Doctor says stretching benefits cyclists

By Hsieh Feng-chiu and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Wed, Jul 17, 2013 - Page 4

A doctor advised cyclists to perform stretching exercises to avoid iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), a common knee problem.

Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital Greater Taichung branch rehabilitation section chief Chiu Wei-feng (邱偉峰) said the hospital earlier this month treated a 40-year-old patient, surnamed Chen (陳), who developed ITBS as a result of long-distance cycling.

ITBS is often caused by long periods of jogging, biking, hiking or walking on uneven surfaces. Individuals with leg length discrepancy, overt foot inversion or excessive pelvic tilt are more susceptible to the condition

Chiu said Chen experienced discomfort after making a 150km round-trip by bike from Miaoli to Taipei.

When the knee joint is constantly bent between 20° to 30°, as in long periods of cycling, the tensor fasciae latae muscle in the thigh rubs against the lower femur (thigh bone), causing the bursa, a sac containing fluid, between the iliotibial band and the lower femur, to become inflamed.

Chiu said people with ITBS usually feel pain on the outside of the knee that intensifies with the duration of exercise, adding that sometimes the symptoms disappear once the individual stops exercising.

After the application of heat pads and minor electrotherapy treatment, as well as steroidal anti-inflammatory injections, Chen’s pain has mostly disappeared.

Chiu advises cyclists to stretch prior to setting off on long journeys to reduce the risk of ITBS. He also called on cyclists to pay attention to their posture while riding.

The road bikes typically used for long-distance rides usually have a very low handlebar, and if cyclists spend long periods of time with their head lowered and a raised posterior, it can cause the cervical vertebrae to extend backwards at a large angle, he said.

This can lead to the cervical vertebrae becoming thinner, Chiu said.