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Understanding Soreness and Pain
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Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Understanding Soreness and Pain on 09/22/2013 13:03:24 MDT Print View

Ok, so I'm young. There are a lot of people who are older than I am who experience soreness and pain. I am invested in making good decisions now so that I'm less sore when I'm 40, 50, 60 years old.

I bought trekking poles, and I use them most of the time, but the ONLY reason I do so is fear of wearing out my knees later in life. One of my mentors, David Eve, had to have an extensive knee surgery last year because of all the backpacking he did when he was my age. I am completely 100% pain-free even after long miles (well, my joints anyways.) Muscles get tired and a vein tumor in my foot hurts sometimes, but my knees, ankles, hips, lower back, neck, and shoulders don't have an ounce of pain. I spend most of my day in Vibram Five Fingers, and my hikes in regular hiking shoes.

I've never gotten an ankle injury, although I do roll my ankles from time to time hiking. I've never dislocated anything. I've also never torn any ligaments or tendons and my flexibility is fine.

I can sleep on hard ground with no pad and still get a good night's rest, although I use a cut-down torso Zlite for a bit of comfort. I don't use a pillow most of the time. This isn't just for camping- I've taken to using the Z-lite on a regular basis. I just lay it down and go to sleep in my own house. It's no different in terms of sleep quality from a mattress and it's a helluva lot less finicky, and I read that floor sleeping is good for posture.

A BPL member here once, who I believe was a doctor, told me that if I haven't felt any pain yet, I likely won't just develop it out of the blue. Maybe I've got good genes?

So... I'll use the poles if the much wiser people here tell me I should use the poles. But at 23 years old with almost two years of running and backpacking, and a decade of cycling, I would love to stop worrying about future pain and listen to my body in the moment.

So... do I need the poles?

Interested in feedback,

P.S. I have a bad vein malformation in my foot. From age 15 to 21, I didn't run or hike or walk long distances from the pain. I did bike all the time, so I never got out of shape. Three surgeries later, I can now run and hike and walk, and it's getting better. Next surgery, I'm hoping to recover and step up from frequent 3-day hikes up to week or month-long backpacking. I can do 20 miles in a day, I just can't do it more than a couple days in a row without a lot of pain.

I only mention this part because I'm not sure if years of relative inactivity is relevant.

Valerie E
(Wildtowner) - M

Locale: Grand Canyon State
Ah, youth! on 09/22/2013 14:31:40 MDT Print View

Keep the poles.

Unfortunately, how you will age is impossible to predict fully. You should be able to get some indication from how your parents/grandparents fared as they aged (but they are not "you"). And extra precautions (like using trekking poles to minimize impact) are an excellent idea.

However, how you feel now may not be indicative of how your joints/connective tissue, etc. will perform in the more distant future.

In my 20s, 30s, and even in my early 40s, I rarely had any pain (I was an adventure racer until age 41!); but now, in my mid-50s, I have some serious lower back disk problems, caused by genetics + a lot of wear and tear from many years of training/racing. I still do most of the stuff I enjoy, but unfortunately, pain is now an unavoidable fact of life for me.

IMHO, keep doing what you love, take reasonable precautions, don't ignore any injuries, and take good care of yourself overall. The future will largely take care of itself, and even if you have pain later in life, you'd be surprised at how much you can still accomplish!

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Genetics on 09/22/2013 14:39:29 MDT Print View

Ok, good info! My genetics look good. On my mother's side (her and her siblings), there's 5 healthy adults including a marathon runner and a professional sailor. My grandparents are both still heartily active, walking daily, living relatively pain-free. My grandmother never stops moving, she's a decade away at least from relaxing. Crazy woman! Board of Directors for U.S. Sailing and ten other things besides.

Both my parents are still up and at 'em, too.

The only things it looks like I have a genetic propensity for is hearing loss and obesity, and I'm not feeling the latter at all. I do have terrible hearing... Can't win them all.

Edited by mdilthey on 09/22/2013 14:41:35 MDT.

Eric Osburn
(osb40000) - MLife
Lifestyle on 09/22/2013 14:44:01 MDT Print View

I'm not a doctor or physical therapist so take my own personal experience with a grain of salt but here goes.

Up until I was 28 I never had joint pain or even discomfort. I've always been active in mnt biking, hiking, weight lifting.

After college I started working in I.T. and due to the nature of work, getting married and having kids, I gained about 20lbs over the course of a little over five years.

My weight is stable now and I've actually started losing fat while keeping muscle. The worst part about the physical tole of the past five years isn't the fat, it's the sore joints, particularly my knees and ankles while backpacking.

