Tips to avoid hiking spills

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Hiking in Arizona (Source: KTVK) Hiking in Arizona (Source: KTVK)

Hiking is great exercise and being outdoors surrounded by nature’s beauty, can help stress melt away. Normal overuse problems are sore feet or blisters, but when a fall happens it can cause injuries such as a broken wrist, ankle fracture, a cartilage tear, shoulder dislocation or ligament tear.

Dr. Eric Eifler is a Valley orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist who sees patients at Valley Bone and Joint Specialists after they take a hiking tumble causing those exact injuries, but he says there are seven simple steps you can take to prevent a bad fall in the first place.

Strengthen your balance

Good balance is key to navigating the unstable surfaces you encounter during hike, so in your exercise routine, find ways to challenge your balance and strengthen your quads. Your quads have a big job to do protecting your knees on a hike and when they are strong they help absorb the shock to your knees. He suggests putting your back against a wall and doing “wall sits” or practicing yoga moves where you balance on one leg.

Hydrate for muscle strength

It’s vitally important to stay hydrated so you don’t get thirsty or suffer heat illness but did you know water also helps your muscles work more efficiently on a hike? Water or sports fluids assist with muscle recovery after the hike as well.

Bring brain food

A brain deprived of nutrition has a harder time helping you make decisions that will keep you safe and wobble-free. The brain does not function well when your body is on empty, so bring healthy snacks such as nuts, energy gels or dried fruits to keep your blood sugar strong and your brain and body in peak form.

Stay grounded

The proper supportive shoes or boots are the foundation for helping you avoid a serious injury. You should never hit the trail without a sole that has grip providing good traction.

Don’t skip stretching

Dr. Eifler says it is well worth the extra time it takes to send a signal to your body that your limbs, joints and muscles are going to be doing work. You do this when you perform stretches. By stretching, your muscles are lengthened and that will help you better respond to any surprises on the road.

The deception of downhill

The uphill climb may make you more winded and takes the most physical effort, but for injury prevention, it is the descent you must pay close attention to. It causes more stress on your knees, joints and body when you are heading down a trail because gravity is pulling you down the hill faster than you want to go.

Good soreness vs bad soreness

Using different muscle groups may cause soreness indicating a great workout but   pay attention to pain that is very achy or sharp or lasts more than a day or two.  If you stepped funny and feel a twinge in your foot, knee or shoulder or you think you strained a muscle, don't keep going. Ignoring an injury could make it worse. Throw in the towel, turn around, and try again after visiting with a medical professional.

Dr. Eifler performs shoulder and knee arthroscopy, knee ligament reconstruction and advanced cartilage restoration including biologic treatments and allograph transplantation. He treats all aspects of shoulder disorders including dislocation, separations, and labral and rotator cuff tears.
For more information visit

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