For anyone who is approaching their fifties and for people who are past this age, it may be that the ravages of time are starting to play with your body. I have read several posts recently about dodgy knees, hips and legs in the backpacking community. It may be that you are younger than this or older and don’t suffer from these issues, well done I hope it doesn’t happen to you!
I have two issues that come out during walking. If I am doing a lot of steep down-hill, my right knee can become painful and sometimes my left knee as well, and if I am walking over a lot of rocky ground I can get burning pain under the sole of my feet.
I first notice this about a year ago on a backpack in the Southern Uplands in Scotland coming steeply down past the Grey Mares tail waterfall to the road below. My doctor suggested that I may have some osteo-arthritis in my knees. When he told me this I was pretty worried, would I have to finish my walking at an early age? would it get worse? He gave my some simple quad strengthening exercises and said to me that to take some ibuprofen before exercise.
Now I have found that sometimes I am OK and other times it can be really painful. So I am offering some background, experience and suggestions to people who may be suffering like I am from painful knees when out walking.
I want to carry on what I love doing, so I am putting in some real effort to try and combat this.
Why are my knees painful?
Walking downhill can be painful for me. My understanding is that when walking uphill muscles will work hard to lift up your legs, but walking down hill, gravity is pulling your leg down with your muscles not taking much of the strain, but with my knees are taking much of the impact. This constant stress will cause the joint in my knees to wear giving me pain.
What can I do to avoid painful knees
- Strengthen up my muscles. By having stronger quads, hamstrings and calves, I should reduce the impact on my knees.
Here is my current exercise programme from my PT at the gym. This programme is devised to achieve three goals related to walking and backpacking, namely knees, stamina and loss of body fat. I have starred those aspects relating directly to strengthening my leg muscles.
Exercises which involves weights, I start off at a weight where I can just about manage the weight and then work up as the weeks go on. Each exercise is completed with 2 sets x 12 reps working up to 2 x 15 reps unless stated.
*Warm –up 5 minutes on exercise bike
Chest –press with 10 kg dumbbells lying on a Swiss ball.
*Leg press machine
Shoulder press machine
*Leg extension machine – use on one leg at a time
Bicep curl machine
* One legged squats on a wobble board – very good for quads and strengthening by balancing on one leg on an unstable platform whilst doing squats – not easy to do!!
Cable chop machine
* Cross Trainer machine using the following programme:-
30 seconds flat out then 30 seconds at a gentle pace- repeat these twice. Then 1 minute at 80% of your maximum speed followed with 1 minute at 50% of your maximum speed and repeat twice. This is one set. Do six sets (6 minutes for each set). Total time on Cross trainer is 36 minutes.
This is a bit of a killer, but helps with all three goals.
Finally some stretching exercises to cool down.
What else can be done to help?
- Walk down hill slower than you use to. This will help with the impact on your knees. It may be useful to side step down slopes or even to go backwards for short distances.
- Use trekking poles, this will take pressure off knees.
- Walk less miles.
- Look to visit a podiatrist, I have some orthotics inserts which help with my slight pronation.
- Wear shock absorbing trail shoes or boots. I cannot go very far with my Inov-8 shoes without problems. I am experimenting on different footwear to see what is best for me
- Take ibuprofen to help with pain and inflammation
A future reference for others who may get problems with their body ! Robin at blogpackinglight suggested a book to get which I believe has helped him in the past. Keep Your Joints Young by Sarah Key An in depth book on all areas of the body not just knees. I got it on Amazon for £7.29 together with an excellent little book just on knees – Treat Your Own Knees by Jim Johnson priced at £4.92 with some simple exercises to strengthen the quads, and daily regimes.
A knee brace or bandage when things get bad, may help you to finish the walk – but don’t use all the time. I have not used one of these before. Has anyone? I would be interested to hear from anyone who has.