Although walking is an activity that is low as opposed to high risk for injury, injuries can occur as a result of a stumble, trip or fall and also over time due to bad habits. Plus the things we mentioned in Part 1 like wearing the wrong shoes and sometimes irritation that develops.
We are going to cover some of the most common injuries here so that you recognise the issues or challenges that you potentially are facing. I am not a doctor or physical therapist so will not be diagnosing nor in most cases suggesting treatment. Some of these I have had and I may add what I have done BUT the important thing for each and every one of you is to seek professional help so that you can get on top of this and solve the issue allowing you to get out there walking again ASAP.
The most common issues range from strains and aches, to fractures, muscle tears, and bruising.
Shin Splints (medically referred to as Medial tibial stress syndrome – MTSS)
Here pain/discomfort/tenderness will occur when walking along the tibia, the long bone in the front of your leg. It happens because there is too much stress or force being placed on this. This may happen if you are doing a lot of walking on hard surfaces or it may be caused by an issue in the arch of your foot. I have had this myself, I had some physio but the biggest component for me was rest, not what I necessarily wanted but it did the job.
Sprains and strains
These are common injuries that can be caused most often when walking by going over on your ankle, twisting your knee or falling and jarring your body. A sprain is a stretch or tear of a ligament, whereas a strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon. Swelling is likely to occur and likely associated pain. I always carry knee and ankle stretch support that can be put on in cases like this because sometimes you are in the middle of nowhere and have got to walk on a little if possible. Overall though, use of the affected area should cease as much as possible.
The RICE principle which many of you may be aware of can be used. RICE stands for:
- Rest – minimise use of the area.
- Ice – apply for periods of 10-15 minutes every three hours.
- Compression – use a compression bandage but be careful not to make it too tight.
- Elevation – the affected area should be higher than the level of your heart to reduce swelling.
This is a painful condition where people complain of a pain in the arch of their foot which comes on during repeated walking. The plantar fascia is a band of fibrous tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the ball of the foot and it supports and protects the arch of your foot. The problem occurs when the ligament is strained and tiny tears happen. This problem develops over time and can often be felt most strongly when placing your foot on the ground after getting out of bed in the morning or after sitting having a meal.
There are a few different reasons this can happen – badly fitting shoes; high arches or flat feet; if you have been pounding pavements for long periods.
Stretching properly after walks will stretch out your achilles tendon which can make this problem worse. A GP, podiatrist or chartered physiotherapist will be able to help. You can help yourself by taking anti-inflammatories or soaking your feet in Epsom salts. It is best at this time not to walk in bare feet.
Toe Nail Problems
Toe pain can develop when the corners or sides of your toenails grow sideways rather than forward, putting pressure on surrounding soft tissues and even growing into the skin. This can be down to how you cut your toenails or through wearing shoes that are too small or too tight.
An other overuse injury, usually due to something irritating the tendon over time where the tendon gets more and more irritable. It can be because of a sudden increase in activity or changing footwear so possibly new boots.
Anti-inflammatory treatments might help but seek advice from a health professional first and you can use the RICE process here as well.
This does call for changing your walking practice for a while to allow the inflammation to calm. You can still walk but shorter and more level routes are recommended.
This can feel like pain or just discomfort on the side of your big toe. A bunion develops when the bones in the joint on the outer side of the big or little toe become misaligned, forming a painful swelling. It can also be hereditary. Walkers with flat feet, low arches, or arthritis may be more apt to develop bunions.
This shows up as pain in the ball of your foot or between toes and happens if tissue surrounding a nerve near the base of the toes thickens, it can cause tingling, numbness, or pain that radiates to surrounding areas. It may feel as though you’re treading on a marble. It happens more to women than men due to different physical structure and is most frequently found between the 3rd and 4th toes. It develops between the base of the third and fourth toes. Sadly walking will irritate this condition.
Go to a podiatrist as soon as you feel this pain as it is treatable but urgency is of the essence as left it can lead to permanent nerve damage. Treatment can be as simple as wearing roomier shoes to surgery, depending upon the severity. For women, less time in heels is recommended. OTC insoles or pads that relieve pressure and absorb shock may help too.
Lower back pain
Usually manifests as a ache in your mid to lower back. Walking does not cause this as such but can make it worse.
It’s important to keep back and core muscles strong and to be aware of posture when going up hill as many of us have a tendency to bend forward. Keep stretching your hamstrings and hip flexors as they can put pressure on your back too.
In all cases see a professional for any injury. GPs, physios, chiropodists. podiatrists, MFR therapists there is so much expertise out there to help.
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