Safe ways to prevent common injuries on Kilimanjaro
Injuries on Kilimanjaro

Hiking presents a multitude of advantages for the body and mind, but as with any form of physical exertion, there is always a possibility of sustaining injuries. By comprehending the ways in which individuals become injured and implementing a few preventative measures, one can greatly reduce these potential hazards. In this piece, we will delve into the prevalent injuries often encountered while hiking on Mount Kilimanjaro and provide comprehensive guidance on how to effectively evade and mitigate them. Through a careful analysis of the common injuries experienced by hikers, we will explore practical strategies to minimize the risk of harm. Whether it be sprains, strains, or blisters, understanding the causes and employing appropriate precautions can make all the difference. By equipping ourselves with this knowledge, we can ensure an enjoyable and injury-free hiking experience on the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro. With a focus on proactive measures and informed decision-making, our ultimate goal is to empower hikers with the necessary tools to conquer this exhilarating journey without compromising their well-being.

Common Hiking Injuries

When hiking on trails, it is quite common for trekkers to sustain various injuries, most commonly occurring in their feet, ankles, and legs rather than in their upper body. These injuries are a direct consequence of the prolonged and repetitive usage of these particular body parts during extensive hiking expeditions. It is absolutely crucial to thoroughly explore and understand the frequently encountered injuries that trekkers may potentially face along their arduous journey..

Blisters. A blister is an accumulation of fluid trapped beneath the skin’s surface, found within the upper layers. The primary reasons for blister formation typically stem from the friction caused by wearing footwear that does not properly fit.

Ankle sprain. A sprained ankle is a type of injury that happens when the ankle is moved in a manner that causes the ligaments, which are responsible for keeping the bones of the ankle connected, to tear..

Muscle pull. This refers to a minor injury in your muscle, commonly known as a muscle strain. This injury typically occurs when a muscle is stretched beyond its normal limits. While strains can affect any muscle, they are frequently observed among hikers in their hamstring muscles.

Minor cuts, bruises and abrasions. The primary causes of these incidents predominantly arise from losing balance or stumbling on the pathway or moving about the camping area.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome. Also referred to as “Runner’s Knee,” this condition is characterized by discomfort in the area surrounding or behind the kneecap. The pain arises due to inflammation of the tendons, cartilage, the fat pad beneath the patella, or other nearby tissues.

Plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a thick strip of tissue located in the sole of the foot that stretches from the heel up to the toes. Small tears occurring in this fascia lead to inflammation, which ultimately causes a sharp and intense pain specifically felt in the arch of the foot.

Tibialis tendonitis. The tibialis tendon, which links the calf muscle to the inner part of the ankle, plays a crucial role in offering support to the arch. However, if this tendon gets irritated, inflamed, or torn, it can lead to discomfort and pain in the foot and ankle. Additionally, it can cause the arch to collapse, ultimately resulting in the development of flat feet.

IT (iliotibial) band syndrome. The Iliotibial band, also known as the IT band, is a dense tendon that extends from the pelvic bone and runs along the entire length of the thigh. Inflammation of the IT band causes discomfort to arise specifically on the outer side of the knee..

Shin splints.  Medial tibial stress syndrome, commonly referred to as a shin splint, involves the inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue surrounding the tibia. As a result, pain is experienced in the front or inner side of the lower leg, specifically along the shin bone.

Stress fracture. A stress fracture is a tiny fracture in a bone that brings about both pain and discomfort. These fractures occur due to repetitive force, typically caused by overuse when the body is not yet accustomed to a new activity. It is prevalent for stress fractures to occur in the bones located in the foot and lower leg. Although these conditions are not fatal and do not necessitate urgent medical assistance, they can lead to the termination of your journey. When your mobility is hindered or you experience discomfort while walking, it is advisable to cease climbing. Undoubtedly, preventing any injury from occurring in the first instance is preferable.

