TAKE A KNEE, CAMPERS. HOW TO ALLEVIATE PAIN WITH KAT ENGLISHMAN
Words and Video from @KathEnglishman
Photo: Chris Bennett
Dealing with knee pain while hiking is frustrating to say the least. In fact, knee pain, or any persistent pain on the trail can really suck, and it’s easy to let your mind get sucked into a downward spiral of anger and negativity at the situation—but don’t. Pain is our body’s most effective way of alerting us to something that’s gone wrong; grabbing our attention and blowing the whistle to say, “Hey! Down here!” to avoid doing further damage. So, in a roundabout way, when we reframe it, pain can actually become our friend, and with practice, we can eventually hone our awareness to learn more about it, our unique relationship to pain, and strategies to manage it in the moment.
The next time you experience a painful sensation try this: pause, take a few deep, slow breaths, and investigate the feeling. Notice what you find. Ask yourself, what type of pain is this? Does it burn, pinch, ache, etc.? Take it a step further and notice your reaction to the pain. Do you feel upset, distressed, Then, do your best not to create more tension and breathe into it. While it’s so normal to react to pain with an intensity that matches what you're feeling, I’d argue that doing the opposite—downregulating—is even more helpful. What’s more is that when we learn how to respond to that pain with less anger and frustration, or fear of pain itself, we’re able to gain a little more control. Recent studies on our relationship to pain show our perception of it matters way more than we realize, and if we can stay calm and curious rather than freaking out and avoiding doing things all together, we can make sense of the pain and regain some more control.
That said, there will be times when you’re dealing with knee pain on the trail and the best you can do is to manage it. If your knees tend to flare up while you’re hiking, there’s some helpful info in this video, along with poses to help alleviate knee pain in the moment that I hope changes the game for you! If you are simply interested in keeping your knees healthy or relieving some joint tension when you’re logging miles, this sequence of poses will do just that—and you don’t even need a yoga mat!
Katherine Englishman is a writer and yoga teacher based in the beautiful state of Maine. You can find her outside skiing, hiking, biking, or teaching yoga and meditation for the modern yoga student at Waypoints Yoga