If I can drop 15lbs I know most of my joint problems will go away, especially with the training schedule I've adhered to over the past year.

I use trekking poles and they are a huge relief, especially while lugging 40+ lbs on my back. I plan on using poles for the rest of my life simply because of the support they offer and the stress they take off my joints.

Lifestyle is 50% of the equation, genetics is the other half. If you're hard enough on your body over time it doesn't matter how good your genetics are, you'll develop pain and injuries as you age. I think looking towards the future is wise.

Edited by osb40000 on 09/22/2013 15:12:03 MDT.

Valerie E
(Wildtowner) - M

Locale: Grand Canyon State
Good Genetics! on 09/22/2013 15:05:31 MDT Print View

Good genetics -- you are a lucky guy! But remember that "god helps those who help themselves" as the old expression goes -- so keep slim, healthy, well-nourished, and don't overdo the sports that involve too much pounding on your joints.

Plus -- what the hell -- by the time you're old, they'll probably have perfected a lot more artificial joints, vertebrae, etc. ;~)

Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
"Understanding Soreness and Pain" on 09/23/2013 11:19:54 MDT Print View

My experience matches Eric's. I had zero problems until I was 28. Then things began to change for me. I used to sleep just fine on a z-rest. I don't any more, and have switched to an inflatable. I used to have good knees. I don't any more.

Enjoy your youth, but take care of yourself. Keep the poles- an injury to an ankle or knee tends to stick with you for good by reducing range of motion and causing long term pain in that joint. Better not to get injured.

Willie Evenstop
(redmonk) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
23 ? on 09/23/2013 11:42:01 MDT Print View

You would have to be unlucky to have chronic pain at 23, wait 5-12 years, then see how you are doing.

Desert Dweller

Locale: Wild Wild West
Understanding... on 09/23/2013 12:42:17 MDT Print View

Lots of good advice above. Overuse in time deteriorates joints and cartilages, so try to stay fit but also use rest as an integral part of health. You will find there is a fine line between doing just enough in exercise, and doing too much. You can find that line by recording your recovery times and heartrates during workouts day by day, and if your heartrates do not recover as fast as normal, its time to back off the intensity/time/distance and maybe rest. Rest is necessary to repair micro tears in tissues, and make drinking more water every day a habit, it keeps the body hydrated and facilitates repairs. Massage and acupressure/puncture for muscle soreness and muscle knapes (knots) if you get them really helps in keeping a body healthy too, as does increased flexibility.
The are not a lot of elderly folks doing extreme sports, but if you find them they are a wealth of information. We all made mistakes learning our crafts, I was very fortunate to have an older mentor, she saved me from doing too much and making mistakes that would have stopped me from enjoying what I do now. And despite having two back surgeries, she still participates in endurance racing.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Understanding Soreness and Pain on 09/23/2013 14:55:24 MDT Print View

I'm finding this thread a bit humerous.
if you want to seriously understand soreness and joint pain ...
take up climbing for 25 years and ultra running for 10, then come back to this thread.

Regarding poles, I have serious reservations about using them to protect your knees or ankles. yes they may protect your lower joints but at what cost ? debilitation of elbows, wrists, shoulders ? I think the legs and their joints are far more capable, so unless you already have knee or ankle problems I'd think twice about poles simply for protection.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Understanding Soreness and Pain on 09/23/2013 15:37:18 MDT Print View

I'd keep using the poles, they may help you avoid a serious injury that will be a problem as you age.

I think you are asking the right question but it's a balancing act for sure... pick your activities wisely and you may avoid pain in later years.

While I live in pain, I am still active. All of my current pain can be traced back to inuries that I had when I was younger. Unfortunately for me, I spent 40 years doing sports that are hard on joints and injuries are common. I've often asked myself whether I should have taken up sports that were easier on the body but the fact is that the activities I did when I was young were a large part of who I am today, so no, I wouldn't have changed much.

As a young person, I wouldn't miss out on the fun and excitement that (slightly) dangerous sports can provide. Injuries will happen. Enjoy yourself when you are young but try to take care of your body because the injuries WILL come back to haunt you.

Staying strong and fit when you leave your 20's is certainly a key part of this (it's easy when you are in your twenties). Keeping fit when you have work/family/life responsibilities becomes very difficult but if you can stay fit and strong as you age, you will have a better chance at remaining active, even with the injuries and pain.

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: Understanding Soreness and Pain on 09/23/2013 16:13:56 MDT Print View

Not to worry... by the time you're in your 60's they'll have bionic arms and legs to replace your worn parts... :)

Bill D.

