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Tools, tips for a safe hiking experience

August 18, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Trekking canyon trails is a common L.A. pastime, but there's a lot more to hiking than a water bottle and comfy clothes."Hiking in itself is a great low impact activity that any age group can do. But specific to hiking, there a lot of injuries that come about from hiking," said Dr. Bal Raj.

The orthopedic surgeon says he sees many patients who've injured ankles, knees, hips and back.

"I see people wearing flip flops when they go hiking, and then they come in to me and say, 'why did I injure my ankle?' said Dr. Raj.

Lack of stretching and inappropriate footwear are tops for injuries. So look for shoes with a wide toe box, good arch support and sole padding, along with a bottom with good traction.

You should walk before heading up the mountain to warm core temperature and increase joint and muscle circulation. Cold stiff muscles are prone to injury.

A back pack should be worn with both straps and without a lot of weight. Don't lean forward to compensate for the extra baggage.

And don't run down the mountain. It's a common way to blow out your knee.

"I see a lot of these clients end up having surgery," said Dr. Raj.

It's not a good idea to walk alone for a multitude of reasons, but if you're going to do it anyway, make sure you take your cell phone so you can call for help. You'll also want an ICE number -- in case of emergency -- in your address book.

Having an ICE number programmed in is helpful if a hiker faints, as it makes it easy for passerby's to find help.

Finally, end your hike with a stretch session, holing each move at least one minute.

"Stretch your quads, stretch your hamstrings, stretch your back muscles," advised Dr. Raj.

Stretching lengthens tight muscles, brings down heart rate, and helps you relax before that car ride home.


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