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    Question Knees - Aid and Prevention ???

    I'm only pretty sure that my thru-hike planning and thoughts are drifting farther away from the norm day by day... Does everyone get this obsessive before their hike or am I just bat ***** crazy?

    Nevermind, don't answer that.

    It seems that knee issues are a big problem for some people starting out NoBo. After a rather abusive life of contortion, high impact landings, and just bad habits, my knees just ain't what they were 20 years ago. I don't have problems with them daily, but once in awhile... Well, anyway, I've scheduled a visit with the Ortho to consult on some stuff, like soft supports or even braces if necessary. My wife is a runner and abuses her knees ruthlessly, and this guy is top notch at taking great care of her, so I have no doubt he'll be able to advise me.

    But I'm wondering if many people wear braces or supports on their thru-hikes... If so, is it just in the beginning or all the way through? Are there other ways to prepare or condition my knees since Ohio doesn't have many mountains?

    I'm sure hitting the trail will take many adjustments, but the elevation changes (until my body gets used to them) are a primary concern since I will be going from small changes here to larger ones in Georgia and beyond almost daily.

    A visit to the Ortho might seem a little jackass obsessive to some people, but I'm trying to be as informed as I can - thus, giving myself the best shot possible.

    Anyone with information or advice on prepping or maintaining knees for mountains or distance hiking, please share some of that info.

    Thanks!

    .

    P.S.
    I know I ask a lot of dumb questions on here, but I just hate learning the hard way!

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    If you have a suitable location to do so, start conditioning your legs for downs now. It is hard to replicate the stresses your legs will endure via the uneven surfaces of a typical New England down. It has taken some time, but my legs have adapted. Ups are more cardio than downs and downs are more impact than ups. The downs always bothered me more than the ups. A switch was flipped this year. If the terrain is right, I almost skip my way down the downs now. It used to be sheer agony to go down hill. I would be shaking and sweating from the pain. But ya... train for the downs by doing as many downs as you can find. As to braces, I cannot advise. My knees are bad. However, I have been too stubborn to seek aid of that kind for them.

    PS
    Whiteblaze should create a sticky based on the way you post. You are doing it right.
    Last edited by BirdBrain; 08-07-2015 at 16:30.
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    Quote Originally Posted by g00gle View Post
    But I'm wondering if many people wear braces or supports on their thru-hikes... If so, is it just in the beginning or all the way through? Are there other ways to prepare or condition my knees since Ohio doesn't have many mountains?

    I'm sure hitting the trail will take many adjustments, but the elevation changes (until my body gets used to them) are a primary concern since I will be going from small changes here to larger ones in Georgia and beyond almost daily.

    A visit to the Ortho might seem a little jackass obsessive to some people, but I'm trying to be as informed as I can - thus, giving myself the best shot possible.

    Anyone with information or advice on prepping or maintaining knees for mountains or distance hiking, please share some of that info.
    I'm not a long distance hiker - I do weekends and short sections only - but I do hike in mountains.

    One major precaution that you haven't mentioned is trekking poles. I find that they really are knee savers. I don't generally have trouble with knee symptoms apart from acute injury (falls) since I started using them. Before that, I'd have recurring problems in my right knee - a result of a hiking accident in my teen years. It also helps to learn how to use the straps, because that means your hands don't have to grip the poles and you can really lean into them if you need to.

    Another thing is to take things easy until your body gets used to things. Northern Georgia, while New Englanders snicker at it, is pretty tough if you've never hiked in mountains before. There's no shame in holding yourself to nice mellow 8-12 mile days - which won't necessarily seem very mellow at first. You don't have to do 15s out of the gate, and you don't need to do 20s ever. If you can average 15 miles a day, six days a week, you'll finish in less than six months.

    As far as advance prep, I'd say focus on strengthening quads and glutes - you work those really hard on ups and downs, and they stabilize the knee. Strengthening your core and trying to build your balance are important, too. A lot of the knee problems that hikers have is all the little twists that you take when you're trying to keep your balance when walking on irregular rock. The other thing is simply to get used to carrying a backpack. I'm an expert at getting to the trail from the couch, since life keeps me away from hiking at various times for various reasons. One thing that I find helps a lot is that I walk a couple of miles every day with a heavy day pack (a damnably heavy laptop computer, a few books, a couple of water bottles, the whole adding up to as much weight as I'd carry on the trail for a long weekend. That keeps my body used to load bearing, and the discipline of doing it rain or shine is great for getting me to accept that I'll be hiking in whatever weather Mother Nature throws at me. (I get weird looks from the security people at work when I walk to work in a Northeast winter!)

    And get in some backpacking. Do what hills you can, but in any case, learn your equipment and get used to carrying it.

