Four years ago I suffered an injury to my lower back. The diagnosis was: Ruptured Disk with Free Fragments. The Neurosurgeon suggested that my back packing days were over.
I have been very fortunate to avoid surgery, and even luckier that I have been able to stay very active in the outdoors.
I have made several adjustments and approach each hike with more preparation that is for sure.
Here are just a few things that I have found that really help me to stay active, and avoid back pain when I am outdoors.
This is not all I do. These are just the highlights and the few items I think make the most difference. If you have back pain, go see a doctor. Then when in the outdoors try following these few simple tips.
Pre Hike Back Work:
1: Stretch and exercise.
I like to do 2 things.
First: Walk a LOT. There is nothing like walking for keeping your back in shape.
Second: Daily I get on all four on the floor, just like I am going to start crawling. Keep your back flat, and parallel to the ground. Then suck your stomach up and in as far as you can. Keep your back flat while you do this, and focus on pulling your belly button towards your spine. Do this 10-12 reps daily.
2: Use your cars lumbar support, or keep a pillow in the small of your back when traveling. Get out of the car and walk several times on your trip.
Getting your gear ready:
1: Use a pack that has a LARGE lumbar support. Eberlestock and Kifaru are good examples of this. If you do not have a large lumbar support that you can really feel…then add one. Just cut a piece of foam and stuff between the small of your back and the waist belt.
2: Get boots that you feel you are very stable in. Nothing is worse on a back than stumbling and catching yourself, get stable boots.
3: There is little need, even when going in for 4-6 days, to have a pack over 50 pounds. KEEP IT LIGHT!
During the Hike:
1: TAKE SMALL STEPS! Big long stretched out steps, especially when climbing are BAD! Keep your steps short. Pay attention when you have to step up high, and do it in multiple steps, not big steps. The angle that this puts on your back, when taking small steps is much better than huge high steps.
2: USE Trekking POLES! They are not just for old men. J Trekking poles keep you stable and can really help with your back. Tripping, falling, and stumbling are back killers! Poles are a must when hiking with a sore back.
I hope these few little tips can keep you healthy and comfortable when hiking and hunting with back issues. There are few things worse than dealing with a sore back, and even fewer things worse than a sore back in the outdoors.