A few weeks ago, I had written about common ailments trekkers face on their treks. Over a 1000 trekkers responded about the ailments they faced.
And quite a few of them spoke about knee injury.
I’m not surprised. Knee injuries are caused by excessive strain or overuse of your knees, which may result in pain around your knee cap. It usually arises after long hours of trekking and is intensified when trekking downhill.
The worst part is that knee injuries last a long time. And it takes months to recover.
So today, I’ll tell you how to avoid it.
Let’s dive right in.
Before your trek
Most trekkers believe that learning how to descend safely will help avoid knee injuries. But your prevention process actually starts months before your trek.
You would know that your leg muscles play the biggest role on your trek — mainly your quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. Your glutes also have a role to play. The stronger these muscles are, the less pressure there is on your knees while trekking.
So your target is to strengthen these muscles before your trek.
How can you go about it?
There are a few universally known exercises that help you strengthen your legs.
> Running – This is a no brainer! Even running thrice a week can help strengthen your lower half effectively.
> Squats – Apart from traditional squats, you could mix it up with jump squats and sumo squats
> Lunges – Do a mix of both, side and forward lunges
> Different kinds of leg lifts – You could do these standing, kneeling and also lying on your back
> Tip toe exercises – There are lots of exercises that you can do — like tip toe lateral jumps, or moving to your toes and back in a plank position. These are specifically to strengthen your calves.
These are just few exercises that we do in our workouts at office. There are umpteen videos on Youtube for each muscle. Just look them up and do at least a 20 minute set everyday, in addition to your run.
On your trek
There are a few basic things you must follow while trekking to avoid knee injuries.
1. Use a Trekking Pole – I have said this before, I’ll say it again. Trekking poles are seriously
life leg savers on your trek, especially when you’re descending.
How do they help? When you’re trekking, they help redistribute the weight to different parts of your body — your arms, your core. They give you a strong sense of balance and control. They also come with shock absorbers. So they help reduce the impact of your step on the ground.
We recently even had an interesting conversation about whether two trekking poles are better than one! It had some very interesting insight. Read about it here.
2. Learn to descend the right way – I’ve noticed many trekkers not paying attention to how they descend. And this is when most knee injuries occur.
Descending safely has a science behind it. And I explain that in this video. I strongly recommend watching it. There’s also an article on descending safely here if you would rather read it.
3. Stretch well before and after your trek – If you’re trekking with Indiahikes, your Trek Leader will make you do this. But if you’re trekking on your own, this is something you must make a habit.
Stretching before your trek makes your muscles more pliable and flexible, thereby reducing possibilities of injury. As for after your trek, your muscles are usually contracted after a long day’s trek and it is important to get the muscles back to their normal length.
4. Use the right gear – Your trekking shoes make a big difference to your knees. You will notice that most good trekking shoes have thick soles. They also have solid ankle support. These are meant to minimise the impact that your every step has on your knees. This video will help you understand how to choose the right trekking shoes.
On the other hand, if you have a weak knee, it’s important to be prepared with a knee brace to use while descending. It gives your knee muscles some much-needed extra support.
After your trek
After you return from your trek, it’s important to care for your knee.
Give your knee perhaps 4-5 days of rest after the trek before getting onto your fitness routine again. Continue with the exercises mentioned to strengthen your knee. It’s a good practice to include that in your fitness routine.
If you feel a niggle in your knee after your trek, then you must pay attention to it immediately. The earlier you start the recovery process, the better it is!
This article here will tell you exactly how to recover from a knee injury.
It has some wonderful exercises suggested by a pioneering sports institute in India.
If you have any exercises or tips, drop in a comment below.
It will surely help all other trekkers in the community!