It goes without question that Peregrinos do get hurt on the Camino. How could you not? The amount of physical stress we are putting our bodies through is unlike anything we have done before. The accumulated poundage and repetitive motion of walking close to 500 miles will eventually lead to some sort of soreness or injury. There are a variety of ailments and they are very much dependent on your approach to prevention and healing.
Blisters– These are by far the most common injury on the Camino. They range in size and severity. There are several different reasons why they occur. One is your boots or trail shoes have not been broken in sufficiently. Another is that your feet sweat too much and there is not proper ventilation in your footwear. And yet another is your socks may not give you enough cushion to prevent rubbing.
If you get blisters on the Camino, the pharmacist is the first person you should see. They will recommend a course of action depending on your situation. Sometimes it might just be getting Compeed to protect the blisters on your feet or you might be told to go to urgent care. Either way, they must be addressed quickly to avoid infection.
Knee pain- The Camino trail has many different types of terrain. In addition, the mileage each day you walk will be on average between 13-17 miles. Therefore, your knees will be challenged to tackle climbing and descending steep hills sometimes covered with rocks that will require good balance. This could cause knee pain which is most likely tight IT bands.
I personally have experienced some of this discomfort and have found relief by using CBD cream as well as an occasional 400mg ibuprofen, also known as “Camino Candy.” It doesn’t happen every day but when I keep on top of it, I find that I am able to recover quickly. Both of these remedies help reduce inflammation which is the major cause of pain. In addition, I stretch every day once I’m done walking. This helps me stay flexible and that is a really good thing.
Shin Splints- This injury is felt along the inner side of your shinbone along with a mild swelling in your lower leg. It it’s not treated, it may lead to a stress fracture. Rest, ice and over the counter pain relievers are the recommended course of action. If there is no relief after doing these 3 things, it is best to see a doctor.
Back Pain– Lower or upper back pain is another common affliction to doing the Camino. Heavy packs (more than 10% of your weight), slouching posture, and/or sleeping in a different bed every night are causes of back pain whether it be upper or lower back. We cannot control sleeping in different beds as that is just part of this experience. However, how much weight we decide to carry and maintaining good form certainly is under our control.
Using walking poles to keep yourself upright helps diminish back pain as well as take in more air as you walk. I’ve been using them not only to support my knees when I am going down a steep hill or helping me ascend a similar hill but also to reduce the soreness in my upper back. They are my best friend on the trail. As for the weight of your pack, it’s really a personal decision. What I can say is that almost everyone on the trail who is carrying a big pack has told us they packed too much. It’s amazing how little we actually need.
There are other ailments on the Camino which I have not included in this post. I’ve really focused on the ones which we have heard over and over again on the trail or have experienced ourselves. Whatever the ailment, it can derail your plans in a heartbeat. Planning ahead and listening to your body could prevent you from suffering a serious injury and truly walking a Buen Camino.