ZocdocAnswersWhy do I experience sudden pain in my knees after taking a long hike?

Question

Why do I experience sudden pain in my knees after taking a long hike?

I am 58 years old and physically fit. The knee pain generally subsides after I rest for awhile. I find that it's very irregular. It doesn't seem to happen every time I walk. I can hike three miles without difficulty. It often happens when I am hiking on an incline, rather than flat ground. When the pain occurs, I can barely walk on it.

Answer

I am sorry to hear that you are having this knee pain, and congratulations on staying physically fit and active! The fact that the pain is irregular and does not occur all the time is encouraging, in that this mean that you probably do not have a serious nerve problem. Nerve pain coming from a pinched nerve or other problem in the spine is typically more or a numbness or tingling or radiating pain, rather than simply pain localized to the knee like you are describing. However if you do begin to experience symptoms like this or if you have any weakness of the muscles in the leg, you should see your doctor about this. It seems more likely that what you are dealing with is arthritis if the knee. You are the right age to begin to have problems with this. The pain does tend to come and go in an unpredictable fashion, although it does tend to worsen with age. Simple treatments for this age related arthritis, called osteoarthritis, include simple antiinflammatory medicines like ibuprofen, knee bracing, rest, and ice. In more advanced cases, you may want to consider injections of steroids into the joint and, finally, definite joint replacement surgery, but it does not seem like you are to that point yet.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.