Here are 8 ways to prevent common injuries while climbing Kilimanjaro.

1. Hike in the Right Footwear

As stated in the previous article, a majority of the general population wears ill-fitting footwear. It is crucial to have a minimum of half an inch of space between the front of your toes and the interior of the shoe, and even more so for individuals who hike. This space is essential to prevent your toes from making contact with the front of the shoe, which can lead to bruising and the formation of blisters. If you have never had your feet professionally measured for the correct shoe size, likely, you are likely currently wearing shoes that are too small. Furthermore, in addition to finding the right shoe size and ensuring overall comfort, it is important to pay attention to the shoe tread. The varied terrain of Kilimanjaro necessitates a substantial depth of tread to maintain proper traction throughout the climb. Ordinary casual shoes or standard running shoes might not possess a tread pattern or groove depth that is optimal for mountain climbing. It is essential to find properly designed hiking boots or trail running shoes that will provide the necessary grip on the surface and prevent slipping. Another aspect to consider when selecting footwear is the level of cushioning provided. The amount of cushioning needed depends on both your body weight and the weight of your backpack. Prolonged hiking while wearing shoes with insufficient cushioning can result in foot pain and inflammation. Adequate cushioning helps to reduce the impact on your body’s joints and tissues during weight-bearing activities. Lastly, it is highly recommended to choose waterproof shoes. Whether you opt for boots or shoes, it is essential to keep your feet dry during your climb, especially when traversing through rain, mud, and snow. Moisture can soften the skin on your feet and make them more susceptible to blisters.

2. Wear Liner Socks or Toe Socks

Liner socks are a vital component of hiking gear as they act as a protective barrier against blisters. These socks are thin and usually crafted from delicate materials like polyester or light wool. Their design allows for a snug fit and optimal movement with the feet. The primary function of liner socks is to prevent friction that causes blisters. By wearing them, any rubbing occurs between the shoe and the hiking sock or between the hiking sock and the liner sock, rather than between the liner sock and the feet. This ensures that there is no uncomfortable rubbing and allows for a smooth and blister-free hiking experience. An alternative to liner socks is toe socks, exemplified by the Injinjis shown above. These unique socks individually encase each toe, effectively eliminating any friction between the toes and preventing blisters. Some toe socks can act as a replacement for traditional hiking socks, while others are designed to be worn as sock liners beneath hiking socks. It may take some experimentation to find the perfect combination of sock liners, socks, and footwear for a comfortable hiking experience. To learn more about the optimal socks for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, refer to the article “What are the Best Socks for Climbing Kilimanjaro?

3. Tape Up Hot Spots and Blisters

Some individuals have a higher susceptibility to developing blisters when hiking compared to others. This susceptibility is influenced by various factors, such as the durability of one’s skin, the tendency to sweat, and the shape of their feet. If you have highly sensitive feet, it is important to take measures to prevent blisters as much as possible. Apart from using liner socks and toe socks, there are specific products available in the market that can be directly applied to the skin to both prevent and treat blisters. These products, commonly referred to as blister tape or moleskin, adhere firmly to the skin, creating a protective barrier. Alternatively, bandages, medical tape, or even simple duct tape can also serve this purpose. When applied to potential problem areas, these tapes safeguard against blister formation. Furthermore, they can help alleviate the discomfort caused by existing blisters or other wounds.

4. Use a Brace

During the process of ageing, the gradual reduction in muscle flexibility and elasticity is a natural occurrence. Additionally, the wear and tear on joints becomes more pronounced, while tendons and ligaments become increasingly delicate. This physical state makes individuals more susceptible to injury, as overexertion can easily tip them over the edge. If you have preexisting medical conditions, it is crucial to take precautionary measures to avoid exacerbating them while embarking on the challenging journey of climbing Kilimanjaro. For individuals with weak joints, it may be helpful to consider utilizing a brace as a means of providing extra protection and stability. Specifically, a knee brace can offer structural support to individuals who are prone to injuries. Some ankle braces are also equipped with reinforcements made of metal or plastic on both sides, designed to provide added support to the knees. On the other hand, certain types of braces do not include supports but instead focus on compression to minimize inflammation. Similarly, individuals who have previously experienced ankle sprains may find it beneficial to wear an ankle brace as a preventive measure. By stabilizing the ankle and offering support, a brace can effectively prevent the ankle from rolling over.

