Over the past year, I’ve worked hard to get my body into shape, both physically and medically. I progressively increased my workload at the gym and out on the trail. I increased my endurance, my strength, and my enjoyment at the same time. I expected to be limited by my strength. Instead, I was limited by my knee pain.
I created a small tear in my left meniscus—a crescent-shaped fibrocartilaginous ligament around/behind the kneecap—on the second day of my 30-mile Art Loeb Trail thru-hike. I’ve had a little knee pain before, but this was bad. I couldn’t sleep that night because of the extreme pain. I had to save my last 4 ibuprofen pills for the morning so I could drag myself 8 more miles to my car.
I thought the pain was due to the mileage and elevation changes along the trail. Over the course of the next two weeks, the pain mostly went away. A month later, I hiked 62 miles of the Foothills Trail over the course of 4 days. By the 3rd day, I could barely walk. I was not enjoying myself. I was a prisoner to my pain.
I brought up my knee pain at a routine appointment with my doctor. She asked a few questions and immediately confirmed my suspicions. I’ll spare you the details about the rigamarole I endured with my insurance company, but part of the path to an MRI scan was to try wearing a compression sleeve for a while.
I bought the Ultra Flex Athletics Knee Compression Sleeve because it was $20 on Amazon and had glowing reviews. It was the best purchase I’ve made in years.
This thing actually works! I really couldn’t believe how effective it was at first. I could tell that the affected area was strained, but that strain never morphed into pain. I started wearing it to the gym, on the trail, and basically any time I felt like I would spend a lot of time on my feet.
My first big test of the sleeve was when I hiked the gorge at Raven Cliff Falls. I crushed the 7½-mile loop in a little under 3 hours with a long break at the suspension bridge. I was really flying.
This image must be reversed; the sleeve was on my left knee.
I felt so good that I got up early the next morning and did the 8-mile Pinnacle Pass/Rim Of The Gap loop at Jones Gap State Park. That was the hardest climb I had done since the Coosa Backcountry Trail and I knocked it out by lunchtime.
Both of my knees are bothered by ascents/descents, but the pain in my right knee has never come close to the pain in my left knee. Still, I eventually bought a second compression sleeve because why the hell not?
I tested both sleeves out at Tallulah Gorge. The climb out of there was very steep and my knees didn’t hurt at all. Like I said before, there was some tension and strain in the joints, but no real pain.
I recently wore these sleeves on a 32-mile loop hike through the Cataloochee Valley. This was the first time in the past few months where I felt fatigue in my legs. That fatigue must have always been there, but it was overshadowed by my knee pain until I started wearing these sleeves.
- This compression sleeve is cheap and effective, which means it fits nicely into the gear nexus.
- It’s not one-size-fits-all. There are sizes. I wear a medium.
- It’s easy to clean. I just toss it in the wash every so often and then allow it to air dry.
- The sleeve bunches and has to be readjusted throughout the day. It still works, but it’s less comfortable. I might not pick this particular product if I was wearing it under pants all the time.
- My first sleeve has stretched a little. I just wear it on my right knee now. I’ll update this post after a significant amount of time to see if that becomes a problem.
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