Camino statistics show that less than half of those who register to walk the Camino in SJPP register as finishing in Santiago. Sadly many of these have to give up because of injury or illness. Our goal is to give you tips to prevent or treat the most common injuries on the Camino: sunburn, blisters, overuse strains of feet, ankles and knees.
Our favorite resource for Camino first aid is a free download written by Tom and Em Hill of Arizona. These two Camino veterans are also trained Community Emergency Medical Responders (CEMR), and dispense helpful information on prevention and treatment in a thorough, entertaining way. They include excellent diagrams and descriptions of injuries to help you diagnose and treat yourself, and tell you when to seek professional medical help. An excellent resource! Store the PDF version of Camino First Aid in your smart phone library for reference along the way, even when you do not have wifi.
It available on our website. Go to http://www.caminoprovisions.com/camino-first-aid to download this book FREE. An observation from the Hills is that many injuries on the Camino happen when peregrinos follow the suggested itineraries in Camino guidebooks! Their point is, and we agree, that many injuries happen when a peregrino sets out to keep the pace laid out in a guidebook rather than listening to their bodies so they don’t hurt themselves.
Bring any prescribed medication with you to last for the duration of your trip, as it is sometimes impossible to fill prescriptions administered from doctors in other countries in Spain. Farmacias are located conveniently throughout cities, identified with a green cross on their signs, but are often not available in smaller villages. Be prepared to treat food-related discomfort by taking antacid tablets with you from home, since this over-the-counter remedy is not readily available in Spain. As a stop gap for someone who has minor stomach upset and doesn't have something to relieve it, ask for an after dinner “digestive” in most bars, and they will give you a small glass of an herbal liqueur that might alleviate your symptoms. In addition to traveling with antacid tablets, we recommend having a few doses of an anti-diarrhea medication with you.
A good thing to know about Spanish emergency medical care is that there is no penalty for calling an ambulance in Spain if you are feeling very ill or concerned about another pilgrim’s well being. A few deaths do occur each year on the Camino. Sometimes these are heart related issues present before the person left home, and made worse by the exertion or heat of the walk. Our guidebook has a list of emergency numbers and travel aids for pilgrims.
Other injuries or deaths have been caused when pilgrims are hit by cars because they did not look properly before crossing streets, especially in cities. Most at risk are people coming from a country where they are used to traffic driving on the left side of the road. When the Camino route takes you onto a paved road, please do walk single file on the edge of the road facing oncoming traffic. In 2015 five pilgrims were killed in one tragedy when they were hit by a truck because they were walking side-by-side on the road rather than single file.
For more information like this consider buying our popular guidebook, Camino de Santiago Guide to Preparing Well & Saving Money; and read these related blogs: Listening to Your Body, Preventing Blisters & How to Keep Going if You Get Them, Training Our Bodies, Beating the Heat on the Camino.
Helen and Wick Van Wagenen attribute many life lessons to their Camino experiences which began in 2007. Since then they and other family members have walked many Caminos, and are grateful for the lessons learned and friends made along the Way. With the goal of helping others plan and complete their Caminos, Helen wrote and published Camino de Santiago Guide to Preparing Well & Saving Money in 2016. Simultaneously, the VWs launched an online business called Camino Provisions, as a resource to inform, encourage, and empower others to walk the Camino, and as a source of funding donations to non-profit groups helping pilgrims on the Camino.