Just recently I am seeing overuse issues cropping up among hikers and especially those doing long distances. Unfortunately hikers sometimes believe the hike is a competition and they need to keep up with the flock. Or they feel the miles they do is too low and they ought to do more. Thus they end up doing too much for ligaments and tendons unaccustomed to the stress. Because of this, hikers end up with overuse related issues that can jeopardize their hike.
Shin Splints – I have seen many hikers developing this issue, usually after long days of hiking, doing
Knee issues – this is probably the most common joint that suffers from overuse. The ligaments around the knee become sensitive to the loads we carry, not only of our backpacks but the stresses of uphills, downhills, and rocky terrain. That plus longer distances puts a good deal of stress on them, leading to pain and sometimes even ligament tears.
Muscle and Body Pain and Fatigue – again, doing too much too soon can lead to weariness in the
What to do?
First of all, CUT the miles! If you are developing an issue like shin splints or knee issues, rest is important. RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation until symptoms subside. Take a few days off. Ice the affected extremity. Take Vit I (Advil). Apply an ace wrap or brace to the area. Search out exercises online to help stretch the affected areas.
Check your shoes. I’ve seen hikers that have come 800 miles in trail runners which are only meant to
do 3-400 miles. Change your shoes, and when you do, make sure they are the proper shoes for your foot type. Good insoles and good socks are important too. And don’t forget hiking poles.
Make sure you are taking in adequate fluids and nutrition. Eating just ramen or potatoes is not going to provide the protein needed to help your muscles recover. Skimping on good foods means your body may turn to muscle of energy, and that’s not good. Eat a well-balanced meal that also contains dehydrated veggies and protein. Also take a multi vitamin. Water is needed to lubricate joints and prevent that achy feeling.
When you are ready to begin hiking again, ease back into your hiking. Do not be tempted to do too much too soon. Or you will be right back where you started. Be patient and your body will reward with with an awesome hike.