Tips for Preventing Knee Pain During Your Hike
It's not uncommon for hikers to experience some level of knee discomfort. Here's how you can reduce knee pain and identify the source of your problem.
Why Knee Pain Occurs on the Trail
Your knees endure significant stress whether you’re hiking or performing daily activities. According to Harvard Medical School, you increase the force on your knees by two to three times by simply walking up stairs. What's more, you can add four to five times your body weight by squatting to pick up an item or tie your shoes. Add a fully loaded backpack and elevated mountain terrain, and your knees are likely to be pretty sore after a full day of hiking.
Fortunately, you can reduce your risk of pain and injury by following these tips:
Choose good footwear.
An awkward gait can put extra stress on your knees. If your shoes or boots hurt your feet, it is likely to affect your gait, especially if you are traversing rocky or uneven terrain. Ideally, your boots should fit firmly but comfortably, offering plenty of cushion to help absorb impact and relieve pressure on the joints. If you notice that your boots slip on the heel or cause back pain, you certainly want to replace them before you hit the trail.
Reduce the weight of your gear.
It's tempting to overload your backpack with all sorts of non-necessities. Unfortunately, the heavier your pack, the more stress your knees will have to endure. Do your best to lighten your load by removing things you can live without. Instead of canned goods, opt for lightweight dehydrated meals. You should also carefully pack your gear in a way that will distribute the total weight more evenly.
Get some support.
If you have knee problems, consider wearing a comfortable brace that can help stabilize your leg. If you've recently had an injury or surgery, limit the distance and difficulty of your first few hikes, so you don't re-injure your knee. Research suggests you may also be able to substantially reduce the impact on your knees by using hiking poles.
Whatever the cause of your knee pain, symptoms tend to worsen when if you are overweight. Even losing five to ten pounds can make a huge difference for your joints. Before attempting especially challenging or long hikes, consider taking some time to get in better shape, so you can enjoy your adventure without experiencing excessive fatigue and pain.
Alter your diet.
Knee pain can also be the result of inflammation, which natural occurs as part of the body's healing process. According to Harvard Medical School, researchers have uncovered compelling evidence that we can reduce inflammation naturally by eating certain foods, including green leafy vegetables, olive oil, tomatoes, nuts, strawberries, fatty fish, blueberries, oranges and cherries. You may also be able to reduce your knee discomfort by taking a daily omega-3 fish oil supplement.
See an orthopedist.
Knee pain can result from an assortment of things, including muscle strains, tendonitis, sprains, cartilage tears, bursitis and arthritis. If you have a persistent ache beneath the kneecap, the cartilage might be worn down. On the other hand, sharp, shooting pains below or above the knee typically indicate tendinitis. Pain involving the entire knee or the back of the knee can indicate something more serious. A qualified orthopedist can help you determine the source of your knee pain. If surgery isn't required, you can alleviate discomfort using the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). Over-the-counter NSAIDs can also help decrease pain and swelling after especially grueling hikes.
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