There's no question that regular exercise is good for your health, and hiking in the great outdoors is an excellent way to get that exercise. Unfortunately, you can wake up the next morning with excruciating lower back pain if you don't know how to avoid it. This guide can provide you with some pointers to keep your back feeling great so you can enjoy nature without worry.
Straight To Your Hips
The quickest way to a sore back is the wrong day pack. Whether you are carrying just a water bottle or a full picnic for two, the weight should be on your hips. Packs that depend on the shoulders for support can actually end up putting most of the weight stress on your lower back. Packs with a hip belt redistribute the weight to your hips and legs, not your back. You can even opt for just a small fanny pack if you are carrying a small load on your hike.
(Don't) Stand Up Straight
Any kind of weight on your back changes your center of gravity. This ruins your posture and puts stress on the lower back muscles. When opting for a backpack-style day pack, change your posture slightly to accommodate this change. You will likely need to lean forward by bending over slightly at the hips. Don't hunch your shoulders, though, because this can shift the weight right back to those lower back muscles.
Keep It Near and Dear
Heavy items should be packed so they are low in the pack and near the back, with lighter items on the outside and top. This is why day packs with included water bladders have the heavy bladder right against the back. You will also need to adjust the shoulder straps so the pack hugs your back and doesn't sag or lean outward. Finally, make sure the hip belt is snug and sitting right above your hip bones.
What you carry with you can make a hike more comfortable, but it can also lead to back pain. You can usually treat minor back pain yourself with a warm shower or bath and an over-the-counter pain medication. If you are using the right pack and wearing it correctly, but your pain is not going away or is getting more severe, it may be time to see back pain specialist. Pinched nerves and herniated discs in your back can also lead to pain and muscle spasms. Getting the problem addressed can bring back the joy to your hikes.
For more information, contact Southwest Florida Neurosurgical Associates or a similar organization.