"The pain in your knee is caused by your alignment," the Physical Therapist explains as he points to the video he's just taken of me on the treadmill. "The problem isn't your knees, it's the overpronation of your feet combined with your pelvic alignment. You need to change your hiking form."
I stare at him blankly. This is not what I expected to hear. I thought I had bad knees, would be prescribed knee exercises, or told I'd need surgery. My biggest fear, and why I'd put off going to see a doctor since May, was that I though I'd be told to stop hiking. Could it really just be my alignment? Seriously? But there it was on the screen, my knees bent inward at an awkward angle, which he explained caused the knee cap to wear away at the bone instead of riding nicely in the groove (this is called "runner's knee").
After a lesson in biomechanics and anatomy, I was sent home with a series of self-correction exercises and stretches for my hip joints to do several times a day, and instructions on how to change my posture and form while I hike and run.
|Focusing on keeping my knees in alignment|
In retrospect, I don't know why I was so surprised that form and alignment mattered for hiking. Alignment is so central to other types of movement that I do-- in trapeze and aerial fabrics class, our teachers constantly stress proper form. In fact, my trapeze instructor always urges us to keep our chests open when we are doing certain tricks. "Show your necklace" she calls it. This sounds very similar to the instruction from the PT, who says to lead with you chest instead of keeping your head down. Anyway, I am excited to bring that same body awareness to my hiking now that I have gotten some direction about how to improve my form. Concentration on form is something that is a wonderful mental exercise during trapeze, and it forges a mind-body connection that is especially calming. When I direct my attention towards keeping my body moving in a precise way, really feeling the movement, it changes my relationship with my own body. When I concentrate this way in trapeze on my form, it is just about the only time when I actually feel beautiful and happy with my body. Rather than pounding out the hike and throwing myself down the trail, I want to try this new way to be more gentle with it, coax it into place, and see if I have a shift in mental alignment as well.
|Showing the necklace|
I'm still waiting to see what happens when I go backpacking this weekend, but I'm hopeful that changing my alignment will help stop the pain in my knee. If any of you out there have pain in your knee, I really encourage you to stop ignoring pain and get it checked out!