    There's kind of a knack to walking lightly on rock and finding places to put your feet that won't badly roll ankles or strain knees. But that's something your body just has to learn. So once again, start slow.

    And take everything I say with a grain of salt because I've been nursing a sprained knee myself for the last month or so. I'm thinking of maybe trying a day trip tomorrow and starting another section hike in a week or so. It's time to try something, since I'm finally managing to get up and down stairs more or less pain-free.
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BirdBrain View Post
    If you have a suitable location to do so, start conditioning your legs for downs now. It is hard to replicate the stresses your legs will endure via the uneven surfaces of a typical New England down. It has taken some time, but my legs have adapted. Ups are more cardio than downs and downs are more impact than ups.
    I just gleaned a whole lot of wisdom from that. I have read a few times that cardio is a pretty big deal - even heard it when some of the people making videos of their hikes were heading up an incline or just finished one, but I was often too lost in the scenery to think about it. Cardio and downs are about to rotate in to my daily routine a little more. I try to walk a few miles 5-6 times a week already, but need to find some downs I can focus on. I also try to bike around the parks 2-3 times a week, just to keep the legs working (different muscle use, but at least I'm using something.) Need to hit the cardio a little better, too. Wonder if simply doing the incline on my treadmill will help with that. (Wish I could rig the thing to work backwards, and Voila!, down hill elevation at home, lol.)


    Quote Originally Posted by Another Kevin View Post
    I'm not a long distance hiker - I do weekends and short sections only - but I do hike in mountains.

    One major precaution that you haven't mentioned is trekking poles. I find that they really are knee savers. I don't generally have trouble with knee symptoms apart from acute injury (falls) since I started using them. Before that, I'd have recurring problems in my right knee - a result of a hiking accident in my teen years. It also helps to learn how to use the straps, because that means your hands don't have to grip the poles and you can really lean into them if you need to.

    Another thing is to take things easy until your body gets used to things. Northern Georgia, while New Englanders snicker at it, is pretty tough if you've never hiked in mountains before. There's no shame in holding yourself to nice mellow 8-12 mile days - which won't necessarily seem very mellow at first. You don't have to do 15s out of the gate, and you don't need to do 20s ever. If you can average 15 miles a day, six days a week, you'll finish in less than six months.

    As far as advance prep, I'd say focus on strengthening quads and glutes - you work those really hard on ups and downs, and they stabilize the knee. Strengthening your core and trying to build your balance are important, too. A lot of the knee problems that hikers have is all the little twists that you take when you're trying to keep your balance when walking on irregular rock. The other thing is simply to get used to carrying a backpack. I'm an expert at getting to the trail from the couch, since life keeps me away from hiking at various times for various reasons. One thing that I find helps a lot is that I walk a couple of miles every day with a heavy day pack (a damnably heavy laptop computer, a few books, a couple of water bottles, the whole adding up to as much weight as I'd carry on the trail for a long weekend. That keeps my body used to load bearing, and the discipline of doing it rain or shine is great for getting me to accept that I'll be hiking in whatever weather Mother Nature throws at me. (I get weird looks from the security people at work when I walk to work in a Northeast winter!)

    And get in some backpacking. Do what hills you can, but in any case, learn your equipment and get used to carrying it.

    There's kind of a knack to walking lightly on rock and finding places to put your feet that won't badly roll ankles or strain knees. But that's something your body just has to learn. So once again, start slow.

    And take everything I say with a grain of salt because I've been nursing a sprained knee myself for the last month or so. I'm thinking of maybe trying a day trip tomorrow and starting another section hike in a week or so. It's time to try something, since I'm finally managing to get up and down stairs more or less pain-free.
    Well, after reading many of your posts, your advice is certainly welcome. Anyone with experience in mountain hiking has valuable input, whether they know it or not. Seems you already realize that.

    I have poles that I use when I set out on my rabid-runs (trying to knock down a 15-mile day through a long stretch of the metro parks) or when I get an opportunity to hike through some serious woods and hills, which isn't often enough. But I love my poles. Back when I had some back problems a few years ago I could barely walk without wincing in pain. My poles helped me get back in shape and helped me walked distances I wouldn't have managed in three days without them. I apologize for not mentioning those, but let me be clear on that - I love my poles dearly and wouldn't think of leaving asphalt or concrete without 'em. (Plus, they have many other uses!) Oddly, seems a brand new pair of Lekki's are also on me ol' Christmas wish list.

    Take things easy, yes. My pride (and a suspected need to escape any hiking bubbles) has me wanting to tear outta Georgia like Earnhardt Jr., however, from what I've read I am hoping to limit myself to about 8 miles or less per day until somewhere in Virginia (hopefully my body will know when it's safe to kick it up a notch.) A common theme I've read is that people often have their "trail legs" by Virginia, so that's my tentative plan for now. Slow and easy trail immersion. Thankfully I'm not on a schedule or out to break any records, so I have until October if need be. Hoping it doesn't take that long, but I think you know what I'm trying to say.