Larry De La Briandais
(Hitech) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Re: Understanding Soreness and Pain on 09/23/2013 16:40:28 MDT Print View

I’m over 50 and don’t have much for joint pain. My right knee “pops” a lot (from a motorcycle accident when I was 20 something) and can become uncomfortable if I don’t “pop” it. But walking or otherwise using the knee makes it feel better not worse. My ankles need the “support” of a boot (or some sort of compression on the ankle), but give me no problem with that support. Walking down the mist trail in Yosemite doesn't bother my knees at all. I have abused my body while outdoors, but have flown a desk my whole life.

My Dad wore out his hips and knees working to support us. It is one of my concerns.

I don’t use trekking poles. They seem “silly” to me and I can’t tell any difference in using them vrs. not, except that I have to work my arms and have something extra to carry.

I plan to do what I like, the way I like to do it. If that starts to become a problem I will do whatever is necessary to fix it. Even if that means using trekking poles, but I’m not convinced that will make any difference. But, I don’t have any problems and those that do seem to like them.

No advice, just sharing my experience .

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: Understanding Soreness and Pain on 09/23/2013 17:25:06 MDT Print View

Here are a few things that I think may help, though genetics maybe the most important factor:

Regular Strength/flexibility training... (not just pumping iron... moderate strength/high flexibility)I'm thinking of your back and lower joints here... young guys like to build big biceps and shoulders... I'm thinking of the lower body here and not big muscles... strong, but flexible...

Stretching... gentle... regular.. range of motion stuff here

Glucosamine/Chondroitin supplements if any indication of cartilage problems

Work your way up to strenuous trips... start with some short trips to get your body ready for the pounding before harder, long trips

Listen to your body (not some idea in your head or your peers regarding how many miles a day you should do)

Take rest/recovery days... every other day training allows your muscles and joints to recover.

Be smart, use common sense... like, don't jump off things with a full pack... dumb! hard on your back and every join in your body... don't run down trails with a full pack... etc... etc...

If you get a joint injury, take the time to rehab it and slowly get it strong again.

To summarize,
Listen to your body, stay strong, use common sense... take time for recovery...

Bill D...

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Understanding Soreness and Pain on 10/14/2013 20:33:46 MDT Print View

I have been hiking and running since the 60's. I don't use poles. Don't have injuries. Trick is to hike/run often. Don't over do the running. Never get overweight and you will be fine.

Kimberly Wersal
(kwersal) - MLife

Locale: Western Colorado
Re: Re: Understanding Soreness and Pain on 10/14/2013 20:49:44 MDT Print View

+1 to Nick

I am about to turn 55 and have been running since the early 70's. Maybe it's "luck", good genetics, whatever? But I don't have the slightest knee pain and never have (despite arthritis on my mother's side...) I have NO interest in trekking poles-- I can't be bothered to have my hands tied up carrying poles--I like them swinging free. I feel like my nature gait works fine unencumbered by poles--I also wear minimalist shoes-- I spent many years going barefoot as much as possible, so the emergence of the "barefoot" style shoe suits me.

Keep your weight down, eat quality, unprocessed foods, and keep active. Use it or lose it..

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Onion on my Belt on 10/18/2013 23:24:10 MDT Print View

Interesting thread, where you ask us old farts to speak up. You'll find we can't shut up! "Reminds me of when we used to tie an onion to our belts, which was the style at the time..." (--Grandpa Simpson).

Anyhoo, back to the question. I would say THE NUMBER ONE thing that's kept me in the game is:

Physical Therapy.

I've had famous orthopedic surgeons look at my knee injuries, shrug shoulders, and offer me pills, which do nothing long term. I go to the PT instead, he or she gives me exercises and stretches, and the problems go into remission and sometimes just go AWAY.

For anyone who's seen an MD for a joint problem and is still living with it, please, you owe it to yourself to see a physical therapist, who has an entirely different toolbox. (No, I'm not a PT myself. Just a happy customer.)

Edited by Bolster on 10/18/2013 23:26:36 MDT.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Barefooting It on 10/19/2013 04:41:54 MDT Print View

I dated a Kim with debilitating joint issues...

Nice to see some "evidence" that barefoot shoes are a good path forwards, as I am slowly beginning to wear mine 100% of the time. I am now hiking less than 6 miles at a time in them.

pain on 10/19/2013 06:04:22 MDT Print View

Once you are past late 20s you are in a state of decline.
Get used to it.

Things hurt more.
Even sitting still or laying in one position for a long time hurts.

We are pre-programmed to die. Slowly, one day at a time.

Edited by livingontheroad on 10/19/2013 06:07:08 MDT.

. .
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 10/21/2013 12:31:37 MDT Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 07/07/2015 09:57:55 MDT.