According to the University of Rochester, knee pain is the most common injury that cyclists experience in any given year. If knee pain develops and persists, many cyclists consider wearing a knee brace — as many recreational and professional cyclists have worn and will wear them at some point in their lives.
It’s important to understand that knee braces are not one-size-fits-all solutions for knee pain due to cycling — and in fact, wearing the wrong knee brace can be detrimental to your recovery. In this article, we will cover who should wear a knee brace while cycling and why, to get you on the right track to recovery.
How Does Cycling Affect Your Knees?
To understand why knee braces are beneficial for cycling, we need to review the basic physiology and function of your knees while cycling. Cycling is a non-impact sport, making it generally easier on the knees than a sport like running. However, cycling still impacts your knees due to their involvement in the cycling motion and the repetitive nature of cycling. You are particularly susceptible to injuring your knees when dealing with the following:
Improper Form: Without proper form, your knees do more work than they should or need to. This sustained additional stress over time can lead to injury or muscle weakness.
Unsuitable Equipment: Even if you know how to cycle correctly, if your bike is too big or small, this greatly affects your ability to cycle correctly and avoid injury.
Muscle Imbalance or Weakness: If certain muscles are underdeveloped, your body must shift the stress elsewhere while cycling. Your knees can end up taking on more strain than necessary.
Before using a knee brace, it’s essential to understand why you want or need it or why you’re experiencing knee pain. Once this has been identified, it’s easier to find the right brace and treatment plan.
Who Should Use a Knee Brace When Cycling?
There is a wide range of people who should wear knee braces while cycling. This includes those with knee injuries, those susceptible to knee reinjury, and those looking to prevent knee injury or wear and tear. The following sections outline these groups with explanations.
I. Individuals Recovering from Knee Surgery
Recovering from surgery weakens the affected parts of your body for a certain period. For example, if you tear your ACL and need ACL surgery, your doctor will recommend making lifestyle adjustments to take the strain off of your ACL and reduce the risk of tearing it again in the short term.
Make sure to consult your healthcare professionals to see when a knee brace is appropriate, considering the type of surgery you’ve received. Not all doctors are well versed regarding the intricacies of every sport, such as cycling, so a visit to a physical therapist may be a smart idea.
A physical therapist can also put you on a regimen that gives you the best chance of not injuring yourself again. This is crucial as starting to cycle or partake in sports too early after surgery can set you back months or more.
II. Individuals with Knee Weakness
Cyclists with health conditions like arthritis and knee degradation cannot access the full strength of their knees. In these situations, a knee brace can provide extra support and make cycling more comfortable and safer.
It’s important to note that not all health conditions will automatically lead to knee pain when cycling. Knee pain from cycling often results from improper form rather than an underlying health condition, especially if you’re new to the sport. However, it’s very easy to attribute knee pain from cycling to an underlying health condition rather than improper form, especially if you are affected in other parts of your body due to an underlying health condition.
If you suffer from a health condition that leads to knee pain, consulting with a healthcare professional is always preferable. You’ll be able to determine which exercises and sports are best for you, particularly considering your underlying health conditions, and you’ll also be able to check your cycling form with an expert to ensure you’re not accidentally injuring yourself in some way.
III. Athletes Looking to Maximize Performance
If you’re a highly experienced cyclist, you may be looking for an edge anywhere you can. A knee brace can help you cycle faster and longer because of its support while also reducing the chances of injury.
However, even while wearing a knee brace, don’t get too comfortable. If you aren’t paying attention, your can degrade once you start tiring after a certain number of miles. An improper form will then lead to knee pain over time. Using a knee brace to avoid knee pain is counterproductive if you are harming your knees through improper form.
Main Benefits of Using a Knee Brace for Biking
The benefits of using a knee brace for cycling come down to one key point — support.
When you cycle, you put excess weight on your knees. Putting this weight on your knees repeatedly can lead to injury or weakness over time. A knee brace bolsters your knee by slightly reducing your range of motion and easing the pressure on your knee. Instead of going directly to your knee, the stress is dispersed across your knee and the brace.
Knee braces may also benefit cyclists by boosting their confidence, especially if they’re recovering from surgery or injury. However, this confidence boost can be counterproductive if it leads to overtraining. If you wear a knee brace, you’ll receive less feedback from your body on when you need to stop, so be mindful of your limits.
What Are the Best Knee Braces for Cycling?
There are many knee braces that can be effective for cyclers. However, we have narrowed down our picks to these three.
- The Icarus Medical Ascender Unloader Knee Brace is a custom-built knee brace with the functionality you need and the lightweightedness you desire. The Ascender provides up to 40 lbs of unloading power in a brace that weighs less than 1lb. If you need maximal pain reduction and knee protection from your knee brace, the Ascender is the obvious choice. Unlike many clunkier or heavier knee braces, you won’t even notice it’s there.
2. The Donjoy Defiance Knee Brace is the flagship knee brace of Donjoy’s that’s best used for regular knee pain caused by sports, whether they are contact or non-contact. The Defiance has a low profile, which is great for regular use.
- The Bauerfeind GenuTrain Knee Brace is one of Bauerfeind’s more popular knee braces. It is lightweight and fits easily under clothes. The only downside is that the structure doesn’t allow for adequate unloading capabilities needed for more serious injuries.
If you are interested in learning more about the Ascender knee brace, contact our team of experts to see the difference Icarus makes.
Should You Use a Knee Brace?
Although cycling is a non-impact sport, it can still lead to knee pain in many cyclers. Knee braces can reduce knee pain from cycling in many individuals, such as those recovering from surgery or those with arthritis. The way knee braces work is by shifting pressure from the knee onto the brace, putting less strain on the knee during activity.
If you are considering using a knee brace yourself, consult with your doctor or physical therapist to see what type of knee brace and support level is necessary for you and your needs. Every person is different, and their needs can be unique.