Are you an avid hiker who's been experiencing some knee pain? Don't worry, you're not alone! In fact, knee pain is so common among hikers that we should consider it an official trail badge of honor. But fear not, fellow adventurer! We’ve got the trekking tips, tidbits, andtreatmentsyou need to get you back on the trails in no time. So put on your hiking boots, grab your trekking poles, and let's explore the ins and outs of handling knee pain while hiking!
Let’s start with the basics: Why does knee pain happen while hiking in the first place?
What Causes Knee Pain After Hiking?
Unfortunately, even the mildest trails can cause hikers some pain. From age to overuse to uneven terrain, here are the most common reasons why even the most experienced hikers get some discomfort on the trails:
Overuse or Strain Injuries
One of the most common causes of knee pain while hiking is overuse or strain injuries! This can happen when you hike for an extended period without taking a break or when you push yourself too hard on a steep incline. It may be enticing to hike up steep terrain to get a great view, but be careful! Overuse injuries can cause damage to the ligaments, tendons, and muscles around the knee, resulting in pain and discomfort. To prevent overuse injuries, try to warm up before hiking and take frequent breaks during the hike. You can also stretch your leg muscles before and after the hike to help reduce the risk of injury!
Knee arthritis is a common condition that affects many hikers (and non-hikers), especially those over the age of 50. Arthritis can cause inflammation and damage to the joint, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility - so you can imagine why this might affect your nature walk! While arthritis isn’t always avoidable, there are ways to prevent or ease the symptoms - it’s essential to maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and wear proper footwear while hiking. You can also consider using trekking poles to reduce the pressure on your knees!
Less common, but it can still happen! The meniscus is a piece of cartilage that provides cushioning between the thighbone and shinbone. A meniscus tear can occur when the knee is twisted or turned suddenly, causing the meniscus to tear. To prevent meniscus tears, be sure to wear proper footwear and be mindful of your movements while hiking. We also recommend reaching out to a doctor first before you decide to go on a hike with an injury!
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS)
PFPS is a condition that causes pain in the front of the knee, around the kneecap. It is often caused by overuse, improper alignment of the knee joint, or weak thigh muscles. To prevent PFPS, try to stretch and strengthen the thigh muscles before hiking. You can also wear a knee brace or patellar strap to help support your knee joint (we’ll get more into that later)
Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)
ITBS is a condition that causes pain on the outside of the knee. It is often caused by overuse or improper alignment of the knee joint, leading to inflammation of the iliotibial band. If you’re trying to ease the symptoms of (or prevent) ITBS, it is important to warm up before hiking and to stretch the hip and thigh muscles. You can also wear proper footwear and use trekking poles to help reduce the pressure on your knee joint.
Of course, there are a lot of other reasons you may be having knee pain - you may have poor circulation, not enough shoe support…the list goes on. We recommend reaching out to your doctor or PCP to make sure there are no underlying issues.
How to Treat Knee Pain
While some knee issues may not be treatable, there are plenty of natural ways we can ease some of that pain at home! We’ll start with what we know best:
Compression Therapy: A great, natural way to help your knee pain while hiking is through compression, which helps to reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain by improving blood flow and lymphatic drainage. Compression garments can be worn during activities that aggravate knee pain, such as running or jumping, or during periods of rest to reduce swelling and pain. They can also be worn during physical therapy sessions to enhance the benefits of exercise.
This adjustable brace is better for those already struggling with a potential injury. Copper-infused, non-irritating, breathable, and perfect under (or over) clothing.
Rest and Ice: Resting the knee and applying ice to the affected area can help reduce pain and inflammation. Ice should be applied for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day.
Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can design an exercise program that can help strengthen the knee and improve your range of motion. It’s a little more costly, but worth it for many hikers! They may also use techniques such as massage and stretching to reduce pain and inflammation.
Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help reduce pain and inflammation. Prescription medications, such as corticosteroids, may also be prescribed by a doctor.
Surgery: In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace damaged knee joints. This is usually considered a last resort and is only recommended when other treatments have failed.
If you are experiencing knee pain, it is essential to consult with a doctor or physical therapist to determine the underlying cause of your pain and the best course of treatment. With proper treatment, most people can find relief from knee pain and resume their normal activities.
Solutions for Hiking with Bad Knees
Don’t let pain stop you from enjoying your favorite hobbies! There are a lot of options for those who struggle with joint pain and discomfort - here are a few of our personal recommendations:
Start with short hikes: If you have bad knees, it's important to start slow and gradually increase the distance you hike. Begin with shorter hikes that are easier on your joints and work your way up to longer hikes as your knees get stronger!
Use trekking poles: Trekking poles can help take some of the pressure off your knees by transferring some of your weight to your arms. This can help reduce the impact on your knees and make hiking more comfortable. Perfect for short or long hikes!
Choose less steep trails: Hiking up steep inclines can be tough on your knees, so try to choose trails with a more gradual incline. This will help reduce the stress on your joints and make hiking more enjoyable.
Wear supportive shoes: THIS IS SO IMPORTANT! Wearing good hiking shoes with proper support can help reduce the impact on your knees. Look for shoes with good arch support and cushioning to help absorb shock.
Nature is beautiful - don’t let your pain ruin the beauty! We hoped this has helped you get back out onto the trails in time for the warmer months. For any other stellar products, here’s our website - and check out our blog for more education, tips, and tricks!
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