    As simple as it sounds, I suppose I never really thought to prep the muscles around the knee. Makes perfect sense when someone else says it. Balance is something else I did not take in to account. I generally have fairly good balance, but then I've never done a great deal of rock hopping or negotiating downhill ridges, etc., so I need to find some local ways to work on that, as well.

    As for loading up the pack, I have somewhat of a plan there. I've been trying to increase my walking mileage little by little over the last few weeks, but trying not to rush it, rather ease in to it. My goal is to be doing 8-mile jaunts through the park or even through the neighborhood within the next few months. My tentative plan, thus far, has been when I reach that point I want to start adding weight to that walk rather than distance - and slowly build up the weight to about 30 pounds or so. 8-miles a day should be a comfortable distance so that I'm not going couch to trail, even if it's not exactly mountains. Should I try adding the weight before the distance and work the two up together or does it matter?

    Either way, thank you both for some great insights!

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    Go down an up escalator for a couple hours a day.
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    Theres two kinds of parts to the knee.

    Theres muscles and tendons and stuff you can condition and strengthen

    Then there is cartilage and bone, and the problems that go with that.

    Knee issues related to the former, can be solved.
    Knee issues related to the latter, will send you home for sure.

    The only way to know if you can hike , is to do it.
    An amazing number of people spend a year or more planning, spend thousands of dollars, and never gave it a try first and end up back home quickly.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    Knee issues related to the former, can be solved.
    Knee issues related to the latter, will send you home for sure.
    Wonder how long it will take me if I have to crawl the rest of the way...?

    Sounds a little obnoxious, I'm sure, but there's also some other things going on, so I may never get another chance at it in this lifetime. My family is on edge because they know what my journey means to me and just what I'll do to complete this 2,200 mile part of it. Trust me, I have a long list of useless crap I've achieved due to pure stubbornness.

    With that said... Please, please, please, please, please please, let any knee issues of mine be related to the first one!

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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    Theres two kinds of parts to the knee.

    Theres muscles and tendons and stuff you can condition and strengthen

    Then there is cartilage and bone, and the problems that go with that.

    Knee issues related to the former, can be solved.
    Knee issues related to the latter, will send you home for sure.
    Everything is wrong with my right knee. A motorcycle accident in July of 1980 shredded a third of the muscles from my hip to my toe and rearranged all kinds of fun stuff in my knee. It looks a little funny, but carries me okay. There are times I have to sit down and wiggle my knee cap just to get it to line up so the leg will bend. It ain't stopped me yet. You forgot two things. A pig headed attitude and a high tolerance to pain will carry a person a long way. It is a part of many a person's life. You can give in or scream at the pain, "you ain't gonna' win".
    Last edited by BirdBrain; 08-08-2015 at 10:11.
    In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years. - Abraham Lincoln

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    Not sure if anything will work you you but I recommend the following:
    1. Trekking poles
    2. Ibuprofen
    3. Less weekend warrior and more daily (regular) hiking, only hiking or walking on weekends and none on weekdays isn't good.
    4. When you hit your limit, whether it's 15 or 20 or whatever miles pull over and camp for the night.

    I expected my knees to sideline my thru hike but they didn't. I think the biggest factor was regular daily miles, probably an average of 10 or more for many years.

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    It sounds like you are on the right track. And lots of good advise above.

    Just to reinforce a bit of the above. You need to work the miles at every opportunity. The more miles under your belt the better. It is a really bad idea for a fairly sedentary older person to show up with a pack at Springer and try and walk themselves into shape. Possible but not a good idea at all. Listen to your aches and pains and don't hurt yourself. You are no spring chicken any more and it will take you at least 2 times as long to get in shape as a 25 year old. And if you take a long break like a week from hiking it will back you up 2-3 weeks. Add weight one day and not the next. Gradually increase weights and distance. Find some ups and downs.

    Remember that the muscles come around much faster than the tendons and the tendons faster than the ligaments (yes they get stronger and more resilient too). Bone density also will increase. It just takes time.

    When you start the trail you have the right idea to take it slow at first. One day between shelters at first. The hills are going to hurt you some and it takes a couple of days to find out how much. Very slowly increase your mileage and take a zero/nero once a week for the first month or so but don't overdo them and try and avoid getting yourself so sore and tired that you need 2 zeros in a row. That is not a good thing for older folks to do in general. There is no need to only do 8 miles a day till Virginia. If you just carefully do the above by the time you get north of GSMNP you will be doing days as high as 15 miles per day. When you get to the flatter sections before Damascus and further north in VA you will be able to hit 20 some mile days if you want to . There is no need to of course. But you will be able if you want.

