The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa

Arthritis in knees

Ok, how many of you suffer from worn out knees and still do Ragbrai? Any advice? Did my first ride last year for 2 days and now I am hooked, as luck would have it, I am now in pain from years of working on my feet, it flared up without any warning. My ortho dr said I have a few more years before replacement is needed. I plan on going pain or not. Thanks! Dan

12 Replies

kicks9, February 7, 2019 at 7:12 am

I am guessing RAGBRAI is one of the biggest events for painkillers. I would say you should set a record that week. Maybe ask for a script prior to RAGBRAI for anti inflammation meds.

Does cycling hurt it as much as other stuff? I know my knees hurt after a hilly day.

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Jeff Sarich, February 7, 2019 at 9:31 am

Something that worked well for me were injections. The common go-to treatment is cortisone, which gave me some relief, but is not real good for your bones. Any doc can do that. I found a place called “Arthritis Releif Center”. They have clinics n Austin and Houston. There may be similar clinics in your area. They administer lubricating fluids that go by the brand name of Hyalgan, Orthovisc, and Synvisc. Some regular ortho doctors can administer these fluids, but they pretty much stick the needle where they expect the space between your kneecap and joint should be. Sometimes they miss the entire joint. This treatment was not effective for me. The advantage for Arthritis Relief Center is they administer the shot via motion x-ray (video fluroscopy) into the joint. A series of 5 shots over 5 weeks are scheduled. I was 100% after 5 weeks, and stayed that way for almost a year. I am going back for another round. I have timed it out so my final shot will be in April, just in time for bike season. My insurance covered all but a copay. Check it out. Hope it works out for you!

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beckrbeckr, February 7, 2019 at 4:09 pm

I echo the comments above. I go to the arthritis relief center in Austin. This has worked well for me. They have the best knee shot doctor there could be.

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Den, February 9, 2019 at 9:37 am

25 years or osteoarthritis and bilateral replacements here. Pedaling is typically therapeutic for any knee problem. The key is to build mileage slowly and spin don’t grind. Lower gears, I’m going to a 34 x 32 to protect my new hardware. Climb at 75-85 rpm. Stand up when pushing hard. If it hurts in the front, your seat may be too low. If the pain is in back, seat may be too high. Get a good bike fitting before racking up too many miles. Even your saddle position fore/aft and foot position on the pedal can make a difference. Toes in. Alternate cortisone injections with rooster comb (hyalan) every 6 months, but no injections the month or so before a tour. Go to therapy for good advice on muscle balance and correcting any weakness in the smaller structures. Keep riding and the pain should dissipate.

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Herschel, February 9, 2019 at 11:43 am

I have abused and injured my knees at work over the years. I have found that the more I ride the less pain I endure. That said I agree with Den to take it easy. I did overdo the hills last year and paid for it. Hopeful to be smarter this year.

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Bob Rausa, February 10, 2019 at 8:50 am

Born in 1955, started riding regularly in 1995. Did my first RAGBRAI that year to celebrate 40! Got two replacement knees (6 months apart) in 2010, to fix years of football-skiing-tennis-wrestling-work, etc., etc damage. Am STILL riding RAGBRAI annually. Pedal fast, NOT hard, shift often…… πŸ˜‰

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TeamMSH, February 10, 2019 at 10:26 am

I timed coritsone shots to my training season for about 6 or 7 years. One shot in March, one in June, one the week before Ragbrai. Usually your doc can give you 3 in a year. My ortho doc knows my goals, so he did that. 3 years ago, knowing we were gonna knock out both knees in August, i got a shot in January, March, June, and July. As he said… there’s no more cartilage to protect, that ship has sailed, so it didn’t matter. It allowed me to do my 15th Ragbrai. The week after the ride i had a simultaneous, double knee replacement, same day, same time, 2 docs who finish within a minute of each other, one stay at the hospital, one set of rehab… and rode Ragbrai 11 months later. this July will be my 17th Ragbrai. I don’t run or do stupid stuff that will kill off my new knees sooner, but i ride, ride, ride and keep up core strength. If it’s arthritis, you can’t “fix” it, you just maintain in your best ways following who you trust, and then get a new pair of knees and pedal on! If you go to Orthopedic One in Columbus, Ohio you can see the story of my knees… and yes, i’ve got a Ragabrai 40 jersey on in some of the videos. πŸ™‚

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David Jensen, February 13, 2019 at 9:24 am

Thanks for your stories!!
I’m 67, first RAGBRAI this year, cycle year-round. Do about 100+ miles/week avg indoors with Zwift. Both of my knees have issues. L knee has 2 tears, and injections really help. R knee is bone-on-bone from arthritis. Injections not as effective, so I can get TKR when I wish to, and I may do so after July.
Till then, “grinding away” and more scheduled injections the 2 weeks before RAGBRAI.
Fortunately I live close to Park City UT where the orthos here treat Winter Olympic athletes.
Herschel, what do you mean by “overdid” the hills?
Den, I never heard of hyalan. What injuries is it most effective for? It’s been effective for you?
Dan, I’m with ya. If you haven’t had injections, they may work for.
Thanks for the sharing, folks! David

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Herschel, February 13, 2019 at 6:01 pm

By overdoing the hills I mean I powered up instead of using high rpms. I knew better. It got to where riding was okay but couldn’t walk. And don’t think you won’t walk at RAGBRAI. Through all towns and sometimes we start walking a half mile before a town. A great experience so I hope you will make it.

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Den, February 14, 2019 at 9:23 pm

David: It’s synvisc.

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John Richardson, February 15, 2019 at 10:58 am

Sorry to hear of the knee issues. Last month there was a big discussion on the topic “to helmet or not to helmet” and some how it turned into a knee discussion. I posted my knee issues there on page 5. If you are interested you might want to read that discussion as well.

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Dan Kurovski, February 15, 2019 at 8:08 pm

This is all encouraging, I had my first injection middle of January. Fortunately my ortho Dr. is a huge cycling fan and was tickled when I told him about my new passion. He did my rotator cuff and carpal tunnel 3 years ago. Said he would have forbidden me from cycling until fully healed in case of falls…

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