View Full Version : Injury prevention

sweaty yetti
02-08-2010, 01:46
So I think injury prevention is a subject that it on every thru hikers mind. I am particularly concerned about my knees for my march 15th thru hike. Is there anything I can do before hand to help ensure my joints don't go hay wire on me??? Vitamins, exercises, any advice?

02-08-2010, 02:19
If you overweight, lose as much weight as possible. Take your time on downhills.
Vitamin I. Lighter pack weight.

02-08-2010, 02:23
Stop the hike if it gets too painful. Don't walk yourself into surgery/6 month recovery. Live to hike another day.

02-08-2010, 02:32
Get in shape. Now.
Eat healthy. Supplementing vitamins may be a good cheat unless you care to research your diet.
Lose weight.
Listen to your body.
Self myofascial release. (deep tissue massage)
Reduce skin-out pack weight.

02-08-2010, 04:46
Step machine. (before your hike)
Light pack
Learn how to go down hills. (short steps, keep the knees bent)

02-08-2010, 06:40
Glucosamine / Chondroitin!

I ran my 10th marathon this past October, at 42 years old. About a month out I started having an ache at night in my left knee. Never bothered while I ran, always a little while afterwards. My wife does medical transcription for a Dr. who works on a lot of knees. He has always highly recommended this "joint booster," so I gave it at try. Now, I'm the kind of person who doesn't take aspirin or anything if I can help it. So I was reluctant to take this, but the pain concerned me so I gave it a try. 1 pill, 3 times a day. Took one at lunch on day 1, and 1 at supper. NO pain that night. I continued to take 3/day for 2 weeks, then stopped to see how things were. Good to Go!!!

I had purchased a 30 day supply of this. The remainder is going in my pack for my thru starting March 9th.

Note: it's the dual combination Glucos / Chond. that works the best. One lubricates, the other helps rebuild cartilage.

02-08-2010, 07:56
Go easy on yourself, especially for the first six weeks of the hike. It's easy to get competitive with the other hikers around you, and be tempted into testing yourself to the point of failure. The kicker is that you generally feel at your best--invincible--right before the crash. It takes a while to figure out what your actual limits are so you can extend them without taking yourself right out of the GaMe.

02-08-2010, 08:35
Take care to hike with quality shoes. If you tend to pronate, there are particular shoes and shoe inserts that can help address the problem.

If injury becomes an issue, stop and rest. I had an ongoing issue with tendonitis and stopped to rest for three days in Erwin. The pain subsided, and I continued on to Maine. Marta is right - it is easy to get competitive with the other hikers around you. Don't let this be your downfall.

Lastly, I felt these greatly helped (http://www.pacerpole.co.uk/) protect my knees and joints.

Best of luck!

02-08-2010, 08:48
Ron Haven said the three things that would get you off the trail quicker than anything else were:

1- Carrying too much weight
2- Hiking faster, trying to catch up to a someone who hikes faster than you do
3- Failing to rest your legs every 7 or so days

Simple and true. But I always thought "a whiny spouse" should be number four.

Buckeye Hike
02-08-2010, 08:55
I second the idea of taking Glucosamine / Chondroitin! I've been taking it for 2 months now before my March 20th thru-hike. My g/f swears by it when she runs her marathons. As a personal trainer I would recommend the step machine and doing some strength training exercises for your lower body. However make sure you're doing these exercise properly to not cause yourself an injury before you leave. BEST of luck!!!

02-08-2010, 08:56
I'll echo a few of the posters above:

Keep your pace down the first 6 weeks
Keep your mileage down the first 6 weeks
Take a break every hour the first 6 weeks
Take it slow on the downhills especially
Lighten up your pack as much as possible (ideally 15% of your bodyweight)
Listen to your body and avoid trying to push through any pain

02-08-2010, 08:57
What Marta says is very important. As with running, you probably shouldn't increase your weekly volume of activity by more than 10% per week. Of course, you have to break this rule in the beginning, so you have to be particularly careful in the beginning figuring out what level to start at. Daily walks, and weekend hikes, will help you figure out what weekly volume to begin with, and help you build it up to a desirable level.

Ibuprofin and other inflamatories - I would say no, not for prvention. Your body uses inflamation to signal where it needs to rebuild itself stronger. If you take ibuprofin and other anti-inflamatories every day with exercise, you are interfering with your bodies natural adaptation processes to that exercise. Ibuprofin is counterproductive. You need to save that sort of treatment for when you actually injury yourself and the inflamation is excessive, and itself causing damage.

