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To All Hikers, Read This

Date: 10/19/2020

What to know about hiking-related injuries
 
It’s that time of the year where Mainers lace up their hiking boots and hit the trails. What’s one of the most useful things a hiker can take along with them? An understanding of what types of injuries are possible, the steps to take in avoiding them, and what to do if such an injury occurs.
 
Types of Hiking Injuries
 
From sprains to tears, there are a variety of injuries that could potentially occur, each ranging from mild to severe. Understanding how these injuries might unfold could be the first step toward preventing them.
  1. A sprained or twisted ankle can occur when the ankle rolls inward or outward. This might happen from walking on slippery surfaces, rocks, uneven terrain, or other hidden trail obstacles.
  2. When stress is placed on fatigued muscles that can no longer absorb shock, the overload of that stress is transferred to the bone, causing a tiny crack or stress fracture in the lower leg or foot.
  3. Those who have experienced a prior injury or have weak or imbalanced muscles may be more susceptible to knee pain and joint inflammation. 
  4. Achilles tendinitis occurs when the Achilles tendon becomes irritated and inflamed from repetitive stress.
  5. The plantar fascia, a strong band of tissue running from the heel to the toe, is built to absorb stress and strain in the foot. Plantar fasciitis, the most common cause of foot pain, occurs when this band of tissue becomes irritated and inflamed.

Staying Smart on the Trail
 
It pays to be conscious about how you navigate the trail. The next time you're on a hike, keep the following tips in mind as ways to avoid a potential injury to the foot, ankle, or knee.
  1. Every hiker should invest in proper footwear. That means sturdy, think-soled boots or shoes that will provide plenty of protection and absorb the shock in your feet.
  2. Trekking poles can help redistribute some of the stress on your knees and ankles into your shoulders and arms.
  3. You can strengthen your knees and avoid fatigue by regularly exercising the hamstrings, glutes, quads, and calf muscles. Hiking with a knee brace is another way to add external support. 
  4. Be conscious of the type of trails you’re hiking on. Steep downhill treks will place your knees under significantly more stress because the leading knee is forced to absorb even more impact than usual.

In the event of an injury…

Even the most experienced hikers can succumb to an injury. If such an injury takes place, there are several things you can do.
  1. Safely move yourself to a stable spot where you can remove your shoe and sock.
  2. Examine the foot, toes, or ankle. Are there signs of a fracture? Bruises? Cuts? Swelling? Any obvious sudden deformities? These signs can indicate a more serious injury. 
  3. If you suspect a more serious injury, immediately call for medical attention. In the meantime, wrap and elevate the foot and apply an ice pack if you have one.
  4. If you believe you can safely return to your vehicle without medical assistance, make your way back down using a sturdy branch as a crutch or with the support of another hiker.
  5. If the pain intensifies as you make your way down, stop and wait for someone to get help. Proceed to the closest emergency room or urgent care once you reach civilization. 
 
Northern Light Orthopedics will get you back to moving
 
When pain, swelling, or difficulty walking occurs, it’s imperative to seek appropriate treatment. A serious problem will not correct itself, and prolonging diagnosis can result in more pain or irreversible damage. That’s why Northern Light Orthopedics offers all new patients an appointment within two weeks. Through timely practice and by utilizing the latest techniques and technology, patients are back on their feet and into their hiking boots as quickly as possible.
 
We also understand that every patient and their injury is different. As a comprehensive team with the expertise to address all types of pain and injury, Northern Light Orthopedics takes a customized approach so that the individual needs of each patient are met every step of the way, from diagnosis through treatment. 
 
We’ve also evolved the safety measures at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, meaning you can expect a new level of comfort with your orthopedics visit. This includes a reduced number of people allowed in our reception areas, requiring masks or face coverings, and even the option of virtual appointments that you can take from home.
 
If you’re suffering from pain, swelling, or difficulty walking, learn more about Northern Light Orthopedics care by visiting northernlighthealth.org/emmcortho or by calling 973-9980.