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My Achy, Breaky Knees

Why do the sides of my knees always hurt during descents?


On long hikes, my knees almost always start hurting on the sides during the descent. It feels like a sharp pain. My body is not fatigued, and the rest of my muscles aren’t sore at all. It’s only my knees that hurt. What am I doing wrong?

Submitted by - Aruna, San Diego, California


From here, it sounds like iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS). This band runs from the pelvis to just below the knee on the outside; it gets a lot of work on long hikes, especially when the terrain is uneven. The pain is even more likely to occur when you’re packing a load. When it hurts, you need to avoid repetitive knee flexion and extension, and apply RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) to the aching spot. Repeat RICE until you are symptom-free. To prevent the problem, keep your thighs supple with regular stretching and stay in shape. Editor’s Note: For a good IT-band stretch, check out page 2 of Injury-Proof Your Legs, and for a plethora of strength and training exercises, visit our Fitness section at the Skills center.  —Buck

1 Comment

  1. bikernoj

    Another treatment that helps with tight muscles & ligaments is a good massage. I had no idea how tight my ITBs were until a therapist started working on them! I’ll be honest, it hurt like hell to begin with; but after a few sessions they loosened up and my knee pain went away.

    It’s just difficult to stretch all the myriad tendons, muscles and connections in your legs effectively, so if you haven’t treated yourself to a massage I highly recommend it!

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