The first incident was getting tossed by a horse. It caused a herniated disc in my back that often causes serious pain. The second was an accident in my own garage. I tripped over a floor jack and shattered my knee…into six pieces.
Recovery hasn’t been a smooth road. It has taken longer than I liked to get my knee into some semblance of usage, but it works. The back still complains, and shoots pain through my hips and down the backs of my legs. You’d think hiking would be the last thing I wanted to try. It isn’t. I like hiking. I just had to find a way to do it.
Hiking Staff: This has been a Godsend. It provides an extra bit of stability on sandy paths. As long as it and one leg are firmly planted, the few times the other leg has slipped have not resulted in a fall. It takes a lot of the fear away from my favorite exercise program.
Flat Hikes: While no trail that I know of is truly flat, many local trails have a variety of difficulty levels. I’ve now been to three regional parks that have trails I can safely use. They range from a quarter of a mile to about a mile and a quarter. Until I get a little more in shape, that’s about all I can do.
The flat tracks are more for my knee than my back. Those with knee problems should be aware that hiking downhill is not a good plan. It can easily create some serious pain and in some cases, further damage.
Stop if Needed: When it starts to hurt, stop for a while. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. I can tell you from my own experiences that sciatica will get worse and last longer if it’s not dealt with by cessation of the activity causing it. A fifteen minute breather can make a big difference in how you feel later. The trails near Simi Valley have segments where you can get back to your vehicle quickly if you need to call off the rest of the hike. It would be wise to see if trails in your area are the same.
It’s not a Race: The faster you try to walk the more likely you are to reinjure yourself….or fall and cause a whole new set of problems. Take your time. If the going is slippery, make sure each foot is firmly planted. If you’re following my staff advice, make sure a foot and the staff are firmly planted. It may take you longer to get through the trail. It may make your hiking partner (a must for any hiker) a little annoyed. It’s a lot better than hurting yourself.
Water: Yes, all hikers should carry water. Disabled hikers should make sure there’s plenty of it. I end up mouth breathing, sometimes due to being out of shape and sometimes due to stabs of pain. This dries out mouth tissue and it can get to the point of causing nausea. Believe me, been there; done that.
Some of the information in this article, such as hill climbing and knee injuries comes from my doctor. Most of it is from personal experience. My suggestion to you is that you consult your doctor about how to hike safely if that is your goal. One of the most important questions to ask is whether or not a hike will cause further harm. If the answer is “no” and you’re willing to put up with some pain, there are ways to bring it back into your life.