5. Train for Your Climb

Climbing Kilimanjaro can be quite challenging on your body, as prolonged periods of trekking can cause various discomforts like aches, pains, and inflammation. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, the repetitive motion of hiking consecutive days will inevitably take its toll. However, if your muscles and joints are not accustomed to this kind of impact, the likelihood of getting hurt increases significantly. To decrease the risk, it is advisable to engage in training. The earlier you start hiking, the more prepared your body will be for the demands of Kilimanjaro. Your heart and lungs will become stronger, allowing you to have more endurance. Additionally, your muscles will gain strength, giving you better balance and making you more at ease on different types of terrain. Moreover, your bones will become denser and your tendons and connective tissue will become more resilient. Each of these bodily systems requires its own time to adapt to training, which is why it is important to gradually increase your training intensity to avoid injuries. By following a suitable training program, you can prevent any Kilimanjaro-related injuries caused by inflammation and overuse.

6. Use Trekking Poles

Trekking poles reduce the risk of muscle injury, reduce strain on joints, and alleviate post-activity discomfort.

Using trekking poles correctly can have a significant impact on reducing the strain and potential injury to your legs. By shifting some of your weight to your arms, you lessen the impact on your feet, ankles, knees, and leg muscles, resulting in less wear and tear. Additionally, the use of trekking poles helps propel your body forward, decreasing the overall energy required for movement. The benefits of hiking with poles extend beyond weight redistribution. They also offer stability in challenging terrains such as slippery, wet, loose, or steep areas. By providing extra points of contact, these poles help you maintain balance and prevent falls, potentially saving you from injuries. It’s important to note that most hiking-related injuries occur due to falls, particularly during the descent and towards the end of the hike. A comprehensive study on non-fatal accidents during hikes revealed that more than 75% of falls happen during the descent. Considering this, it is highly recommended to use trekking poles while trekking Kilimanjaro, especially during the final days of the trek.

7. Shield yourself from direct sunlight.

One common injury that climbers may experience that doesn’t necessarily involve their legs is sunburn. Sunburn occurs when the skin is exposed to excessive amounts of ultraviolet radiation. Although sunscreen can help prevent sunburn, the issue arises when climbers fail to reapply it constantly during their long hours on the trail. This oversight often occurs when the weather doesn’t seem particularly hot or sunny. To effectively prevent sunburn, the best approach is to cover up and minimize the amount of exposed skin. This is why we strongly advocate for wearing long-sleeved, hooded baselayers and long hiking pants. Additionally, while at camp, it’s advisable to avoid spending too much time outside, as the sun’s rays can be particularly strong near the equator and at higher elevations. It only takes a short while to become overexposed to the sun, which can lead to sunburn. Instead, it is better to spend time in the mess tent or your personal tent, which reduces your exposure to the sun’s rays.

8. Follow the Acclimatization Guidelines.

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is the primary challenge individuals encounter during the ascent of Kilimanjaro. It arises when individuals fail to acclimate swiftly to the change in altitude. Nonetheless, AMS is not a physical injury; rather, it is a medical condition. So, why is it crucial to properly acclimate to prevent injuries? The reason lies in the fact that having AMS can enhance an individual’s vulnerability to sustaining injuries. AMS negatively impacts coordination, energy levels, and mental clarity. If these faculties are compromised, the likelihood of making errors becomes higher. Hence, adhering to acclimatization guidelines diminishes the probability of experiencing AMS and consequently, reduces the risk of sustaining injuries.


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