How to Fix Knee Pain When Hiking
Common Culprits (And Fixes) For Sore Knees
If you’ve ever experienced knee pain during a hike, working out, or possibly even walking up the stairs, you’re not alone. Many individuals experience mild knee pain during those types of activities.
Keep in mind, though, that if your knee pain is severe, long lasting, or affects other areas of your life, making an appointment with a doctor is the best course of action. You could have a more serious knee problem that requires medical attention, and getting to the root of the problem will keep you on the trails.
Why do my knees hurt when hiking?
Your knees could be hurting for a variety of reasons, but one of the most common issues is simply due to the type of activity.
Stepping over rocks, jumping down from ledges, trekking uphill, walking downhill, and other movements you make while hiking are just downright tough on the joints. Hiking places a lot of pressure on the knees, and adding a heavy pack tends to make things worse. Repetitive motions can also lead to pain especially if you have arthritis.
If your knee pain isn’t severe enough to warrant a trip to the doctor or physical therapist, there are still a number of things you can do before, after, and even during your hike.
How to avoid knee pain on the trail
For less knee pain, the name of the game is strengthening and stretching. A solid round of leg stretches are a great start, but your hips also play a huge role in regulating knee pain. These 6 stretches for hard to reach areas are a great way to wind down after a hike, and there’s no shame in stopping on the trail for some mid-hike toe touches and shin stretches.
While you’re on the trail, there are a few other things you can do to help with pain:
- Use trekking poles
- Try a knee brace or kinesio tape
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid locking your knees when hiking downhill — keep them slightly flexed, and go slow
- Create your own mini-switchbacks when hiking downhill by traveling in a zig-zag pattern (it’s a bit easier than heading straight downhill)
- Take breaks as much as needed
Similarly, strengthening your hips and glutes can also help with knee pain. Many times, these muscles are actually much weaker than our knee muscles. That’s a big problem, because these are the muscles responsible for holding your femurs in place, which is very important while hiking, walking, and virtually any other physical activity.
Learning more about hiking and knee pain
This article isn’t a definitive guide to knee pain, but there are many resources online that can help you with fixing knee problems.
For example, click here for an article written by a physical therapist that is full of information and useful exercises. Additionally, click here for an article that also has tons of information on how to save your knees during a hike, including lacing techniques and foods for joint health.