We know how great a good, long hike on a beautiful day can be. We also know how much back pain an incredible trail can leave you in. It doesn’t matter if you’re a casual walker or an advanced hiker. Here are a few tips to help alleviate current hiking back pain and prevent future back pain.
Hiking Back Pain 101: Spinal Tips
Build Your Core Strength
One of the biggest keys to preventing back pain when you’re hiking is to develop a strong and stable core. Core strength will help your body become stable enough to reduce or avoid finding yourself in contorted and painful positions.
When we think about the core, we often only think about the abdominal muscles. However, the core is a lot more encompassing than just the six-pack and oblique muscles we all want so badly. The core actually consists of the muscles in almost half of the body. These muscles are located in the pelvis, the spine, and buttocks. When you walk, run, jump, bend over, twist and, of course, hike, these muscles work together.
Major Muscles of the Core
- Trapezius muscle, which connects the spine to the shoulder blades
- Gluteus maximus and gluteus medius
- Hip adductors, which attach to the inside of your pelvis
- Quadratus lumborum, located in the lower back (this is where many hikers often feel pain and tightness)
- Spinal Erectors, which run along the spine from the glutes to the head
Avoid Pain When You Can
As many have said before, prevention is the best medicine. If you can avoid painful triggers, you’ll be doing your back a number of favors. If you have pain when you arch your back, or when you bend forward and touch your toes, then it’s best not to aggravate your body by putting it into those positions and putting yourself in pain unnecessarily.
Muscles and joints are loaded with sensors. These sensors acknowledge the pain, forces, chemicals, and pressure. Simply put, this sensory information is perceived by our brain as either good (pain-free) or bad (pain). Not to mention, when you start avoiding painful triggers, this can also increase your confidence and ultimately help you start building a more resilient back.
Get the Right Backpack
This may seem like an obvious tip, but if you’re bringing cargo on a hike, make sure to invest in a large backpack. The right pack can make a big difference in your back pain. Most professionals recommend a backpack with two straps: one to go around the chest and one to go around the hips. This reduces shock throughout the spine as you hike. Also, make sure you get the right size backpack for your specific body. This means it needs to be the right size for your torso length, your hip width, as well as your bodyweight.
Many have found that using hiking poles helps their back pain. Research has also shown that using poles helps alleviate the pressure placed on your joints, specifically the ones in the back. Like we mentioned above with the backpack, get poles that work for your body. When using poles, your arms should be bent at 90 degrees. Adjustable poles are the best as you can adjust them for any terrain you may travel.
If You Partake in Overnight Hiking, Invest in a Good Sleeping Pad
When you overnight hike, more often than not, your back and neck pain gets aggravated from sleeping on a poor-quality sleeping pad (or the ground if you’re really hardcore). If you don’t have a decent sleeping pad, consider investing in a quality camping air mattress. It’s worth taking the time to make that sleep as comfortable as possible on the trail so you don’t wake up with back or neck pain before your morning hike even starts.
Improve Your Posture
Improving your day-to-day posture will help you maintain good posture as you hike. When you’re in a solid anatomical position, you’re more likely to remain pain-free. Here are a few practical tips that you can consciously focus on to get you moving in the right direction:
- Stand tall. A way to check on this is by trying to be the tallest person when you’re surrounded by people. A perfect time to play this game is if you’re standing in line at the grocery store.
- Adjust your rearview mirror in your car by placing it a bit higher than normal so it tricks you into sitting a bit taller when you’re driving. This way, you have to sit up a little straighter each time you drive.
- Avoid sitting cross-legged when you can. When you’re sitting at a desk or at the dinner table, place both feet flat on the floor.
Happy Hiking with Zock Family Chiropractic
Why suffer from back pain if you don’t have to? We know that dealing with chronic back pain can have a deep impact on your quality of life. And can keep you from doing all the things you love. Resolve to seek treatment for your pain when you need it. Remember, chiropractic care is a great addition to your wellness routine. Adjustments don’t just keep you healthy physically. Continual chiropractic care and holistic back pain treatment could also help you cope better with stress and strengthen your immune system! Make an appointment to schedule an introductory session and provide you with a happy and healthy 2019!
* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.