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I tried snowshoeing for the first time this year. I really enjoyed it but had hip and knee discomfort afterwards. I also have had pain after longer day hikes with a backpack. Could hiking poles be helpful?
Snowshoeing and hiking, especially with a backpack, can increase the load on your joints and muscles. Hiking poles may be a good choice for you, as they decrease the load on the hip, knees and feet. Other benefits of poles include improved balance, posture, breathing, stamina, pacing and increased upper body and core toning. Heart rate and energy expenditure will also increase, which could be viewed as a pro or con. Be sure that you learn how to properly adjust and use poles to attain the maximum benefit. A good sporting goods store should be able to help (there are also instructional books and DVD's).
Begin training for your hikes before the season begins, such as stretching, strengthening and progressively training with walking/hiking. Consider wearing a backpack with a light load during training for at least a few weeks prior to your hike. If you will be hiking on hilly terrain, gradually progress with walking on hills. Also, make sure you have good hiking boots that fit correctly. If hip and knee pain persists consider consulting with a physical therapist. You may need a more specific exercise program or other types of treatment to address underlying musculoskeletal imbalance.