Hiker’s knee is a common condition among avid hikers. One of the telltale signs of hiker’s knee is pain around the knee cap, and it usually occurs after several hours of hiking. Although hiking uphill can be strenuous because of steep inclines and rocky terrain, it is actually downhill hiking that can damage the knee joint and surrounding cartilage. This is because compressive forces on the knee are three to four times greater when hiking downhill than uphill.
There are several precautions that you can take to prevent hiker’s knee:
- Wear quality hiking shoes or hiking boots — Proper footwear is the most essential consideration for your hike, so purchase hiking boots with ankle support and shock-absorbing soles. Instead of shopping for hiking shoes or boots online, go into a store to get fitted so you can select the size and brand that will provide the best support.
- Use a knee brace — For longer or more challenging hikes, wear a knee brace that will provide additional stability. This is especially important if you are recovering from an injury.
- Use hiking poles — Hiking poles are not just for older hikers. The Journal of Sports Sciences says that hiking poles reduce compressive forces by 25 percent. By redistributing load-bearing body weight to the arms and shoulders, hiking poles reduce the impact on your knees.
- Put a spring in your step — When you begin your descent, do not “brake” too much because it causes the knee to jerk. Let gravity carry your body weight at a rhythmic pace.
- Stretch before and after the hike — Loosening your muscles before your hike will help your legs and knees to be more pliable. After the hike, your muscles will be contracted so you need to stretch again to get them back to their normal length (Source: India Hikes).
Caring for your knees will help ensure that they will carry you up and down hills and mountains for years to come. Proper equipment, technique and rest are key when it comes to maintaining knee health and preventing hiker’s knee. Talk to your doctor if you experience sustained pain or swelling after a hike. It is normal to feel some soreness after an invigorating hike, but if tenderness or swelling lasts for more than a day or two, you should consult your doctor.