Your Guide to Injury-Free Hiking

Your Guide to Injury-Free Hiking

Before you take off on the trail, follow these precautions to protect yourself from injury.

Hiking is a wonderful way to exercise any time of year. Not only is it a great aerobic, heart-healthy workout, you get to enjoy the beauty of nature rather than being cooped up in the gym. But as with any exercise program, orthopedic injuries can happen if you aren’t careful.

Ankle sprains and knee injuries are common among hikers. Hiking on slippery slopes or uneven terrain may force your natural gait out of sync, causing a twisted ankle, hyperextended knee, torn ligament or tendon, or a bad fall that breaks a bone. So before you map out your hiking trail, take some precautions to prevent an injury.

How to Prevent Hiking Injuries

A sudden injury can cut short an enjoyable hike. To ensure a safe trek, follow these five tips before and during your walk.

Get the Right Shoes. Preventing hiking injuries starts with proper footwear. Specially made hiking boots that support the foot and stabilize the ankle help protect against ankle sprains. Sporting goods stores carry a good selection of hiking boots, so you should be able to find a well-fitting, comfortable pair. If you have a pair of older hiking boots, inspect the tread. A worn-down tread provides little stability and means it’s time to invest in new boots. Ill-fitting boots may also cause blisters that are not only painful, but could also lead to infection.

Use a Trekking Pole. When hiking, rocks and bumps can throw your balance off-kilter. But striding with a trekking pole helps steady your body as you navigate jagged landscapes, thereby minimizing the risk of a knee or ankle injury. Depending on whether you’re going up or down a trail, you can adjust the length of the trekking pole to maintain your balance and take pressure off your knees.

Lighten Your Load. Depending on the length of your hike, you may need food and water to fuel your trek. But if you overload your backpack, you’re likely to tip over and wrench your knee on a rocky trail. Pack only what you need and keep the backpack as light as possible.

Strengthen Your Muscles. To prevent knee injuries, strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint. That includes the hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, and calf muscles. Strong muscles support and stabilize the knees as you hike over uneven ground. You can also add extra support by wearing a knee brace.

Take it EasyMuch of the pleasure of a hike comes from strolling at a brisk but comfortable pace. If you become tired or overheated, it’s time for a break to rest and recharge. If you lose your balance and twist your ankle or knee, rest for a few minutes until the discomfort subsides before you restart your hike. Pain that persists, however, may indicate a serious injury that should be evaluated by an orthopedist as soon as you’re off the trail.

Take Care Hiking Downhill. Going uphill may seem more arduous, but hiking downhill can be harder on the knees. Hiker’s knee, also known as runner’s knee or patellofemoral syndromeoccurs when the kneecap (patella) and femur (thigh) bone shift out of alignment, causing a dull ache at the front of the knee. When going down steep inclines, go slowly, take longer strides, and remain upright, keeping your torso over your hips and knees.

Hiking Injuries? Visit an Orthopedist

Severe knee or ankle pain following a hike should be evaluated by an orthopedist. At Comprehensive Orthopaedics, our doctors have treated many orthopedic injuries and can get you back on the trail!

How to Reduce Joint Inflammation

How to Reduce Joint Inflammation

Pain and swelling due to joint inflammation can often be remedied with at-home treatments and lifestyle adjustments.

When your joints become damaged due to an injury or chronic condition like arthritis, blood rushes to the area and your immune system releases chemicals to fight the inflammation. This chain reaction causes swelling and pain in the joints.

If it’s in response to an injury, joint inflammation may quickly recede with at-home treatment. On the other hand, it may take a bit longer to address the chronic inflammation caused by arthritis.

Osteoarthritis develops when the cartilage cushioning the joint wears down over time, resulting in the bones rubbing against each other. Pain, stiffness, and a cracking sound when the joint moves are all symptoms of the condition. Chronic inflammation caused by arthritis is typically treated with pain medications, corticosteroid injections, hot and cold therapy, and physical therapy to improve muscle strength and flexibility. Depending upon the severity of the joint deterioration, a joint replacement may be recommended.

However, less severe joint inflammation can be managed with simple remedies and lifestyle changes. With the measures discussed here, you can reduce pain and swelling with at-home treatments.

5 Ways to Reduce Joint Inflammation

Here are five methods you can try to relieve your discomfort.

RICE method. If you think your joint inflammation is due to a sudden injury, the RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) method is the first line of treatment to reduce pain and swelling. See an orthopedist if the pain and swelling don’t diminish after RICE treatment.

Oral Medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, either over-the-counter or prescribed, can reduce joint pain. Ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin, and Celebrex are all classified as NSAIDs. For arthritis, you may need a prescription anti-inflammatory.

Diet. What you eat can either increase or decrease inflammation. A diet high in processed foods, fried foods, refined sugar, and saturated fats found in corn oil and margarine is not only bad for your overall health, but tends to exacerbate inflammation, as well. When planning meals, follow the Mediterranean diet principles, which lean toward fish, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, beans, whole grains, and nuts. Limit your intake of red meat, poultry, cheese, yogurt, and sweets. Not a fish eater? Take a fish oil supplement made of omega-3 fatty acid twice a day at a dosage of 2.6 grams to fight inflammation.

Exercise. Although arthritis pain may make the thought of exercise unbearable, movement can actually help reduce inflammation. Talk to your doctor about the best exercises, but following a low-impact aerobic workout for at least 30 minutes five days a week along with some resistance training can be therapeutic. Combined with diet, exercise will lower your weight, which cuts down on the stress placed on your joints — especially the knees and hips.

Reduce StressElevated stress levels contribute to inflammation, as was documented in a 2017 study that found stress markers increased when psychological stress was heightened. Meditation, yoga, biofeedback, and getting enough sleep each night are proven methods to lower your stress levels.

Don’t Suffer From Inflamed Joints

At Comprehensive Orthopaedics, our orthopedic surgeons have helped hundreds of patients overcome the pain of inflamed joints due to injury or arthritis. We offer both surgical and non-surgical solutions for your joint pain.

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