Have you ever experienced knee pain on holidays? It can from nowhere, give you pain at the most unexpected times and then you are worried about doing too much.  A common problem that can be avoided.

Travel can often involve negotiating more stairs than you would normally come across at home. Stairs at airports, up and down to train stations, upstairs to museums, stairs to the accommodation – stairs everywhere! Subjecting knees to more steps and stairs and loading them up repeatedly can lead to knee pain which we know can make your travels miserable!

Understanding how the knee works helps to know why this problem can occur. The knee is essentially a hinge joint and doesn’t like load bearing with twisting forces. Shoes with no arch support can make the knee turn slightly inwards. Weakness around the hips or the quads muscles at the front of the thighs can also lead to the knee turning slightly inwards. If this is happens only a couple of times, then usually there isn’t a problem. However, if this happens repeatedly then sometimes the tissues around the knee become inflamed and painful. Going up and down stairs will exacerbate the problem because it requires more strength of the muscles supporting the hips and knees and compromises the knee joint. The knee joint becomes painful – often on the inside and front of the knee and that leads to more knee pain as the muscles don’t work well. A vicious circle of pain that is difficult to deal with when you are travelling.


Three ways to help keep your knees feeling strong and pain free when travelling


  1. Have good arch support with well fitted shoes when you travel. Practice walking in your travel shoes at least a month before you plan your journey and gradually introduce steps, stairs and hills into a daily walk at least 3 months before you travel.
  1. When you are going up and down steps make sure your knee is in line with your feet. Remember the hinge joint – it needs to be well aligned to function and operate well. Ideally, the centre of your knee cap (patella) should be in line with your 2nd toe as you go up a step.
  2. Prepare your leg and hip muscles for more load to get them stronger with a few targeted exercises.


Two exercises you can use to strengthen your leg and hip muscles


1. Squats 

  • Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart and your arms out in front of you and held horizontal to the floor.
  • Bend your knees and hips pushing your hips back behind you and leaning your body forwards, as though you are about to sit on the chair. Make sure you are bending from the hips not the back.
  • Do not allow your knees to travel in front of your toes. Keep the middle of your knee cap in line with your 2nd toe. Keep your weight on your heels, not your toes.
  • At the bottom of the squat, tense your buttocks, lift and straighten back up to the start position.
  • Look ahead in front of you throughout the movement.
  • Repeat x10
2. Step ups
  • Stand next to a sturdy chair, box or step. Place one foot onto the chair or box and step up with one leg. Bring both feet together on the box or chair with both legs straight and staying tall. Step back down and then repeat with the other leg.
  • The higher the chair/box or step – the more difficult the exercise


Happy travels, Deb.