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Ask Buck

My Achy, Breaky Knees

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

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Question:

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

Answer:

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