Have you recently said no to a trip or were hesitant to go somewhere because you were worried how your bone on bone knee would do? If so, I’m glad you’re here because it is possible to climb stairs, walk for miles, and actually enjoy traveling again! The key is to build strength in the right areas, focus on balance, and prepare your knees for the activities you will be doing.
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What bone on bone really means
When you first heard “you’re knee is bone on bone” I’m sure it didn’t feel great. Those words can be really scary, especially without an explanation of what it really means.
Being bone on bone is not a death sentence although it may seem like one. It is possible to find pain relief even with little to no cartilage.
You see, your body is great at adapting. It finds alternate ways to support the joints and many times, relies more on other structures to absorb stress like your muscles.
Movement is one of the major keys to finding this relief, contrary to popular belief. Movement is actually necessary to get nutrients to your joints, cycle out the inflammatory cells, and to improve stiffness. Oftentimes though, people are led to believe avoiding movement is better 🤦🏻♀️
Look at the power movement can have…
Just because your knee(s) is/are considered bone on bone- does not mean you won’t ever be able to travel again. Once you’re able to dial in the right movements, build strength in the right areas, and feel confident again- you’ll be able to tackle walking for miles and stairs anywhere in the world!
How do I prepare for travel with a bone on bone knee
What’s the best way to prepare your bone on bone knee for traveling?
First think about what you might be doing. For example:
- Will you be doing lots of walking?
- Will you be walking on uneven surfaces (bricks, cobblestone, sand, rocks, gravel, etc.)
- Will you need to be able to do a large quantity of stairs?
- Will you need to sit for a long period of time on an airplane, train, car, etc?
Even if you aren’t sure exactly what you’ll encounter- it probably is best to be prepared for it all. Let’s discuss how to prepare for each of these.
But first, the one universal thing you’ll need is time. Likely bone on bone knee pain didn’t happen overnight so relief likely won’t happen overnight either.
How long you ask? Well, it depends on your pain levels, how long you’ve had pain for, your strength level, etc. I do usually recommend at least preparing 3 months before your trip at the very least.
If you’re reading this now and you leave much earlier than that, these movements can absolutely still be worth a try to make as much progress as possible.
One of the biggest lessons I want you to know before we move into these topics is more movement isn’t always better. Trying to push through the pain likely won’t help your progress.
You want to prioritize the RIGHT movements and the right amount. It can be tricky at first but once you discover this, many doors will open- including one to pain relief.
1. Prepare for walking long distances
Walking longer distances can be difficult if your knee is very irritated. It’s important to identify first what the distance you can tolerate is.
Is there a certain distance or time you can walk before you notice pain? (i.e “I can walk 15 minutes before I really start to notice my knee pain”)
If you don’t know a time or distance yet, pay attention next time you go on a walk and see what this number is- it’s important.
Many people think that walking longer distances and trying to push through the pain is helping progress their strength and ability to walk. Actually- it can increase both pain and sensitivity of your knee.
Continuing to irritate your knee and trying to push through the pain may make recovery so much harder.
For example, if your number is 15 minutes before your knee starts hurting significantly when walking- walk for 12 minutes. Stay under that threshold.
Then when you get back, you can supplement with other movements that will help you build strength in other areas.
The goal is to actually feel good after walking for exercise- not worse.
Try to stay under your threshold for at least 5 times. Then, once you’re consistently able to walk without increasing pain significantly afterwards- add a couple of minutes to your time and see how your knee responds.
Here are some examples of supplemental exercises to a walking program in this post.
It is worth noting that shoes do play an important role with walking as well. I recommend trying the KURU brand before you go on your trip to make sure they feel good on your feet. They are designed to help support arthritic joints. Check them out here.
2. Preparing for walking on uneven surfaces
Balance plays a huge role in walking on uneven surfaces with a bone on bone knee. Rocks, sand, cobblestone, and gravel can pose a problem if you aren’t confident in your balance.
This is absolutely something you can practice and improve upon. It is possible to feel more confident in yourself and reduce your fear of falling, but it does take time and consistency.
This can be a great video to start with. Even if you think your balance is pretty good- it is worth trying this video below as you may be surprised!
You definitely don’t want to be surprised about your balance on your trip! Choosing at least 1-2 balance exercises to do every day for at least 1-2 months before your trip is key. Make sure you continue to make them more difficult as you progress.
3. Preparing for stairs
The dreaded stairs…
It is possible to feel good on the stairs- but you have to put in the work. Even if you don’t have stairs in your home- you can still work on them!
When starting out, I usually recommend getting this step because it allows you to practice on a smaller step before trying a larger one.
Learn the two simple things you need to master in order to be successful with stairs in this podcast episode.
With a bone on bone knee- it’s vital that you don’t try to progress too quickly- especially with exercises on the stairs.
Inside Adventurers for Life, my brand new, revolutionary membership that shows you the path to find pain relief and unlock adventure, has an entire level focused on mastering stairs.
In order to climb up/down the stairs successfully- you have to make sure you have the right single leg strength and balance. Each time you go up or down you are controlling your bodyweight essentially on one leg.
You do have to make sure your bone on bone knee can handle bodyweight movements first before progressing to the stairs.
Here is one workout to start with.
4. Prepare for sitting
Sitting for long periods of time with knee osteoarthritis can commonly bring on knee stiffness. But there are ways you can combat the stiffness even if you can’t get up.
A few simple movements can make a big difference with knee stiffness, ankle swelling, and/or hip stiffness.
In this video below you’ll see some options you can try whether you are in a car, in a train, or on an airplane.
Simply having a couple of these movements to use as tools can really be beneficial at preventing and/or managing stiffness when travelling so you aren’t paying for it when you get to your destination.
Adventures with your bone on bone knee
As you can see, there are ways to begin preparing your bone on bone knee for travelling but it does take time.
Choose one of the strategies above to begin with instead of focusing on all of them at once.
Is being able to walk your highest priority? Or is it stairs or uneven surfaces? Choose the highest priority first then progress to other areas as you are able.
Understanding how to move in ways that don’t flare up your knee pain is really critcal to your success. Progressing too quickly can lead to more pain and can make this journey difficult.
Each person’s experience with bone on bone knee pain is different. If you’re preparing and having a hard time or just can’t seem to get your pain to let up- surgery may be an option but it is a big decision.
If you are contemplating joint replacement surgery- here is an article that helps you decide if it may be right for you. It’s not a cut and dry decision and there are many factors to consider.
I do want you to know there is HOPE! Research continues to point to trying to increase activity levels, make diet modifications, lose weight, and find healthy ways to manage stress before opting for surgery. These natural methods can be so incredibly powerful for some.
I am with you on this journey. All it takes is getting started.
Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be used to self-diagnose and it is not a substitute for a medical exam, cure, treatment, diagnosis, and prescription or recommendation. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Kuhn and you. You should not make any change in your health regimen or diet before first consulting a physician and obtaining a medical exam, diagnosis, and recommendation. Move Well Age Well, LLC and Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, PT, DPT are not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any conclusions drawn, services or product you obtain through this post, video or site. Complete all exercises at your own risk.
If you are looking to regain your active life but are unsure where to start, join the revolutionary membership, Adventurers for Life. This is a step-by-step path that not only will help you find pain relief but will help you unlock adventure. You’ll get workouts, tests to pass to make sure you are on the right track, community events and MORE.