Knee pain with hiking is one of the most common problems that we see at, our physical therapy office. The location of knee pain can vary. Sometimes the pain is at the patellar tendon (patellar tendonitis) or quad tendon (quad tendonitis). It could be on the outside of the knee along the IT band (IT Band syndrome). It may be from a meniscus injury across the joint line. It may even be on the inside of the knee and results in knee bursitis. Sometimes, the kneecap does not track properly and can cause patellofemoral syndrome.
To obtain an accurate diagnosis, an exam would be needed. Although there are differences in how each of these conditions should be treated, common limitations exist when it comes to hiking and knee pain.
Some factors that contribute to knee pain when hiking include an abnormality in the way the lower leg lines up with the hip, knee, and foot and improper tracking of the kneecap. In many cases knee pain when hiking is associated with poor mobility of the hips and the ankle. This can be combined with weakness of the hip, thigh, and the buttock muscles. In addition, if there are imbalances at the core and hip muscles, the way an active person moves can be affected which may lead to faulty knee mechanics.
However, the only way to know what is contributing to knee pain when hiking is to have a movement assessment performed.
If the knee is in a lot of pain, it is recommended to take a short break from hiking. This allows for an environment for irritation to settle down and pain to subside. During this time, root issues that were found during an assessment should be addressed.
If pain persists, hands on therapy should be performed. In many cases, pain improvements can be made very quickly with soft tissue mobilization and/or dry needling of the quadriceps and calf muscles.
If weakness is found, learning how to active muscles that are not firing well is key. Often, the inner thigh and muscles of the backside are not engaging well enough to provide control when going down hills. This may result in knee pain.
Once pain is controlled and muscles engage better, the next step is learning proper hip, knee, and ankle mechanics with hills. This can practiced outside or simulated on steps. Finally, strength must be developed in patterns of movement to obtain lasting results.
When addressed with with physical therapy that uses a whole body approach, hiking without knee pain is possible. However, any sort of repetitive activity with poor mechanics can develop into a more serious knee condition. If you have knee pain when hiking, the physical therapists at Movement Solutions would be glad to be a resource for you.
We offer a free guide on relieving knee pain that can give you further insight into knee problems and help kickstart your recovery. If you're interested in physical therapy but have questions, we are available for a free 15-minute phone consultation so you can have answers before booking an appointment.
If you're considering physical therapy, you can also apply for a free Discovery Visit. This is an opportunity to ask questions, obtain clarity, and foster confidence that we can help you. If you’re in pain and unsure about what your next step should be, call us at (864) 558-7346 and ask how we can help.