Central Oregonians love their hiking trails. Once the snow and ice have gone, there’s an opportune window for locals and visitors to hit the multitude of hiking trails our beautiful, diverse landscape provides. Hiking is a crowd favorite for many because of the low impact stress it has on the human body, and it’s an easy activity for a variety of age groups and skill levels. Not to mention the gorgeous vistas many trails lead you to.
Participating in any physical activity always comes with the potential for injury, even for hikers. If hiking is a favorite summertime activity for you, being aware of common musculoskeletal injuries caused by hiking may help you continue down your favorite path or trail pain free.
It’s no surprise that foot injuries are the most common types of injuries found among eager hikers. Injuries to other parts of the body can also occur, but when hiking, your lower body takes the majority of impact. Some common injuries affecting the lower extremities include:
Lower Leg and Foot Stress Fractures
Stress fractures are one of the most common sports injuries. A stress fracture is an overuse injury that occurs when muscles become fatigued and are unable to absorb shock and protect the bones as they usually do. When stress is placed on fatigued muscles, eventually the overload of stress is transferred to the bone, causing a tiny crack or stress fracture. Stress fractures most commonly occur in the weight bearing bones of the lower leg and foot.
Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of foot pain, radiating from the bottom of the heel throughout the foot. The plantar fascia is the strong band of tissue in the arch of your foot, which runs from your heel to toe and absorbs strains and stress placed on the foot each time it is in use. Plantar fasciitis occurs when that supporting tissue becomes irritated and inflamed.
Because our feet and ankles are constantly supporting the weight of our bodies, they tend to undergo a lot of wear and tear. We have several ligaments in our ankle that can be stretched or torn when the ankle is forced into an awkward position. Typically, a sprain results when the ankle is rolled inward or outward. Ankle sprains can range from mild to severe, depending upon how much damage occurs.
The proximal phalanx is the toe bone on each toe that is closest to the metatarsals. Because it is the longest of the toe bones, it is the most likely to fracture. A fractured toe may become swollen, tender and discolored. If the bone is out of place, your toe will appear deformed. Most broken toes can be treated symptomatically.
Achilles tendinitis is a common condition that occurs when the large tendon that runs down the back of your lower leg becomes irritated and inflamed from repetitive stress on the tendon. Pain along the tendon or back of the heel may worsen with activity, and you may experience severe pain the day after a long hike.
If any of your pains or injuries do not show improvement or continue to get worse over time, it is important to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic specialist to be treated properly.