a waterfall at the top of a mountain

Hiking and Discovering

Living on a tropical island can surely be of great benefit during summer time. All the heat and high temperature makes you want to spend the day on the beach or in a nice refreshing river.

After the COVID-19 lockdown, going outside and having outdoor activities seems like the best way to spend the day and have quality time with friends and family. Here in Puerto Rico there are many great places to explore and enjoy. Some of these places require long hours of hiking in order to experience the breathtaking views.

Exploring new places

This summer I had the opportunity to explore beautiful places in Puerto Rico with my friends and family. One of these places was the Natural Infinity Pool located near El Yunque National Forest. A hike of approximately 2 hours is required in order to reach this place. We got lost in the process and the hike extended for almost 4 hours.

Because of the extended hours of hiking my knees started to hurt. After reaching the Infinity pool the group was able to rest, take a dip in the natural pool, and appreciate the view. Even though the refreshing and relaxing scene was worth the hike, I started thinking about how I'm going to manage the pain in my knees while we hike back to where we left our cars.

Using a broom stick as a cane

On our way back I had to use a broomstick that I found on the trail as a cane. But still, I felt pain and weakness on the lateral sides of my knees on every step. Once I got home I had to put some ice packs on my knee and rested, avoiding any type of long-distance walking. This pain seemed to be the famous enthesitis associated with Ankylosing Spondylitis and other types of arthritis. I spent the next weeks with this intermittent pain until finally it was gone and I was feeling myself again.

After that event, I've been worried about experiencing this discomfort every time I execute this type of activity. Even though the idea of continuing exploring all the beautiful places on my island gets me excited, in the back of my head there is a preoccupation of whether my joints are going to handle it or not.

Continuing to participate

Besides these thoughts, I've forced myself to continue participating in other hiking activities but taking the appropriate measures. Using preventative anti-inflammatory meds have seemed to help. Having a walking stick for support, especially when the floor is irregular, has been convenient since it decreases the stress on my knees. At least for now it has helped, I still have experienced some discomfort after long hikes but not as severe as the one mentioned before.

As you can see, while continuing to discover new places in my island I have also been discovering other manifestations of AS in my body. This learning process has helped me to pay more attention to my body and be more aware of the things I can do to avoid the surge of these other types of symptoms.

Even though going on a hike or doing any type of prolonged physical activity may require extra time for me to prepare mentally and physically for it, I would not like to limit myself because of it. Luckily, my friends and family that are aware of my AS have been supportive and are willing to walk slowly or take extra breaks as needed. This kind of support has also kept me motivated to continue these adventures knowing that I'm surrounded by people that understand and encourage me to continue at my own pace without giving up.

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