How To Recover From Your Knee Injury Before Your Trek

In the second part of the series on knee injury, I am going to talk about how to handle your recovery. Read the first part of the article here

In my journey of understanding the recovery process, I have a lot of interesting information to share with you.

The process of recovery starts when you understand your body. While I will give you a general set of exercises for recovery, you need to get some specific set of exercises depending on what part of the knee you have injured. More than all of that, it is important to understand how your body works.

When you have injured your knee, you have to strengthen the rest of the muscles that support your knee. That is your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calf muscles and your core.

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Strengthening these muscles is what would help stabilise your knee.

Says Shwetha Warke, Centre Head of Heal with PhysioQinesis, “If you have injured one of your joints, we work on strengthening the joint close to it. Say if you have injured your ankle, we strengthen the knee. If you have injured your knee, we focus on hip/core. We call this the kinetic chain concept. The idea is that everything is connected.”

What kind of exercises can you do?

I have asked Shwetha to share a set of exercises you can do.  The exercises I am sharing here are basic and are applicable for most types of knee injuries. Shwetha has designed it as such. Shwetha’s clinic are pioneers of Sports Science in India.

Here is the list of basic exercises she recommends

knee injury exercises - Indiahikes Shwetha Warkhe - Basic knee exercises

trekking with Indiahikes - Shwetha Rao - Basic knee exercises 2

trekking with Indiahikes - Shwetha Rao - Basic knee exercises 3

trekking with Indiahikes - Shwetha Rao - Basic knee exercises 4

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There are intermediate and advanced set of exercises as well. They are best done after a visit to a good physiotherapist who can show you how to do them.

The reason you need to know how to do your exercises correctly is to correct your body alignment. Alignment, in the most simple terms, is posture that puts the least amount of stress on your spine. Having the correct alignment will prevent injuries, give the most efficient movement with least stress, and prevent progressive deformities.

As I had mentioned, everything is interconnected. Says Shwetha, “If you have injured one part of your body, you may unconsciously compensate for that injury with the rest of your body. This creates incorrect body alignment. Which is something that needs to be corrected in the recovery process. Often, an injury recurs because you have been maintaining incorrect body alignment.”

How do you deal with the recovery on a trek?

I spoke to our trekker, Suresh Srinivasan, who did the Goechala trek in 2016 with a recovering knee.

A month before the trek, Suresh Srinivasan got injured. For first few weeks, he did not take it seriously. Until the pain started interfering with his life. This put him at a dilemma: Should he still go for a strenuous trek like Goechala?

He did his knee strengthening exercises before the trek religiously. He went swimming– A cardiovascular activity that has low impact on an injured knee. Like running, swimming is a good way to build cardiovascular endurance required for a high altitude trek. The added bonus is that it has low impact on injured joints.

On the trek, Suresh was extremely worried about being able to catch up to the group.  “I was extremely cautious,” he says. “I trekked slowly but took minimal breaks. I used my core for the ascent, which puts less stress on the knee joints. At the end of each day’s trek, I did knee strengthening exercises. I also had my pain killers and knee brace, just in case,” he adds.

“I started feeling the strain when we were descending from Tshoka. It was all steep descent. I used the support of not just one trek pole but a bamboo stick as well. I wore my knee brace too. All of these helped maintain my knee,” Suresh says.

It’s extremely important to know the right technique of descending. It’s said that the force your knee endures while descending is three to four times that when you’re level-walking. So watch this video to learn how to descend.

Goechala-Indiahikes-Somaditya Ghosh (4)
Suresh prepared for his Goechala trek by swimming instead of running to avoid damaging his knee PC: Somyaditya Ghosh

Now, Goechala is a special trek for Suresh. The trek did wonders for him — especially when he thought he wouldn’t be able to do it in the first place. “One moment especially stood out for me. The trek to Dzongri Top. The sun rise from there was mesmerizing — the light fell so beautifully on such big mountains! It was an out-of-the-world experience. The sense of accomplishment I had after this trek was so high that I went for a marathon a month after!”

