There is no other adrenaline rush like the one that comes from skiing on a 14er. With the wind in your face, the speed of the ride, and the thrill of the unknown, every inch of the body feels no pain as you move down the mountain. But, once the ride is over and relaxation sets in, pain rears its ugly head - especially in the knees.
No one wants to be kept from their favorite activities due to knee pain. Fortunately, it is possible to overcome knee pain after skiing and get back to the slopes with little to no delay.
Common knee injuries for skiers
Despite the upgrade in ski equipment, especially boots and bindings, knee injuries continue to happen. According to research published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, there are several common knee-mechanism injuries that often happen to downhill skiers of all ages and ability levels:
- Valgus-external rotation
- ACL Hyperextension with or without internal rotation
- Boot-induced mechanism
- Outside edge catch
These mechanisms usually result in injuries like sprains in the knee or tears in the anterior cruciate ligament and/or medial collateral ligament. Fortunately, with the new equipment, ACL injuries have actually declined over the decades that injuries have been recorded. These injuries occur when skiers have too much momentum, lose their balance, unexpectedly cross their skis, land awkwardly after a jump, twist in an unexpected way, or drop their hips below their knees.
What about ACL surgery?
According to a study reported in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, ACL injuries, like those that can happen while skiing, are common sports-related injuries. They often limit knee function and can be a predictor of osteoarthritis in the knee, too. People who have ACL surgery elect surgery because they want to return to sports because they’ve heard that having surgery will speed up their return. But, this study revealed that surgery may not be the best option for people who want to return to sports.
The results of the study showed that “there are few differences in the two-year clinical course between patients who choose nonsurgical treatment of an ACL injury and those who choose surgical treatment.” Those who chose surgery were younger than those who did not, but they both showed similar results in muscle strength deficits and knee re-injuries within two years of the original injury.
Try Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is a good option to consider if you want to try a natural healing method. This type of therapy helps to reduce pain and inflammation through various techniques. These include using different types of exercises and massage methods. Many physical therapists will use these techniques to help you get back to skiing and moving around without worries.
Besides providing you with relief, physical therapy also comes with plenty of other benefits. This includes preventing the need for surgery, improving your mobility, and preventing injuries down the road.
Visiting the Chiropractor for pain relief
Overcoming knee pain after skiing may be as simple as visiting the chiropractor. At our chiropractor for knee pain in Anchorage, it is common to see patients who have knee pain from sprains, tendonitis, and arthritis. It is not just for patients with back pain. A study reported in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics looked at how spinal manipulation provided an alternative treatment for people who have muscle inhibition due to knee pain. The study investigated how manipulating the sacroiliac joint would help relieve knee pain. It saw positive results, but the design of the study suggested that further studies needed to confirm the outcomes.
According to a study published in The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, researchers looked at the effects of manual therapy on knees that had osteoarthritic pain. While these were not the knees of athletes coming off of the slopes, they were knees that experienced regular pain. Instead of treating knee pain with analgesics, they were treated with manipulative techniques like myofascial manipulation. The outcomes were positive as those who received the treatment reported relief from their pain while those in the control group did not experience relief.
With studies showing that chiropractic care can help relieve pain in the knees, skiers who have knee pain could turn to chiropractic care. Myofascial manipulation, chiropractic massage, and manual therapy can help bring relief to tired knees after a long day on the slopes.
The R.I.C.E. treatment
In some cases, knee pain can be relieved with the basic R.I.C.E. treatment. This acronym stands for rest, ice, compression, elevation and it can help when joints are sprained. If the knee joint swells excessively, then the R.I.C.E. protocol might not be enough and you should see your health care provider to see if you have done more damage than a basic sprain. The ice in this protocol will reduce the pain and inflammation. When you put ice on the knee, be sure that the ice is wrapped up or that the knee is wrapped.
Resting the knee can help reduce pain and swelling. Compression helps protect the knee joint and gives it support if you have to get up and walk. It also reduces blood flow which will limit swelling. Finally, elevating the leg above the heart will also reduce swelling. If you cannot walk on the injury or if the knee joint looks misshapen, then you should see a health care provider.
Preparation prevents unfortunate injuries
A key to preventing knee pain after skiing is to prepare before you hit the slopes. Skiing is a physical activity and the best way to prepare for it is to become physically active four to six weeks before you put on your skis. Use an elliptical, ride a bike, or start walking. Do squats to strengthen the legs and planks to strengthen the core and back. And, once you hit the slopes, be sure that you are skiing on terrain that is at your level.
While you are on the slopes, pay attention to your form. Injuries can happen even during basic snowplowing, so keep your weight balanced at all times. Remember to maintain proper form with legs parallel, weight forward, and equal flexing on the joints of the legs. You can also avoid all types of skiing injuries by staying on the groomed slopes rather than tackling the unmarked trails. It is also a good idea to be sure your equipment fits and is in good working conditions. Better to be skiing safely, than injured and on the sidelines.
About Dr. Brent Wells
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. has been a chiropractor for over 20 years and has treated thousands of patients. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998 and is a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe and Lifehack. He continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.