What is big deal with trekking poles (nordic poles) for walking?

I find myself encouraging many of my patients to buy trekking poles so they will be more comfortable, safe and stable while walking for exercise. I also receive great feedback from those who heed my advice. It may be obvious that the use of these can improve safety on uneven surfaces and, thus, increase confidence for some people to just get out there and walk.

Research suggests that these poles also help decrease the load to lower extremity joints. For those with knee osteoarthritis, the impact to the whole knee, and inner region in particular, can be reduced and therefore improve pain levels with walking (Fregly et al, 2009). Another study showed up to 24% lower load onto the metatarsal heads (balls of feet) while using 2 poles (Hudson 2014). The lower back and hips are also mildly unloaded compared to walking without poles.

Proper fit and use is essential as overuse injuries can occur, as well. For example, if wrists or shoulders become sore with use then it is important to have a  physical therapist or health care provider assess footwear, gait and pole type. Additionally, there are Certified Nordic Walkers  who lead classes and can make it more fun to do as a group.

Patients in my clinic have gotten off the proverbial couch, walked more regularly, and felt more comfortable doing so. This is reason enough for me to continue to be an advocate for nordic poles.

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