Winter Hiking Safety Tips: How to Prevent Knee Injuries
You’re trudging atop the frozen snow, one cautious step after the next. Last week’s storm was a doozy, and lurking beneath your feet is a potential 14-inch drop to the bottom.
Crunch … crunch … crunch …
You’re probably unaware that these expeditions through the white stuff are the equivalent of playing Russian Roulette with your knees. One faulty step is all it takes to inflict an impending doom.
Crunch … crunch … ka-poof …
As your foot plummets through the wake, your knees unexpectedly brace for the impact, the tendons and the ligaments tightening up from the unexpected free-fall.
You are now on your way to developing a nasty case of Chondromalacia, which is also known as Patellofemoral or, more loosely, “hiker’s knee.” Hiker’s knee generally pertains to long distance recreations. This condition, which can trigger severe pain underneath and around the kneecap, results from incessant hiking and assorted wintertime activities like cross-country skiing. In your everyday routine, Chondromalacia can be particularly discomforting when performing activities such as going down stairs or sitting or lying down extensively.
Since sizable snow accumulation can serve as a natural resistor, hiking during the wintertime months can be especially damaging in relation to your overall knee health.
A Downhill Trend
According to a 2008 study by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hiking ranks as the third most dangerous of all outdoor activities (behind only snowboarding and sledding).
Furthermore, hiking in wintery landscapes is particularly woeful during downhill descents. Another recent study concludes that the compression that happens to your injury-prone knees becomes three to four times as impactful when hiking downhill. The downhill hiking impact becomes even higher when you are supporting a knapsack. In addition to winter hiking injuries, snowshoeing activities have been linked to considerable knee pain and discomfort.
However, knee injuries are not merely limited to Chondromalacia. Other knees ailment directly correlated to winter hiking include:
- Tendinitis of either the quadriceps tendon or patellar tendon
- Medial Plica Syndrome (strained fold of the knee lining)
- Medial collateral ligament sprain
- Medial meniscus tear
- Popliteal cyst (fluid exuding from the knee)
Keeping a Leg Up on Your Knee Health
Fortunately, there are various precautionary steps that can help prevent those nagging knee ailments. If you’re planning on taking to the hills this winter, consider these helpful tips for ensuing hiking safety and knowing how to prevent knee injuries:
- Try using trekking poles, which significantly reduce the amount of weight bestowed upon those already-overworked knees.
- Consider wearing a knee brace for maximum support. Various knee braces are available that depend upon your specific conditions, which include ligament stability, swelling, and compression.
- Performing a series of leg exercises (leg extensions, wall squats, calf stretches) will help strengthen the quadriceps and thereby place less pressure on your knees.
- Logging substantial time on a stationary bicycle can fortify the muscles surrounding the knees. Investing 20-30 minutes per day on a stationary bike, four or five days per week, can greatly increase your resistance to knee injuries and preserve hiking safety.
Happy Trails to Your Knee Issues
With quality treatment and awareness of how to prevent knee injuries, you can send your knee ailments on a permanent hike. Thankfully, your outdoor endeavors can remain on solid footing with surgeons like the highly acclaimed Dr. Armin Tehrany who offers the utmost quality in procedural methods for treating your hiking missteps.