Hiking is one of the best ways to stay active in an outdoor setting, especially if you combine it with a nice camping trip. It’s great for both the mind and body, allowing you to receive the benefits of exercise while still getting away from it all. It’s also an excellent activity for the family, as it will get the kids out and away from screens, and with so much to see in the outdoors, they can learn a lot, too!
One of the main barriers preventing people from hiking, especially older individuals, is pain and stiffness. If prolonged activity makes you sore, particularly if that activity involves walking or climbing stairs, then the hesitation to go out for a hike is totally understandable. That being said, allowing your body to defeat you and your goals will only create a snowball effect, making it more difficult to get out for that hike as time goes on.
If this sounds similar to a situation you are currently in, we would suggest taking a quick visit to the doctor or physiotherapist about potential solutions. An interdisciplinary approach is usually the most effective method, and in the meantime, if your joint pain isn’t too serious, here are some ways to avoid knee pain while hiking.
Sports braces, such as knee and ankle braces, are great ways to add stability to a joint and potentially help relieve pain. The bulkier braces you may have seen people wearing immediately after surgery are generally the most supportive, as they come with locking hinges and an adjustable range of motion. However, for those dealing with more chronic issues, there are slimmer braces available to help provide stability and relieve pain.
One of the first things worth noting is that a sports brace is not limited to an athlete. Braces are available for everyone. For example, plus size knee braces are becoming increasingly popular as more overweight people are striving to stay active. These are great at adding stability to the highly-stressed knee joints, and the compression that is offered by many of these braces and sleeves is effective at reducing pain during activity. You can also find very affordable and minimalistic straps for tendonitis, such as a patellar tendon strap, which helps relieve chronic pain in the tendon found between your knee and shin, which is a very common ailment. Overall, the vast majority of braces can be worn outdoors while hiking, so they are definitely something to look into.
Stretching and Strengthening
Stretching and strengthening is usually the best way to actively heal a joint, reduce longterm pain from conditions like osteoarthritis, prevent further injury down the road, and to simply stay active. The main obstacle here is that you may require some assistance in setting up a plan. If you are unfamiliar with setting up strengthening and stretching programs, don’t worry, personal trainers and physiotherapists can help you design a program that is suitable for your needs. Moreover, these professionals can also guide you in creating a practical program, for example, something that can be easily incorporated into your routine at home.
Ice and Heat
If you want to avoid becoming dependent on pain medications, but need a relatively fast-acting solution for joint pain, either ice or heat can be helpful. As a typical rule of thumb, ice is appropriate if there is swelling involved, or if you are tending to a recent injury, e.g. in the last 48 hours. On the other hand, if you are experiencing general joint pain and stiffness, heating the area can help alleviate the pain and loosen things up. I find heat is especially great for neck pain and stiffness, as well as aches and pains in the feet and knees. A heat pack or hot water bottle are both good options, or if you’re out on a hiking trail, those little hand warmers can also work in a pinch too. Simply apply and wrap them to the source!
These are just some tips to help you get back on your feet and enjoy the trails. Hiking can certainly be hard work at times, making the most athletic individuals stiff and sore, but it’s important to keep at it and stay active. The main thing is that you are motivated to stay on your feet, and hopefully these tips will provide you with some more motivation to get out there. Good luck!