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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Treating Aches and Pains

A personal perspective on healing back, joint and other body pains.

by: Buck Tilton

Let Joints Heal
The standard treatment is simple: Don't use the joint until it gets better. There is little chance it will hurt if you don't move the inflamed tendon. And, without use, the tendon will finally heal. Application of cold packs several times a day for about 20 minutes helps speed the healing by reducing the swelling, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs will also reduce pain and improve the rate of mending. You can also benefit by massaging the offending tendon, but rub it only one way since back-and-forth rubbing can cause further damage.

Like most people, I found I didn't have time to let my elbow rest. Hey, winter doesn't last forever. The pain and disability got worse during following months, and, in the end I went to my doctor. I received a painful cortisone injection in the joint that begins to knock down the inflammation in a few hours. I wore a removable splint on my lower arm for six weeks that kept me from moving my wrist. I took 800 milligrams of the OTC, anti-inflammatory ibuprofen three times each day. I got better.

This is what you should do. If it hurts to use a joint, especially after using it a lot, you should consider the possibility that you have tendinitis. If you probe the joint and find a point that hurts when pressed, you should know you have tendinitis. Make every effort to not use that joint for the next few days. Put a cold pack on the painful spot three or four times a day for two or three days. After the days of cold treatment, start using the joint, but not to the point of pain. Mild use stimulates healthy, healing circulation and keeps the joint from stiffening. Start daily doses of an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen or aspirin. If the problem persists for two weeks, consult your physician.

And, in the meantime, consult your brain, the one that has grown much larger than that of our hunched ancestors. Get in shape. Stay in shape. Warm up before stressing and straining muscles and joints. Most of the aches and pains of snowshoeing are preventable.

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