If you love hiking from time to time, you probably are aware of hiker’s knee pain (also referred to as patellofemoral pain syndrome).
This is essentially an overuse injury around the knee that leads to pain behind or around the knee joint (Source).
If you suffer from this problem, you already know that hiking downhill intensifies the pain.
Based on what is actually causing your knee pain, the right remedy to combat this pain will vary from one hiker to another.
In a bid to prevent and combat knee pain, most physicians recommend strengthening the quadriceps muscles.
Additionally, stretching the calves, iliotibial and hamstrings has also been proven to be effective at alleviating knee pain.
While acute knee pain may require medicinal remedies, there are several natural remedies that can help treat and prevent knee pain in the long run, some of which are discussed below.
1. Reduce the Load on the Knee Joint
It may be the excess weight you are exerting on the knee joint that is causing the pain. Most hikers are known to carry a considerable amount of gear on their bikes as they embark on their hiking expeditions.
When you bear too much weight on your hikes, you predispose your knee joint to injuries and pain, especially when you are hiking downhill.
The knee joint is already bearing almost all your body weight. Every time you take a step, a force almost three times your body weight—assuming you are not carrying anything—is exerted on the knee joint.
For instance, a hiker weighing 150 pounds exerts a force equivalent to 450 – 900 pounds on his knee joints every time he or she takes a step.
This being the case, you can see the impact of increased body weight or load on your back while hiking. If you are looking forward to combating keen pain, you first need to reduce the force you are exerting on the joint.
This requires you to reduce the amount of gear your carry on hikes and probably your body weight. You can reduce your backpack weight by carrying lightweight gears. You can buy lightweight sleeping bags and backpacking mess kits to save reduce some weight.
2. Be Careful Hiking Downhill
Based on a study that was recently published on pub-med.gov, the comprehensive force exerted on the knee joint as you walk downhill is 3 to 4 times the one exerted on the joint as you walk on level ground.
This magnification is even greater in ladies—as they have a shorter femur bone as compared to men.
This being the case, trekking downhill may be considered to be a very strenuous activity for the knee joints. If not done correctly, hiking downhill can lead to knee injuries and pain.
In order to prevent knee pain while hiking downhill, these are some of the precautions you should take:
- Avoid hiking with your knees locked on steep slopes. Instead, you are supposed to walk steadily and at a slow pace with the knees flexed. If you move faster downhill, you will need to take longer steps, which intensifies the force and impact on the knee joints.
- Whenever possible, plan your hikes in such a way that you have downhill hikes at the end of the hike.
- Avoid going straight downhill whenever you are hiking. Instead, you should traverse sideways or in zigzag or even s-shaped movements. If possible, you should also consider making your own mini-switchbacks on wider trails.
- Get rid of unneeded water and gear from your backpack when hiking downhill to reduce the force exerted on your knees.
3. Use the Right Foot Gear
The type of shoes you wear on your hikes may also predispose you to knee pain. As such, you need to choose your hiking footwear carefully.
In this regard, you need to consider such aspects as:
- Wear well-cushioned footwear to hikes. With cushioning, the shoes will be able to absorb much of the shock and body weight, rather than transfer it to the knee joints.
- If the shoes are rather tight are you are not ready to buy a new pair of hiking shoes, you should consider using gel toe inserts. These products come in handy in sustaining steep descents as you hike.
- Always wear fitting shoes to hikes. Be sure to select fitting shoes for your hikes to prevent unnecessary stress to the feet whenever you are hiking.
4. Have Lubricating Foods
Your diet may also predispose you to knee pain whenever you are hiking. Again, there are those foods that are known to lubricate the knee joint.
For instance, walnuts, olive oil and Omega-3 foods will be great additions to your diet.
By enhancing knee lubrication, such foods will reduce friction on your knee joints. By so doing, they will make it less possible for you to suffer from knee pain on hikes.
Additionally, such foods are also good for moisturizing the skin and soothing sun burns.
As you may be aware, dried pineapple contains Bromelain—an ingredient that has been proven to be a natural anti-inflammatory. This ingredient will be of great help if you are recovering from knee pain or even form joint injuries.
There are several other high-calorie dried fruits and anti-inflammatory foods that you should consider taking if you are a vigorous hiker. Those suffering from knee pain, for instance, should consider incorporating chondroitin and glucosamine-containing supplements into their diets
Such ingredients are known to repair and rebuild cartilage tissues as well as reduce the pain associated with knee injuries.
5. Actively Protect Your Knees
Whether you suffer from hiker’s knee pain or not, it is highly advisable for you to protect your knees whenever you are hiking.
Some of the best ways to do this include:
- Using best hiking knee braces for additional support
- Consider getting a walking stick or a hiking pole on your hikes. This helps redistribute the weight of your body and hiking gear; hence minimize pressure on knee joints
- Buy a quality fanny pack so you don’t have to carry stuff and be uncomfortable on your hike
Our Final Verdict
Whichever way you look at it, hiking is a healthy and adventurous activity you can take on your leisure time.
However, it may not always be a safe undertaking. A considerable number of people have suffered various injuries while hiking in the past.
One of the commonest injuries associated with hiking is the hiker’s knee pain. With the right precautions, you can easily avoid or combat this problem effectively.
If you love hiking, you should take the above-described precautions whenever you are out hiking.