Anti-oxidants - YES. Anti-oxidants found in blueberries, sardines, and other foods either directly reduce the damaging effects of free radicals, or provide the material for your muscles and other cells to create their own anti-oxidants. Exercise creates free-radicals, which cause leaky sore muscles. Exercise will also develop anti-oxidant prevention against these free radicals. So anti-oxidants yes. Anti-inflamatories no.

Reducing excess body fat and skin-out gear and pack weight will also prevent injuries. It does this is several ways. #1, by reducing the total weight on your feet by 10%, you are reducing your total exercise volume by 10% for the same weekly mileage. #2, you are also reducing the peak levels of stress, which are the ones likely to cause the most injury. #3, you are going to be more stable on your feet, so you will be better able to regain your balance and avoid injury. #4, you will have more energy, less dehydration, and more wits about you, so you will be less likely to do something stupid.

02-08-2010, 09:11
There may be something to the glucosamine thing. Studies aven't ruled it in or out, but the stuff does get absorbed by the body, and might get involved when the body does its every day wear and tear building and rebuilding of materials around cartilidge and joints. The other thing I look for when it comes to supplements, is whether or not it is present in natural food, particularly food that might be lacking in modern diets. As it turns out, another yes. It is found in stuff like insects, shrimp exoskeletons, and bone marrow, so it is very possible that it was in more traditional diets, but is lacking in many modern diets. So maybe start eating whole shrimp and sucking on bone marrow, or maybe try some supplements. Personally I am content with a can of sardines every day, as it has bones in it and stuff. Also, I like to chew on bones when I get a chance, and make soup from bones and stuff. On a thru-hike, maybe eat some bugs along the way.

I'm just not a supplement guy, but I am willing to eat bugs. :)

02-08-2010, 10:09
I'm with everybody above, except for taking anti-inflammatories. I'm with JAK on that, and maybe even agree about the supplements. I'm generally not a supplement person, either. I'd rather eat bugs, too. I've eaten more bugs than pills in my life, that's for sure.

Having no idea of your general state of health and past history, it's hard for anyone to make specific recommendations. If you're obese, concentrate on losing weight. If you've never hiked before, do some strengthening exercises. If your pack weighs more than 40 pounds, look at that more closely. All I know is that you say you're 20 years old, and that's one huge advantage! Have a great hike.

02-08-2010, 11:10
I thought the glucosamine stuff was helpful. I'm not prone to knee problems, but I felt a lot less aches and pains the summer I used it.

It's probably not the same on the AT, but on the PCT since the trail tread is so consistent, a lot of people get knee problems from their foot problems. They get a blister or something and then favor their hurt foot. That makes them walk off-kilter which causes knee or other problems elsewhere. The consistency of the trail only exacerbates the effect. So to prevent knee problems you might consider making sure you don't get blisters or let them get out of control.

Trekking poles are another helpful tool.

02-08-2010, 11:15
Progressive resistance (weight) training strengthens muscles and connective tissue. If you build up the muscles & tendons around your knees & ankles, you will have a lot fewer problems there.

02-08-2010, 11:26
So I think injury prevention is a subject that it on every thru hikers mind. I am particularly concerned about my knees for my march 15th thru hike. Is there anything I can do before hand to help ensure my joints don't go hay wire on me??? Vitamins, exercises, any advice?
At age 20 about the only thing that would be no-no is huge miles right off the bat. Youngsters are fully capable of big miles but can break down like older folks if you sprint off the line.

Read a Trail Journal from youngNdum's 2007
http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=204073 to understand what going too fast can do. He broke nearly every "rule" in the book but suffered through the pain and made it. A LOT can be learned from his trail journal.

You got 5 weeks, not much time. I would do some simple moderate strength training to better help your muscles protect your joints. You ARE going to slip/fall/twist and the better shape your leg muscles are the better your chances of protecting those joints.

02-08-2010, 11:39
Don't forget about using hiking poles. They really help reduce the impact on downhills.

I second the part about rest. The human body responds much better when it gets some rest. I plan on about one day a week, until I feel comfortable.

If you take anti-inflammatories do not take them during the day. Wait until you have stopped hiking and you are well hydrated. (your urine should be pretty clear.) Otherwise you risk kidney damage. I do use anti-inflammatories as needed.

The use of glcoc/chond did not help my knee problem. Lifting like Cranium suggested did.

Just fyi, I am 66 and have done over 30 marathons. I have been through several minor injuries. Rest, light weightlifting, and moderate use of Vitamin I have fixed everything so far. At age 20 you will recover a lot faster.

Good luck.

02-08-2010, 11:44
The big thing that everyone above has missed: if you want to save your knees, stregthen your quadriceps!!!! Strong quads help to keep your knees aligned properly and will help prevent the knee pain on downhills that seems to plague a lot of AT hikers (myself included).