So there you go. A knee injury cannot stop you from trekking!

Prepare well, take support and do not take any issue with your body lightly. Drop in a comment if you have questions. 

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Aswati Anand

Aswati Anand is a journalist in love with the Himalayas. She is interested in stories of resilience from difficult terrains and sustainable living. When not mooning over the mountains, she can be seen doodling in her sketchbook.

7 thoughts on “How To Recover From Your Knee Injury Before Your Trek

  1. I shall try the figures you suggest . And someday hit the trail with you . Though i am 60 years now . But average fit . Very confident except my right knee . But now i shall give it a try . So be prepared to carry me down the mountain , in case .

  2. I have issue with my knee , thats why i have opted for a easy trek …what are the precautions i need to take …i have been doing knee strenghthening exercises,i can brisk walk but not run ..would knee braises help me .

    1. In order to be able to do a trek with a knee issue, there are a couple of things to keep in mind-

      ( 1 ) Do you have enough time to prepare and rehabilitate the knee beforehand? An Ortho/ Sports Physiotherapist will address all these aspects.
      It is not only essential for you to to get the knee stronger, but also the rest of the body- where you need to strengthen the core, hip and gluteal muscles; this will ensure the stress doesn’t land on your knee as much.
      Another important aspect is to improve your calf muscles strength as these muscles help you propel forward and decelerate.
      Its also essential to have enough mobility in the knees, hip and ankles, since one has to defecate in ‘indian style’ toilets, though your trekking pole can come handy at such occasions too! So, its important to be able to do body weight squats and progress with weight squats over time.

      ( 2 ) Do you have enough stamina to help you trek without much fatigue? if you haven’t started running yet, you can start with alternating slow jogs and walk (e.g: 1 min walk to 15 to 30 sec jog), slowly progress that and eventually be able to complete the minimum physical fitness run/walk within the stipulated time that INDIAHIKES prescribes.
      You can also start doing a conditioning routine such as stationary bike or swimming to give you the stamina for your aerobic system while you are preparing with physical fitness, that offers low strain on the knees. once you build your stamina, you can progress to walk- run routines.

      ( 3 ) Braces, taping, foam rolling, icing, pain relief ointments, occasional painkillers (only if needed) do help, but only if you are physically prepared for the trek.

      So fitness and strengthening comes above all else, but once you get there, the views and the mountains will make it all worthwhile!
      All the best!

  3. In order to be able to do a trek with a knee issue, there are a couple of things to keep in mind-

    ( 1 ) Do you have enough time to prepare and rehabilitate the knee beforehand? An Ortho/ Sports Physiotherapist will address all these aspects.
    It is not only essential for you to to get the knee stronger, but also the rest of the body- where you need to strengthen the core, hip and gluteal muscles; this will ensure the stress doesn’t land on your knee as much.
    Another important aspect is to improve your calf muscles strength as these muscles help you propel forward and decelerate.
    Its also essential to have enough mobility in the knees, hip and ankles, since one has to defecate in ‘indian style’ toilets, though your trekking pole can come handy at such occasions too! So, its important to be able to do body weight squats and progress with weight squats over time.

    ( 2 ) Do you have enough stamina to help you trek without much fatigue? if you haven’t started running yet, you can start with alternating slow jogs and walk (e.g: 1 min walk to 15 to 30 sec jog), slowly progress that and eventually be able to complete the minimum physical fitness run/walk within the stipulated time that INDIAHIKES prescribes.
    You can also start doing a conditioning routine such as stationary bike or swimming to give you the stamina for your aerobic system while you are preparing with physical fitness, that offers low strain on the knees. once you build your stamina, you can progress to walk- run routines.

    ( 3 ) Braces, taping, foam rolling, icing, pain relief ointments, occasional painkillers (only if needed) do help, but only if you are physically prepared for the trek.

    So fitness and strengthening comes above all else, but once you get there, the views and the mountains will make it all worthwhile!
    All the best!

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