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Altitude & Injuries

Will my ankle pain worsen at altitude and can I take anti-inflammatory drugs for it?

Question:

I’ll be climbing 6,000-meter peaks next year, but I suffer with ankle arthritis from a compound fracture 20 years ago. I have pain but put up with it. Will the pain get worse at altitude? And can you take anti-inflammatory medication at high altitude?

Submitted by - Jonathan, Ireland

Answer:

I’m sorry you have pain. I had a severe ankle fracture 24 years ago, and I suffered for a decade, then had my ankle fused. Before the fusion, I ascended to more than 6,000 meters several times. Anti-inflammatory drugs are no problem at higher altitudes. But beware stronger anti-pain drugs that depress your respiratory drive. Those can be hazardous and may give altitude illnesses a foothold. Whether or not you’ll find the pain worse higher up is a question I cannot answer. There is no reason higher elevations should make pain worse. But if you’re not used to climbing high, the stress on your ankle from persistent uphill climbing and the weight of the pack could make it worse.

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