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Sports Performance – Hiking

Hiking and backpacking are popular recreational activities that the whole family can enjoy. Hiking has many health benefits from building muscle to cardiovascular fitness. With the exception of some good hiking boots and socks, you can purchase as much or as little equipment as you like. It’s also an activity that you can enjoy close to home or far away. Because so many people enjoy hiking, it’s important to know what the most common hiking injuries are and how to prevent them. Read on to learn how to prevent common hiking injuries.

Foot Pain

Your feet have a direct impact on the rest of your body. When a small problem develops in your feet, the subtle changes in the way you walk will cause a chain reaction of adjustments in your posture and walking mechanics. These changes can put stress on joints higher up in your body and lead to more serious problems, like knee, hip and back pain. Well chosen footwear and custom orthotics designed for hiking will help rebalance your feet, reduce pain and discomfort by enhancing your body’s natural movements.

Blisters

Blisters are probably the most common of the hiking related injuries that people suffer from. It’s important to select high quality boots and give yourself plenty of time to break them in.  If you are planning a long hike, be sure to take several shorter hikes beforehand to gauge if your boots will give you trouble. Wear comfortable and thick socks. Place moleskin or other covers over problem areas before you go.

Applying antiperspirant to areas prone to blistering prior to hiking will reduce the chances of quick onset blistering problems.

Muscle Cramps

Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving performance, preventing injuries and getting rid of those annoying muscle cramps. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective.

Ensuring adequate hydration and electrolyte replenishment is important and effective in helping to prevent cramp. In general you should be consuming at least 8 to 10 glasses of filtered water a day and more if you’re involved in strenuous hiking, hiking through elevations or live and work in high heat and humidity.

If you seem to be prone to muscle cramps and spasms you should also look at increasing your intake of minerals and electrolytes. The minerals that are most important are Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium. Simply adding a small amount of mineral salt to your cooking, (such as sea salt or Celtic salt) will help to increase your intake of these important minerals. Also, chewing two Tums when muscle cramping begins often results in quick relief from those muscle spasms.

Knee Injuries

Knee injuries are not always obvious. Violent foot strikes and excessive, rapid, repeated flexion and twisting of the knee from going downhill too fast are major causes of knee injury. Hitting the ground hard with the foot punishes the knee joint, causing irritation of the joint surface (a mild form of arthritis) and too much joint fluid (bursitis, housemaid’s knee).  Repeatedly stepping down and jumping down also causes irritation and bursitis. Additionally it can cause pain around the joint due to the rapid and repeated extreme flexion of the knee, which stretches the joint capsule and the associated tendons.

Pain in and around the knee joint are signs of overuse pathology, and are a warning to the hiker which should be heeded. In some cases, old sports injuries form the basis, but trail activity can damage previously normal knees.

Cold water soaking in the creek is great for foot problems, and the same result can be achieved for knees by periodically pouring cold water from a cup onto a bandanna wrapped around the knee for five to ten minutes. Knee pain and swelling that is moderate or severe requires rest on or off the trail plus treatment. Do not rely on drug administration alone if the injury is more than mild. A fair number of thru-hikes have been terminated, wisely so, for just this reason.

Shin Splints

The term shin splints is a name often given to any pain at the front of the lower leg. However, true shin splints symptoms occur at the front inside of the shin bone and can arise from a number of causes. Shin splint pain can be due to problems with the muscles, bone, or the attachment of the muscle to the bone. Shin splints can occasionally be mistaken for compartment syndrome. If you find the pain in your shin is unbearable, and your noticing numbness, tingling or colour changes in your foot, start thinking Emergency Room. For on-trail relief of shin splints, try loosening your boots and you’ll be sure to find temporary relief. More chronic conditions respond well to ultrasound and conservative therapies.

Ankle Sprain

Ankle sprains are common injuries that hikers experience. Ensuring that ankle ligament injuries receive proper rehab therapy is crucial for preventing future sprains. If you are experiencing recurrent ankle sprains, your running days are not over. We have developed a program of care that will get you back in your running shoes and back on track. Remember, early recognition and treatment will help speed your recovery from ankle ligament injuries.

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is a painful condition of the tendon in the back of the ankle. The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscles to the heel of your foot. Soaking your foot in a cool creek during the hike may provide some relief. Left untreated, Achilles tendonitis can lead to an increased risk of Achilles tendon rupture.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a syndrome of heel pain due to inflammation of the thick ligament of the base of the foot. A tight, inflamed plantar fascia can cause pain when walking or running, and lead to the formation of a heel spur. Try freezing water bottle and rolling your foot over it before going to bed. This will provide some relief from the inflammation and reduce the pain you feel in the morning.

Arch Pain

Arch pain is a common foot complaint among hikers. Arch pain is often the result of inflammation and results in a burning sensation under the arch of the foot. If you didn’t buy those orthotics before your hiking season…we feel your pain. If the pain is unilateral (one sided) try placing a sock layer under the insole for added cushioning. It might let you finish your hike.  Treatment of arch pain often consists of adaptive footwear, custom orthotic inserts and treatments with ultrasound.

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