View Full Version : Hiking with arthritis

01-19-2005, 16:00
I've been having a problem with my hip for a while. The symptoms confused the doctor at first because there were two problems. I had bursitis, which a couple months of meds (naproxen) took care of. My hip still hurt, so I had x-rays taken and Voila! Arthritis in my left hip.

The doctor suggest visiting a physical therapist. $90 a pop, three times a week, not covered by insurance. That's a hihg price to pay to do exercises and is beyond my $$ limit.

An internet search showed me way too much information to sort through.

Has anyone here hiked with arthritis in one's hip?

Does anyone know of a good exercise routine for hip arthritis? Either a web site or a book that has helped you?

My start date is March 20. I'll be leaving regardless, but it would be nice to be able to walk without pain.

01-19-2005, 16:21
I take glucosamine tablets, 750 mg twice a day. I have arthritis in my knees and hips and it has helped tremendously. Glucosamine is available as a sulphate and as a chlorate, I've taken both. Only the glucosamine sulfate worked for me. The common advice for it is to take it for 6-8 weeks before deciding if it's working or not. It's not a drug to kill the pain but a way of helping your body repair the joint so it takes a little time for it to work. A lot of the information that is available is anecdotal, but there's enough that appears valid that the National Institutes of Health has funded a four year study of it. The results are due out some time this year (March I think). Definitiely YMMV on this.

01-19-2005, 17:42
The doctor suggest visiting a physical therapist. $90 a pop, three times a week, not covered by insurance. That's a hihg price to pay to do exercises and is beyond my $$ limit.

An internet search showed me way too much information to sort through.

First, you should go to your physical therapist BUT tell them that you can't afford to see them regularly before hand. Find a PT that will show you the exercises and give you sheets to use as examples. Most good PT places understand that, and will do this for you. They should say you can come back if you have additional problems, but otherwise not force you. Once they show you the exercises, you really don't need them any more, except to add more exercises or to correct you if you are doing them wrong. This should be one visit and no more to set you up with exercises and the right equipment (theraband or something).

2nd - it has been my experience that only the well educated can shift through the PT exercises on the internet. I have had numerous problems, and only after seeing the PT people do it for me did I REALLY understand how to do them. Doing the exercise wrong can even aggrivate the problem.

Trust me, I'm a cheapskate, and this is the way I go. It's worth 1 visit, maybe 2. After that, the people at the PT aren't helping much. They understand that too. It's great of people with extensive injuries or who won't do the exercises on their own.

Finally, a thruhike is often a once in a lifetime chance. TAKE CARE OF THIS! Don't think you can deal with it on trail. It might go away, but it might kick you off, and then YOU will be kicking yourself for not doing more before you left. This way you can try all that you can try. However, most likely, you will have the first 2 weeks give you issues, and then it will clear up. Exercise reduces arthitis issues generally.

01-19-2005, 18:04
I have some trouble similar to yours and I also find that exercise helps tremendously. I don't really like to exercise but it is always worthwhile, so I just do it as a routine. I will allow myself to skip a day every now and then. I should also mention that my "exercise" is my own particular set that helps my shoulders and hips, but it is really more stretching than anything. I agree about consulting a specialist for a list of beneficial excercises. When I am on the trail, I find that I forget completely about my joint trouble - I hope that is your case too! Lastly, I feel that my Hennessey Hammock helps me a lot. I get better sleep with no pressure points.

01-19-2005, 21:02
See the PT and get advice regarding the mechanics of how you walk currently. If you have arthritis in one hip, you are likely to develop bad dynamics in your gait that may result in knee and back injuries down the trail.

By all means, try the glucosamine, which may help improve function. By all means, continue on an NSAID to reduce pain and inflammation of the arthritis/bursitis and other contributors to your pathology. It may be time to cycle over to a different NSAID than Naproxyn given the partial benefit you enjoyed.

Listen to your pain. Yell at your insurer if they do not allow PT that may help you prevent worse pathology within a few weeks of beginning your hike. This is a hike, not corporal punishment.

01-19-2005, 22:36
I attempted a thru hike in '97. After approx. 900 miles I was driven off the trail by the pain. A CT scan showed severe arthritis on my right side; glucosamine & chondroitin has cured that (I still take a 1/2 dose daily for maintenance), but the bursitis in my hip was the worst. Naproxyn might alleviate the pain for a while, but if you keep hiking it will probably become chronic. I have daily pain but so far I can do without painkillers. However, I know I will never be able to do any long distance backpacking again. When I left the trail I received hundreds of letters & email from people who had been reading my online journal. One was from a former ballet dancer who suffered from bursitis caused by repetitive movements, and she accurately predicted that if I didn't let it heal properly it would become chronic. Unfortunately, it had already become chronic because I kept hiking with it for so long. Can you seek advice from a specialist in sports medicine? They might be able to give you a more accurate prognosis. BTW, the glucosamine/chondroitin took about 8 wks to notice the improvement. Today, I wouldn't know I ever had arthritis. Good luck.

