Wanted: Cartilage

How to decrease knee pain and stay on the trail

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I’ve had knee problems for the last 15-plus years. I was recently told that I no longer have any cartilage in either of my knees. I’m only 31, and total knee replacement isn’t an option at my age or activity level, I’m told. I try to keep my pack under 30 pounds. What else can I do to stay on the trail?

Submitted by – John, Crystal Lake, IL


I’m sorry about the loss of cartilage. If you are missing meniscal cartilage, you could be a candidate for replacement. If the cartilage is the articulating stuff, replacement will not, to my knowledge, be an option. Yes, go as light as possible. That could mean hiking with other people who have healthy knees and are willing to take some of your load. Avoid, as much as possible, direct heel strikes when you hike. Heel strikes put the most stress on your knees. Use trekking poles, lean slightly forward, take short steps, and place your feet as flatly as possible on the ground. Your personal physician may be able to suggest other ways, such as braces, to reduce knee stress. —Buck