Balance, Cramps, And Pain… A Hiking Stick Is More Than Just A Stick.

Balance, cramps, knee pain, and more… ways that I found a hiking stick to be helpful on a long hike.

Recently my brother-in-law and I embarked on our first backpacking trip. We spent 3 days and 2 nights out in the Sawtooth wilderness hiking about 21 miles with about 3,200 foot elevation gain.

It was an awesome and beautiful trip! It was a nice get away to spend time in nature.

As I always do on hikes, I brought my personalized hiking stick my dad made all of us kids a few years back. It has come in handy on many occasions, but I honestly hadn’t put a lot of thought into how useful of a tool it can actually be.

One thing I learned this trip is that you can take the person out of the physical therapy clinic, you can’t take the physical therapist out of the person.

This last trip it occurred to me that my hiking stick could be used for much more than a stylish way to help navigate uneven terrain. Here is a list of the top 5 uses for a hiking stick on your next outdoor adventure…

My Hiking Stick Gets Used A Lot

1. Balance

While out on the trail it can be extremely helpful to have a third point of contact on the ground to help with unexpected, and inevitable, trips or missteps. I can’t tell you how many times I catch my toe on a rock while looking at the beautiful scenery around the trail.

Having a third point of contact on the ground has prevented many falls, and potential injuries, while enjoying one of my favorite outdoor adventures.

2. Back pain

Nothing can put a damper on a good adventure like having back pain. I’ve had back pain in the past and know the discomfort and limitations it can immediately put on our lives.

One nice thing that a hiking stick can do is help transfer some of the weight and unsteadiness of the trail into the stick and take a little strain off of your low back.

3. Knee Pain or leg injury

When knee or hip pain or a rolled ankle when out on the trail is bothering you on the rail, it can be helpful to use a hiking stick to transfer some of your weight onto a hiking stick.

You’ll want to put the hiking stick on the OPPOSITE side of the pain or injury (e.g. Right knee pain, use stick in left hand). This way we can transfer the weight when stepping on the injured side away from the pain and onto the stick.


4. Boost up-hill

After a long day of hiking, those uphill climbs can be grueling. Mother nature rarely has a handrail when climbing up-hill, so a hiking stick can be really helpful in giving you a little extra boost when going up-hill.

Rolling out a muscle cramp

5. Roll out a cramp

It had been a couple years since I went on a 20+ mile hike. My legs were a little in shock on my latest hiking adventure, and one day I started to get some cramping in the front of my thigh (my quads to be specific).

One thing physical therapists do for this is use a roller stick to roll on the muscle. Unfortunately, that is not a tool one would normally bring on a backpacking trip.

However, a hiking stick is something commonly used on a long hike or backpacking trip. You can use a hiking stick to roll on a sore or cramping muscle to loosen it up in addition to light stretching. It worked like a charm!

Contact Switchback Direct Physical Therapy for more tips or to find out how we can help get you ready for your next adventure!


Disclaimer: This content is for general, informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice.


Dr. Tyler Burke

DPT, Owner and Founder of Switchback Direct PT

We help injured outdoor enthusiasts to stop hurting and start adventuring.

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