I found myself out hiking this past weekend to get out of the house and enjoy the weather which is something I love to do! I’m always amazed how taxing it is on my body, especially my knees as I woke up the next day and hobbled out of bed and down the stairs!
Hiking is a recreational activity that offers many benefits for the human body! However, the constant pounding endured by the knees during lengthy hikes can wear out the joints and cause inflammation, especially when hiking downhill. Hiking when your already experiencing knee pain or pushing yourself through it may lead to serious injury!
Hiking downhill has shown to increase the risk of musculoskeletal pain and injury, especially in the knees. While hiking uphill, foot placement is fairly static and weight-bearing impact is minimal. Hiking downhill on the other hand, exacerbates weight-bearing impact due to the force of gravity. Which cause the knee joint to absorb shock, leading to pain and inflammation.
Research shows the forces absorbed by the knees during downhill walking are 3-4 times greater particularly in the patellofemoral joint (knee joint) when compared to walking on even surfaces. So that being said going downhill or comparatively down stairs is strenuous on the knees.
Good news! There are things that we can do to condition our legs! Strengthening your leg muscles including:
may help reduce the stress on your knees while hiking.
Stretching helps prepare your knees for hiking and may reduce symptoms after you finish. After intense exercises your muscles shorten and become tight and sore. Stretching will help prevent soreness from becoming stiffness and pain.
If you find that your knee pain doesn’t resolve in a day or two it is probably time to see a physical therapist. Knee pain can result from many things i.e. tendonitis, muscle strains, arthritis etc. We can evaluate, determine the problem and establish a program around you before it gets worse. We are here to get you back on the trail again!