by Diane Spicer
A discussion of arm injury prevention while hiking might not make any sense to you at first glance:
How would a hiker injure an arm?
Sure, on a well maintained, wide and flat trail, chances of arm injuries for hikers are slim.
Cherry picking your trails keeps you safe while hiking.
But does everyone stick to well groomed, wide-enough-to-drive-on hiking trails?
I sincerely hope not!
Otherwise, you are missing a lot of fun.
So let's get down to business.
Arm injury prevention for hikers involves a dose of common sense AND an understanding of the way your arm is connected to your trunk.
Can you think of a better appendage for a hiker? A freely movable limb that is anchored securely at one end, and is able to grasp objects* at the other end!
Woohoo - what a deal!
And you have 2 of them for grasping objects* such as
Ah, but I digress. (It must be near lunch time!)
That's not a trick question!
Technically, your arm is just the portion of your upper limb from your shoulder joint to your elbow joint. The rest is the forearm, joined at the wrist to the hand.
So there must be a bunch of bones in there, right?
Oddly enough, it doesn't take many bones to do the job:
The upper end of your arm bone rests in the shallow shoulder socket provided by your shoulder blade bone (scapula).
Your arm sacrifices stability for mobility: you can swing your arm wildly in comparison with your stable, relatively immobile hip joint.
So what does that mean for hikers? An opportunity to overdo it with the shoulder and elbow joints, if you aren't careful.
Asking the arm and shoulder to do too much work, especially if you haven't warmed up properly, for starters.
But you may be asking a lot from your shoulder and arm muscles, of which there are plenty.
Major arm muscles include some you have probably noticed on athletes and celebrities:
There are other smaller muscles hidden beneath these, which connect the upper body with the elbow area.
These muscles cling to the bone via tendons, and the bones join together to form joints partly due to ligaments (tough ropey connections).
It's possible to ask these soft tissues to do too much work if you:
Sore arms, at the very least.
Or an arm soft tissue injury that takes months to heal.
So what would arm injury prevention for hikers look like?
You probably already know the answer: get strong, and stay strong.
Do some weight lifting at home.
It doesn't take much: even 3 pound weights used for 10 minutes each day can show you a big difference in arm strength.
And you don't even need to buy weights: make your own!
When three pounds feels too easy, you're ready for heavier weights.
Here's another approach:
Carrying babies and toddlers counts, too!
Swimming is another great way to give your arms some work without straining the joints.
If you'd prefer to tone up and strengthen your arms without weight bearing, yoga may be the way to go.
On the trail, arm injury prevention requires a bit of mental discipline.
I myself have been guilty of doing stupid things with my arms:
But wait, there's more to share...
So let's get to the point here:
Don't use your arms as levers to pick up too much weight unless you are confident that you are strong enough to pull it off safely.
And don't sacrifice the safety of your arms when you have other tools to use: your strong legs, your hiking poles, a long stick, etc.
Need a few tips on how to safely hoist your backpack? Here they are!
Of course, there are some very good reasons for hikers to rely upon the strength of your arms while hiking, and that's why you want to have strong ones regardless of how many birthday candles are on your cake.
Reasons such as:
And then there's the most excellent reason of all: doing the Y-M-C-A song before turning into your tent after a long, happy day on the trail.
Email me if you don't know what I'm referring to ;)
Arm Injury Prevention Tips
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Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer.
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