Becky is the clinic director and chiropractor here at Back 2 Balance. In this blog she goes on to talk about her personal experience with knee pain.
I’m writing this from personal experience! I go mountaineering probably about once a year. I obviously walk and exercise and am on my feet a lot day to day. However, I would do a big hike up a large mountain once or twice a year. I NEVER get knee pain. I don’t get it when doing the stairs, running, burpees, squats or lunges. Literally only when I’ve done a long climb up and then start going downhill. The pain slowly builds, not straight away, however it will get pretty painful fast. The only thing that will stop the pain is to stop walking and rest. It starts up again very soon after re starting the descent. If I walk backwards downhill, no pain! Go figure!
So this blog is the start of my mission to sort it out! Either the knee problem is so small that it takes a steep and long hike to bring it to the surface, or I have some muscle imbalances that show up after several hours, or a structure that gets trapped at a certain decline angle that needs an operation. Without an MRI scan this will be very hard to diagnose properly. All orthopaedic tests on my knee have shown up nothing. The only thing that can be found is that on lunging my knee tracks medially (inwards) which is often an indication of weak glutes. Most knee conditions need an element of strengthening in our experience…. either the VMO (the inside quadricep muscle) or glutes. So this doesn’t surprise me.
Why is walking downhill harder?
Although hiking uphill can be strenuous, downhill walking is often the more painful and damaging on the knees. This is because compressive forces on the knee are 3-4 times greater when hiking downhill than uphill. Internal structures such as the cartilage, meniscus, and cruciate ligaments, all have to work super hard to keep the knee joint engaged and strong.
How can I help reduce my knee pain?
- Wear good hiking boots/shoes. Try them on and make sure they are supportive and shock absorbing.
- Use hiking poles (I have just invested in some). Research has shows the poles reduce compressive forces by 25%, by redistributing load-bearing to the arms and shoulders.
- Do not break too much when going downhill. This causes the knee to jerk. Let gravity carry your body weight at a rhythmic pace.
- Muscle up. Train and strengthen legs, core, and glutes ahead of time. Check out our YouTube channel for some safe exercises.
- Stretch before and after. Here are some quadricep stretches.
- Knee support. These do not stop movement or flexibility of the knee, rather it helps keep your brain focussing on protecting it, and thus fires up your ‘knee bracing’ muscles more.
- Take your time. So steadily downhill. There is no rush and making sure your brain has the time to switch and engage the knee muscles will help.
- Get booked in with one of our clinical team – we have a chiropractor, osteopath, and sports therapist who can all help you to look after your knees.