The best exercise for your quads and legs in general is probably squats or leg presses. But it's also a good idea to focus on your inner quads, as these are particularly important in keeping your patella in its right place. A good way to do this is wall squats with a towel or pillow between your knees (http://www.twinrinksphysiotherapy.com/Injuries-Conditions/Knee/Exercises/Wall-Squats/a~1084/article.html).

I'd also recommend doing some calf exercises, as these will help keep your ankles strong.

I'm generally skeptical about supplements. The evidence for most is mixed or negative, and they're no substitute for good physical preparation. Good luck!

02-08-2010, 11:53
I'll agree on the glucosamine/chondroitin... When i first started hiking I had horrible knee troubles, especially on the downhill. I was told (by WB) that i was suffering from classic "trail knee." I got a bottle of the supplement and started taking it, and after a 30 day supply, i went for a weekend hike and I could honestly feel the difference. No more ice-pick-thru-the-kneecap feeling!

One more thing that I just did that should make my upcoming thru-hike 10x more enjoyable... I've had trouble in the past with ingrown toenails. about 10 years ago it was so problematic on my right foot that i had the surgery done to remove part of the nail bed. I've had some trouble out of the left foot in more recent years so last month I had it worked on too. If you're prone to any problems like that, then you probably already know how bad the ingrown and infected nails feel, so dont chance it, go ahead and have the surgery. Its not a big deal at all.

Rocket Jones
02-08-2010, 12:41
A simple, do anywhere knee and ankle exercise is to stand on one leg. All the little micro-adjustments you automatically make to keep your balance add up. As your balance, strength and flexibility improves, try it with the off-knee lifted as if you were marching.

02-08-2010, 13:25
I have nothing to back it up but I would think something as simple as racquetball would help with those stabilizer muscles.......as long as you don't get hurt PLAYING racquetball.

02-08-2010, 13:59
lots of great information/advice mentioned in this thread!!!

speaking from recent experience! i injured my knee last march forcing me off the trail and resulting in surgery. i endured 3 months of physical therapy post-op with specific exercises and attention to the strengthening of my knees so i could get back on the trail. without going into too much lengthy and boring detail, the physical therapy had me focusing not only on quadricep strength, but also on the hamstrings and glutes!

some of the more simple of the said exercises were-(and simple might be a misleading term, i broke a sweat after every session!)

walking sideways on the treadmill with a slight incline
walking sideways with a resistance band on a flat surface
walking forward and backwards with a resistance band
squats of course
balance exercises on one leg(this was done on an unstable surface such as one of those 1/2 exercise balls with a flat platform on one side)
stiff legged deadlifts
etc., etc. on and on. just and example of some of the exercises i continue to do after completing my physical therapy.

best of luck!

(disclaimer-the above statements are not intended to treat or diagnose. i am not a doctor. heck, i didn't even stay at a holiday inn express last night)

02-08-2010, 14:47
Keep yourself well hydrated. Cartilage is comprised of 65-80% water and serves to maintain normal joint function. Inadequate joint hydration can cause cartilage to become brittle and limit regeneration, thereby leading to inflammation, and ultimate tissue damage if left untreated by proper hydration.

And stretch regularly to keep yourself from pulling something. Particuarly learn some that can help reduce foot trouble like plantar fasciitis.

double d
02-08-2010, 15:09
Wow, great advice from everyone here at WB! Way to help this hiker out, the only think I would add is this: positive mental attitude. Certainly a good diet, a health amount of common sense, working out about 1 hour 3-4 times a week and a light pack will be a great factor in how your hike goes.

02-08-2010, 15:30
You're 20, so most important is just don't overdo it at the beginning.
For knees, exercises that strengthen quadriceps and hamstrings; they need to be in balance to keep your knees aligned. Straight leg lifts on your back (quads) and on your stomach (hamstrings) with a small ankle weight is the way to start.

Also, use hiking poles, especially going down hills.

02-09-2010, 00:01
Lots of good advice here but I'll also recommend hiking poles - specifically the proper and most efficient use of hiking poles. Learn how to use the straps properly, how to set their length, and walk with a diagonal stride to maximize their effectiveness. Poles can take significant weight off your knees, feet, and legs, reducing stress and preventing injuries.

I've got a page on my web site (http://friends.backcountry.net/m_factor/poles.html) with links to Pete's Poles pages and my own additional comments.

Stitches, AT99

02-09-2010, 00:32
I would suggest you try a simple hiking staff made from a hardwood sapling before you run off and pay for hiking poles, especially at 20 years old.