with ice, rest, aspirin, or other anti-inflammatory medications. Chronic pain or any swelling should be professionally evaluated.
Sesamoiditis: Sometimes known as the "ball bearings of the foot," the sesamoids are two small bones found beneath the first metatarsal bones; the sesamoids can inflame or rupture under the stress of cycling. Sesamoiditis can be relieved with proper shoe selection and orthoses.
Numbness: Impingement of small nerve branches between the second and third or third and fourth toes can cause swelling that results in numbness, tingling, or burning, or sharp shooting pains into the toes. Wider shoes, or loosening toe straps or shoe laces can alleviate the problem. If the problem persists, try a clipless system.
Numbness or tingling with leg pain may represent a serious problem known as "acute compartment syndrome," which requires immediate medical attention.