01-19-2005, 23:58
Frosty;This is the most intelligent,informative series of posts I have seen on such a subject!! Gravityman is right about PT,this what I do for a living.Get evaluated and have them hook you up with a home exercise plan.

There are studies that support the use of glucosamine. One small change to what kncats said, it does have pain reducing effect thru it's anti-inflammatory properties. He is right, you need to take it at least 6 weeks to judge it's effectiveness for the inflammation. It has been shown to have restorative properties but requires long term use.I have been taking it for two years. Consumer reports tells you to use the brand that was used in the studies,which is cosamin other brands came up short in the amount of active ingredient claimed.It costs more then some bargin brands but whats the use of taking a inferior product. (I'm not a shill for the company) True,also,is that a major study is due out this year.

One thing that may be determined in your eval,to be a help,is ultrasound

Orangebud had an excellent point about your mechanics. It's impossible to isolate one joint.It's best to improve it now.

Tamstan brings up what i belive is the biggest problem with PT,non-compliance with home programs. People think they can fool use about it but here's a PT secret,WE KNOW!!

There's alot of bad advice out there in cyber space,I agree. Mine has no more credibility then the next guy. That is why I'm currently working on the research for a book,that will be of interest for long distance hikers. If interested in being included,I will send you a questionaire and a SASE . HikerResearch@comcast.net (HikerResearch@comcast.net)

A standing ovation to the previous posts,see you on the trail,Onlyone

01-20-2005, 00:35
3 months of Glucosamine and my 40 year old militarily destroyed knees are loving me. It takes a few months on the stuff, but there IS a big difference.

01-20-2005, 19:16
Well I didn't mean to suggest that a patient disregard the advice of a Dr. or a PT. I was only posting about my personal experience. In my case I am able to control my pain and increase range of motion and strength by my own system of excercises. How can that suggest non-compliance? My trouble isn't so severe that I need to consult a specialist, because I am able (thankfully) to handle it myself.

01-20-2005, 20:29
trekking poles are one thing that can help and taking some ibuprofen at bedtime and when you first get up. When you first start out for the day take it slow and let those old joints warm up then pick up the step.

I know how you feel because I am starting to get the same problem in one hip...the same one I watched my dad favor...gee thanks dad:rolleyes:

01-20-2005, 21:01
Tamstan,sorry it was the comment by gravityman,about people who won't do their exercises at home,that I meant to refer to.Oo

01-21-2005, 18:29
I second the glucosamine (with condroiten [sic]) & perhaps go to the therapist, learn the exercises, then do them yourself at home.

On the trail, you may want to go with the thickest ie: heaviest sleeping pad you are willing to carry (or thicker) as sleeping on the hard ground will agrivate any hip problems you may have. During the day, take ample "POBOBs" (Pack Off, Boots Off Break) & don't push till it hurts. Remember that pain is your body trying to tell you you are damaging something. On a thru hike you will hurt anyway, , , A lot, , , sot don't let it stop you, just be aware of what is "normal" pain & what is a "hey stop stupid!!" message, then listen to it.


Pooja Blue
01-22-2005, 08:30
Much of my hip pain was alleviated with a pair of good-fitting orthotic shoe inserts, made by a physical therapist and later a podiatrist. You might try going that route, but if you do, get them done professionally, not by a clerk in a shoe store.

02-12-2005, 00:39
Thanks for all the replies.

I went to a physical therapist for a visit. $150 for first visit (!!!) but it was helpful. He explained a lot more than my doctor about joints, etc.

He gave me some exercises. Not too many. some stretching, some range of motion.

Big problem is that it came on quickly and is already moderate. Evidently moderate has a different meaning when dealing with arthritis, because moderate is quite bad.

Not at the hip replacement point yet, but because of the rapid onset, it may be an issue.

Therapist was very concerned about hiking the AT, but that's the way it is. I doubt my hip will be much better next year :(

He had a book from which he showed me a few pictures. ARTHRITIS OF THE HIP AND KNEE, AN ACTIVE PERSON'S TAKING CHARGE by a guy named Allen. I ordered it and another book form Amazon.

March 20. 5 weeks!

02-12-2005, 01:14
I wouldn't be so sure that the onset of arthritis was all that rapid. The human body has a tendency to compensate for quite some time for any insult. Personally, I was shocked to read my own MRI with severe arthritis in my back, even though I don't have much back pain - mainly restriction in range of motion.

I agree that you may want to take the opportunity for a long distance hike while you are in generally good health, but follow advice regarding self care and avoidance of injury and exascerbation of current injury.

Good luck!