I am a writer, a physical therapist, and a hiker.

I read a lot of backpacking magazines and participate in a lot of backpacking communities, both online and in person, and amidst all the talk of gear and cooking and ultralight vs superultralight and trails I noticed that no one really talks about hiking injuries, how to prevent them, and how to get back on the trail once you have them.

So I’d like to fill in some of those gaps as best as I can.

I am a licensed physical therapist in Illinois and Texas, a board certified orthopedic clinical specialist, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists. I have hiked to Mount Everest, around the amazing beauty of Torres del Paine in Patagonia, through the amazing high Sierra of the John Muir Trail, into the high country of Wyoming, with the crowds of the White Mountains, through the tundra of Alaska and among the rivers and forests and Great Lakes all over the midwest.  I am learning desert hiking here in Austin, TX, while preparing for a thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2015.

Disclaimer: The content of backpackerPT.com is not intended as a substitute for care from a physical therapist or other health care professional. If you experience signs or symptoms of injury, disease, or illness you should seek the advice of a licensed physical therapist or other health care professional. The information provided here is for educational and informational purposes only, and should not substitute for the advice, diagnosis or treatment of a health care professional familiar with your specific conditions and needs; it should also not suggest a course of treatment for a particular individual. Individuals should always consult with a health care professional for answers to personal health questions.

4 Comments on “About

  1. Hello! I was wondering if you could help me out. I am planning on backpacking for 5 weeks on the PCT this summer, but have recently been struggling with some IT band issues. I have some good exercises to strengthen the glutes and stretch the hips, and am planning to do this as well as non-weight bearing exercises (cycling, swimming), for the next 7 weeks until I get on the trail.

    I am wondering if you have any other advice on how to best prepare for the hike, and also if you think hiking will be do-able for me in 7 weeks? Ideally I would really love to not have to deal with the pain on the trail, and would also like to be able to come back from my experience still able to do weight bearing activities. Thank you so much!

    • congrats on the section hike!

      It’s tough to specifically recommend something for you personally, because there are actually several different things that can masquerade as ITB issues (for example, certain kinds of back problems actually hurt along the side of the leg, NOT the back!). But generically for IT band problems, the key is to focus on strengthening the glutes and external rotators of the hips. These help keep your legs in line underneath you, particularly going downhills, and reduces stress along that lateral band of tissue. Have a look at my post on knee pain as this exactly explains what I’m talking about.

      I’d also recommend learning to use 2 trekking poles if you haven’t tried that already (and if you do use them, make sure you are using them CORRECTLY – there actually is a technique, and that technique is important when you are trying to balance out the side-to-side forces that are at play in ITB syndrome). That will be a huge help over 5 weeks of hiking!

      7 weeks is plenty of time for strengthening – so really focus on things that involve single-leg balance and not letting your knees collapse inward. And the best preparation? hike. a lot. just get out there now, even in your neighborhood, and just walk.

      Keep your pack weight as low as you can – that will help you over the 5 weeks as well. The more weight you have to support (regardless of how awesome your pack is at distributing weight…), the harder it’s going to be for your glutes to control that side-to-side motion, and all the more stress that’s going to move through your ITB. So for your own comfort and overall enjoyment, I’d STRONGLY recommend heading over to backpackinglight.com and learning how to drop some pack weight (if you haven’t already). There’s a ton of great information there and it doesn’t have to be expensive, either.

      Let me know if you have any more questions…and good luck on your hike!

  2. Jen,
    I came to your blog after seeing your comment on BPL. I’m glad I did! You could fill a great need in the BP community.
    I want to do more hiking but my right knee ( 2 arthro surgeries ) limits my distance. If there is a means to build it up I’d love to hear about it.

    Good luck with your blog!

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Wandering the Wild

Backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail and Beyond

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