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Usually I have a walking stick with me. But this time around I didn't have one along. With the hot and humid weather adding to the woes, we were going up a seemingly unending ascent.

The constant ascent was a worry for my knees, so being tired I started putting my hands on the knee while taking an upper-step, and that went on for the whole day. The overall experience made me think that putting a hand on the knee on an upper-step helps to keep going on an ascend.

The following night knees were in pain like never before.

Does this exert knee?

  • 3
    My guess is that it's "easier" because you are transfering some of the effort to lift your upper body from your thigh to your arms. However you are also exerting that force through your knee at an odd angle; Essentially you are applying that force straight to the joint rather than through the supporting muscles. (as a comment, not an answer because this is just my speculation). – Russell Steen Feb 16 '15 at 18:55
  • not sure if it is healthy or not, but I can confirm that some long-distance trail runners do this during ascents not steep enough to grab something else. The difference there may be they don't have a heavy pack on their backs. Without my poles or at least a walking stick I think I would go home, knees can't take it anymore. – Justin C Feb 18 '15 at 16:04
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    @JustinC-Runners are notorious for doing all sorts of things to their bodies that just wreck your joints, like running long distances... The human body was not designed to run marathons, there comes a point for all runners where the muscles are too fatigued to hold it's joints together, and that's when injuries begin to set in. The reason they do the knee press thing is because it saves their muscles, but at the expense of their joints. – ShemSeger Feb 18 '15 at 17:30
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Pressing on your knees will relieve some of the stress on your muscles, giving you additional endurance on a climb, but it puts unnatural stress on the joint.

Without going too deep into the specifics of the anatomy, you have four muscles in your "quad" that attach to your patella, which is attached to your tibia (shin) via the patellar tendon. enter image description here

It is your muscles that support the structure of your knee, when you apply pressure to the top of your knee, you are applying pressure from a direction that the knee is not designed to take it, this can cause patella maltracking, as well as put lateral stresses on you meniscus and ligaments (ACL, PCL).

This is not an issue if you only do it in moderation (help you get up that last step), but over time, especially if your muscles are already fatigued, it can cause serious injury.

Your best friends are now a pack of ice and an a chair. You need sufficient rest for your knees to heal. These musculoskeletal injuries are the kind that are notorious for reappearing if you don't give them adequate time to repair themselves. You need to rest beyond the point of your knees feeling better in order for them to heal fully.

Don't forget your walking stick next time. Consider investing in hiking poles, they look kind of dorky, but they undeniably save your legs on long hikes.

  • 3
    Be a little careful with walking sticks. I recently took two sticks to save me knees on a 24 endurance hike. I don't normally use two sticks. I found that it actually ended up injuring my knee. I think just being unused to them, maybe using them wrong also, put pressure on parts of my knee that were unused to the strain. In the end I abandoned the sticks as it just hurt less. – user2766 Aug 17 '15 at 11:54
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    Actually, the ice pack that the chair may not be in your best interest. Recent research indicates "tendons don't like rest or change". Similarly, "it's hard to say if ice has any long-term beneficial effect on tendinosis". From what I've read, these modalities are good for reducing inflammation and allowing the tendon to heal just after an acute injury, but are simply treating pain, not healing the tendon, after a max of 2 weeks. – user3522 Aug 17 '15 at 22:33

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