    At your age you are going to have lots of aches and pains. For the whole hike. It is just part of the experience for us older folks. One just has to pay attention and manage them.

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    Here are some things I've taken away from my trail experience:

    1. Trekking poles are invaluable. Can't count how many times my legs just got unexpectedly loosey-goosey towards the end of a long day and I used my poles to safely descend trail that I would have otherwise wound up falling down or best case scenario - butt-sliding.
    2. Downhill is where you need the help provided by trekking poles. You might enjoy the use of poles while ascending and it may increase your mileage for a day, but nobody ever fell up a hill and broke their neck that I know of.
    3. Compression braces can help prevent swelling but conditioning and appropriate use of the body parts is what allows continued usage.
    4. Allowing for recovery when needed is important. Listen to your body and pay attention to the difference between muscle ache and other pains. Muscle ache is nothing too me but other pains should be heeded promptly and action taken.

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    #1 thing imo about knees:

    SLOW DOWN

    It greatly reduces impacts

    Use poles, go slowly on downhills

    Even if you dont have problems, you dont want them to arise

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    OK I have some experience with this… and it's not pretty.
    Knee problems, especially osteoarthritis, tend to be degenerative. Using your knees more to "get in shape" may cause more degeneration, more pain, less ability. This is a whole different ball game than when you were 20.
    What is your body weight? If you are heavy, loose weight, I mean a lot of weight. That's the single best thing you can do to reduce the force exerted on your knees and allow you to last longer. Go severe ultralight too.
    But I don't have much hope for you; the other things mentioned like poles, vitamin I, sleeves, braces, and strengthening are not going to make up for degeneration. And this is one of the main reasons that people stop distance hiking (as well as running).
    Accept reality and forget thru hiking. There's no shame in section hiking, especially if that's all you can physically manage.

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    My knees feel and perform better than when I was 20. I weigh more now but I also subject them to far fewer drastic impacts than I did when I was young and invulnerable.

    Once I started doing trail miles regularly, the clicks, cracks, snap and pops I had suffered from for years all eventually went away. I attribute that to a combination of wear and conditioning but I'll take it any way I can get it.

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    Not mentioned yet: Start cartoonishsly slow for the first hour or so daily. Get the blood circulating and everything well loosened up before putting any notable stress on your knees. And yes; uphill makes you work, downhill does the real damage.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

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    Wow there is so much good information here. One thing to add - is mental & how u pace YOUR HIKE. Sometimes you are hiking and begin to hike with someone else - who hikes faster, longer. Or someone that takes no breaks. That thing to keep up with buddies in the woods comes on b4 u know it. Or you get where you planned to stop and decide its too early to stop. Or you plan to end at a tent site or shelter and it is already full so you - do what? - know you can hike on... and on. Or if the weather is chasing you you walk faster, longer and fail to treat yourself real nice when you get where you wind up. I think someone else already mentioned pack weight, distribution, poles, shoes, stepping, muscle strengthening, sleeping well to be able to make wise decisions.
    Have a great time. See you in the woods.
    CAKE

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    A previous thruhiker/trail angel in Georgia showed me the technique using trekking poles downhill and it saved my knees. Palms on the top of poles alternating steps to absorb shock. Took a few days to consistenly get the motion down and not step with the poles same leg and hand at the time. Best advise I received.

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    I have bad knees from years of running compounded by a few extra pounds. My sport physiologist calls it "rice crispy" knee and turned me on to knee straps. These are straps that go around your leg between the top of your calf and your knee. They keep your knee cap from moving off of the joint. I don't always wear them but I can attest that I hiked the the Napali Coast trail last weekend with them on and have no knee pain at all. The trail starts and ends at sea level but gains almost 5,000 feet in between. My calves are a different story.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gry View Post
    A previous thruhiker/trail angel in Georgia showed me the technique using trekking poles downhill and it saved my knees. Palms on the top of poles alternating steps to absorb shock. Took a few days to consistenly get the motion down and not step with the poles same leg and hand at the time. Best advise I received.
    This alternation reminds me of another thing to avoid going downhill. Many tend to step down with the same leg over and over. I try to alternate which leg takes the big steps downhill. This is only an issue if you don't naturally alternate which leg takes the big steps downhill. I do not alternate as described in the quoted post. I try to have the corresponding pole land just before the leg does to take away some of the impact. I can see some logic in what was described. Will have to try that.
    In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years. - Abraham Lincoln

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    I know the Pope is being petitioned to bless a couple knees in Philly-- you might try to get in on that.

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