Most injuries associated with hiking can be reduced with these simple adjustments.
Most injuries associated with hiking can be reduced with simple exercises and ensuring you have the right equipment.
Trekking pole blisters
Trekking poles can be great tools to help with balance and stability while hiking on uneven terrain. However, blisters are often the result of improper grip. Grip design differ for fitness walking and for trekking. Select the pole to match your activity. Always, maintain a light grip which is easier to do when your hands come up into the loop from underneath, not from above.
Knee pain can be a common occurrence if hiking on very hilly terrain. Proper stretching of the hamstrings and quadriceps (the muscles in the back and front of the knee) prior to hikes can help prevent pain.
Some stretches to keep in mind include:
Hamstrings: Toe touch stretch
Stand tall with your feet close together. Bend forward at the waist, stick your butt back and keep your weight on your heels. Reach down with your hands as low as possible, until you feel a stretch in the back of the thigh. Hold for 30 seconds.
Quadriceps: Standing foot grab
Stabilize yourself with one hand on a wall or bench. Whatever leg is opposite of your bracing hand, bend it and bring your foot toward your butt. With your free hand, lift your foot up toward your butt and grab the front of your shin. Pull it in toward your butt. Hold for up to 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Carrying a backpack while hiking can often lead increase stress on the neck and shoulders resulting in pain. To avoid this added pressure, try these tips for when selecting a backpack:
Light weight: Your back pack should not weigh more than 15% of your body weight when loaded. Look for breathable materials, like nylon.
- Thick padded shoulder straps: Thick straps will help add comfort and reduce pressure on the shoulders and neck
- Thick padded hip belt: An adjustable padded hip belt will help provide support and distribute backpack load more evenly on your back, causing less spinal strain.
- Multiple compartments: The back pack should have several pockets to ensure easy accessibility to items but also to assist with weight distribution.
Lower back pain
After sitting all week at a computer, the hip muscles will often tighten and can result in lower back pain during activity. Properly warming up with exercises, similar to the kneeling lunge, to increase hip range of motion can help reduce lower back pain.
- Get into a lunge position, with knee and foot about hip width apart from the elevated leg.
- Keep the chest tall and the hips square.
- To make the stretch harder, you can pull the back leg up off the ground.
Ankle sprains are often the result of not having the right footwear. Select your shoes based on the activity you will be performing. If you will be running on a variety of terrains, such as dirt trails and uneven surfaces like granite or sand you need a trail running shoe. Trail running shoes are low cut and are constructed with soft rubber soles for flexibility while running, thick tread patterns for managing trail terrain, and breathable, lightweight mesh or nylon uppers. Hiking shoes on the other hand, provide a balance between lighter trail running shoes and bulkier hiking boots. They share the aggressive tread of trail shoes but are usually heavier, sturdier and more durable.
More Inspiration: Here’s a great article on building you ankle strength!
Author: Dr. Nekessa Remy is an award-winning chiropractor, a registered and medical acupuncturist and one of Canada’s fastest rising and sought-after health and wellness expert in the industry today. She is the current owner of Mississauga’s The Chiropractic Office, a comprehensive injury management clinic focused on sports-related injuries and woman’s health issues and also runs a practice in downtown Toronto, at Integra Health Centre where she works amongst other leaders in the health care field. Dr. Remy has contributed to Optimyz magazine’s print and digital articles.