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Will I still be able to go hiking with osteoarthritis?

Q) I've just been told that I have osteoarthritis in my ankles and underneath the front of one foot. Will I still be able to go hiking, including hill walking?

A) All our joints, including those affected by osteoarthritis, need to move to maintain their function. So, it's important to keep active, particularly by doing things you enjoy, like hiking. The main thing to consider is how you can keep your joints well supported and free from injury. For hiking, good quality, well-fitting and supportive footwear is absolutely essential. Most good outdoor shops would be able to help you find the right shoes or boots for your needs.

One of the main functions of the ankle joint is to help us to adapt to uneven surfaces. Some focused exercises to work on the strength, range of movement and sense of balance of the ankle can be helpful to prevent pain and injury.

You may also find using walking poles helpful to help spread the load and help your balance when walking.

Be sure to pack some painkillers in case the joints become sore while you're out on the walk. If you get pain or swelling in the joints after longer hikes, then rest up for a couple of days until the symptoms settle. You can also use ice or cold packs on the joints to relieve pain and swelling.

This answer was provided by Dr Tom Margham for the Winter 2017 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

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