Tuesday, July 7, 2015

This Hiker's Knees' New Best Friend

Hiking with bad knees is definitely possible! I've been doing it now for 4 years after two knee surgeries. Actually, the most important thing I do to help my knees take the beating of rocky, root-strewn, steep trails in the Smokies is to use my hiking poles. I could not hike without them! That's why they "sleep" with me in my tent at night when I'm backpacking. If I lost one to a raccoon who likes shiny things, the remainder of my trip would be miserable and unsafe.  However, that's not what this post is about!

I have worn knee braces of varying types over the last four years, especially when I go a while between hikes. If I'm hiking on a regular basis and my knees are strong, I will only wear braces on long steep downhill trails (those types of trail are definitely the hardest on my knees). But, honestly, in the summertime, those braces are hot and uncomfortable, not to mention quite restrictive of movements when trying to climb over or descend rocks or high steps.

About a month ago, I hiked down Welch Ridge and Jonas Creek Trails wearing my knee braces. I was never comfortable that entire day and kept having to stop to make adjustments. One of my knees was killing me, and the brace seemed to be aggravating it instead of helping make it less painful. I finally just took it off all together. After that hike, I remembered a friend of mine who had suffered a hamstring injury while trail running and how she sang the praises of Kinesiology Tape. I did a little internet research and decided to give it a try. I am not suggesting that you do it this way. I would recommend that you ask a doctor or physical therapist about it first if you have knee or other issues you want to attempt to ease. I am impatient though and my knee was really hurting. I bought some KT tape and watched several online videos on how to use KT tape to support the knee and relieve general knee pain. I put it on my sore knee and immediately felt relief!  My knee pain continued to ease over the next couple days until I no longer put the tape on. Maybe it was a psychological effect, but I know the pain relief was real!

I have placed the KT tape on one or both knees on each hike I have done since that time. I am shocked at how well it has helped me with supporting my knees and eliminating the need for braces even on steep downhill trails like Gunter Fork. I even carried enough with me on the recent backpacking trip to replace it if necessary. It was well worth the extra few ounces it required me to carry.

As long as this trend continues, I will be replacing my heavy, hot braces with this tape. It is certainly working for me!

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