COLUMN JULY/AUGUST 2019
Happy Trails! Seeking Relief From Common Hiking Injuries
When I had more time to devote to my hobbies, I was an avid hiker. I’m sad to say that I don’t get to do it as much as I used to, but I find myself at peace whenever I get the chance to go. I have always enjoyed the relaxation fresh air offers down a winding trail, especially along the rail trails that dot Connecticut. If you aren’t familiar, our state is home to 185 miles of walking trails that once served as the booming railway system that ran through our colonial state. These trails are not your typical hillside, cardiac-burner paths. Instead, you will be treated to the Connecticut landscape during a leisurely walk down former railroads. As with any physical activity, there’s always a need for caution, and because hiking often involves outdoor exploring, it’s important to prepare. I always wear sturdy walking shoes and carry plenty of water. It’s also vital to religiously apply sunscreen, let someone know where and when you are going, and dress appropriately for the weather. The most experienced hiker will tell you that no matter how advanced you are, accidents and injuries happen. Always carry a small backpack with a few first-aid essentials so you can be prepared for the unpredictable. I like to include Band- Aids, braces, and rope in this pack, in case I have to secure anything, and pocket knives can be useful tools, as well. Brushing up on standard first aid is a good idea, too. Above all else, seek immediate medical attention for your injuries so you can avoid further problems down the road — and so you can continue to explore! Back in the clinic, it’s not uncommon for me to see patients’ hiking injuries spur on other pain and problems. What starts as an ankle strain can transpire into knee problems from limping, hip aches from the knee pain, and lower back strains from supporting the hip. Soon, patients are wobbling into our clinic with That’s not to say I don’t enjoy those sweat-drenching climbs and hikes through Connecticut, too; they often have the best views!
limited mobility, wondering where their back pain even came from. I often try to get to the root of their problem by inquiring about injuries or past pains they have had. As I deduce what the main issue that caused their problem is, I can then figure
out the best way to treat them. During the process, I can educate them about the communication system our bodies rely on. A sprained ankle that hasn’t healed properly can lead to back pain because of the connections between your back and your ankle. Your spine moves you forward, because it serves as the communication superhighway that makes this all possible. Instead of letting the pain linger, focus on reducing the swelling from a strained ankle. Apply ice to your injury regularly for the next 72 hours, and if it’s more severe or swollen, use a compression bandage for stability for the next 24 hours. Monitor the color, swelling, and pain as you heal. Concussions and shinsplints are also common hiking injuries that can be relieved and mitigated with regular care and maintenance. Be extra cautious when it comes to concussions, as these injuries can have detrimental effects on the rest of your body and its communication processing. Common signs of concussions include nausea, dizziness, disorientation, and memory loss. Consult with your doctor immediately if you suspect you are concussed. Don’t let your pain keep you from hitting the trails this summer. I’m looking forward to finding time in my busy schedule to venture into our local woods, and I hope you will do the same. Happy trails! –Dr. Chris Colby
“Relief today ... function for life!”
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