Prevent High-mileage Injuries
Stop these common ailments before they end your hike.
>> Dull or aching knee pain
Cause: Walking downhill causes small tears in the patellar tendon below the knee (called patellar tendinopathy). Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome is a result of excessive wear on the kneecap itself. Both lead to persistent aches and stiffness.
Solution: Rest and elevate the joint, ice it (if there’s no snow, submerge your leg in a cold creek), and take an anti-inflammatory (like ibuprofen) prophylactically and to manage pain. It may help to wear a brace and use trekking poles to reduce joint stress.
>> Pain and stiffness in the heel and bottom of the foot
Cause: An inward-rolling gait, high arches, flat feet, a tight Achilles tendon, and ill-fitting shoes can all strain the plantar fascia, the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot.
Solution: Rest, stretch your toes and calf at least three times a day, ice the bottom of your foot, and take an anti-inflammatory. Wear heel pads, cups, or custom orthotics in your boots.
>> Tenderness on the outside of the knee
Cause: Muscle imbalances exacerbated by an unevenly weighted pack, slanted terrain, or extended hiking can cause Iliotibial Band Syndrome, inflammation of the band that runs from knee to hip.
Solution: Rest, ice, elevate, and take an anti-inflammatory. Sleep with a pillow or padding between your knees (if you sleep on your side) to reduce pressure on the IT band. Stretch daily: Lie back on a flat surface so your affected leg hangs over the edge with a 90-degree bend in your knee. Pull your unaffected leg to your chest. Keep your hips level and move the thigh of your injured leg across your midline (without rotating it; see illustration above). Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat four times. Consult a physical therapist; if pain isn’t persistent, you may be all right to continue.