There’s still plenty of time to enjoy some fun under the sun this summer. But before the door closes on outdoor play, be sure to apply the tools to easily and safely enjoy without the burden of chronic knee pain.
Alan Eldridge, DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT, a physical therapist at Loma Linda University Health, understands all too well the weight chronic knee pain puts on his patients. He doesn’t believe anyone should limit themselves to a little rest and relaxation due to pain. Though chronic knee pain leaves little range of motion or comfort, it’s imperative individuals keep moving to the best of their ability.
“Patients can experience more knee pain by doing nothing, but can also feel more as a result of too much strain on the knee,” says Eldridge. The goal is to find an even balance in managing chronic knee pain, even when traveling, Eldridge says.
Here are his five tips to safely get around during your summer vacation.
- Know your limits: Though it’s important to keep the legs moving by walking and stretching, it’s even more important to know how far to push yourself, Eldridge says. Feel free to take breaks between your activities. Try walking for 10 minutes, then break, and walk again.
- Stretch frequently: “Motion is lotion,” says Eldridge. The more you move and stretch the knees the better, especially after a long period of sitting. Be sure to take stretch breaks during a long road trip or when safe to do so, walk in the aisles during a flight. Eldridge advises individuals to both extend and flex the knee frequently.
- Speak to a physician: Eldridge encourages individuals with knee pain to speak with a physician or physical therapist prior to any trip. Inform your physician of any foreseen complications — uneven streets or hiking rough terrain — that can make it difficult to walk. They may recommend certain medications or knee aids to use while on the trip.
- Be mindful of weather: Before planning your next trip, consider the destination’s climate. For some individuals living with chronic knee pain, colder weather makes it tougher to move, Eldridge says. While others may prefer warmer weather, such as Palm Springs or Las Vegas. There’s no need to limit yourself based on the destination, but keep in mind what feels most comfortable.
- Pack aides as needed: Don’t forget to pack the ice and heat packs, knee braces or medications as needed for chronic knee pain. Eldridge advises each individual to pack the items that are best suited to manage their pain. “Remember, you don’t want to put extra weight on your knees carrying an oversize suitcase,” Eldridge says.
As always, remember to wear comfortable shoes that provide stability, Eldridge says. Those who recently underwent a surgery, especially knee surgery, are advised to avoid flying. The risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) blood clots in the legs is higher after a surgery, says Eldridge.