Hiking can be a wonderful activity that provides a full-body exercise while experiencing beautiful nature. However, injury is one of the few drawbacks of hiking. Whether you’re trekking for many miles through the wilderness or just taking a brief hike in the park, injury can occur.
Many hiking injuries are preventable. If they occur, they can also be treatable. Being aware of the most common hiking injuries and how to avoid them is information all hikers should be aware of:
Walking vigorously or up an incline can result in knee pain. This can be prevented by stretching regularly, specifically working on your hamstring muscles and quadriceps. Using trekking poles while hiking is also an option, allowing for a more even distribution of weight each time you take a step.
Although usually not a serious problem, blisters can be a big nuisance that can make walking unenjoyable. Applying medical tape on problem areas before hiking is a great way to prevent blisters. Trekking poles can also prevent them. If you happen to get a blister, wash the blister with warm water and soap and swab it with iodine.
Try and leave it intact, but, if it’s too painful, puncture the blister with a sterile needle and apply an ointment like Vaseline before covering it with a nonstick bandage. Unbroken skin provides a natural barrier to disease, so sometimes a bandage is all that’s needed.
Due to a variety of hiking possibilities, from walking unevenly to wearing a backpack while hiking, back injuries can occur. Most back issues require medical attention since stretching may aggravate the injury further. Medication, lifestyle change and physical therapy are all options, in addition to potential therapy if pain persists.
Some back injuries can be too painful to even continue hiking. A slipped disc, called Spondylolisthesis, is when a vertebra slips out of position and puts pressure on the spinal cord nerves. The pain for this is among the most debilitating for back conditions, often requiring spinal fusion or decompressive laminectomy.
A hiking trail can be host to a variety of bugs, with various types of potential disease. Ticks are among the most common in certain areas, especially the East Coast, where 2017 seems poised to be a record year for their infestation. Gnats and mosquitoes remain common pests, as well.
A variety of repellents can be used, from natural products to something more serious, like products that contain DEET, which one-third of the U.S. population uses. Head nets and long-sleeved clothing are also good precautions. If you get bit, use calamine lotion to help resist the urge to itch, as well as keeping an eye out for disease-specific symptoms.
Some hiking trails have enough shade to make sunburn a non-issue, though in certain weather conditions sunburn can be unavoidable without extra precautions. Sunscreen lotion is always a good bet, though it’s also possible to wear a visor, long sleeves and pants. If you get a sunburn, aloe vera is a great way to soothe the skin.
Although these injuries can present themselves during and after hiking, having knowledge of how to prevent and treat them can significantly curb these injuries’ frequency and severity.
Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington