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by Diane Spicer
Back stretches for hikers: such a smart idea.
Not only do your hard working back muscles deserve a little extra oxygen and stretching, but regular stretches are your ticket to back pain prevention as a hiker.
Hiking back pain will keep you off your favorite trails, and impact every other area of your life, too.
Stretching your large muscle groups = being proactive, and pain free.
Note: I'm differentiating between the "good sore" after a long hike, and ouchy pain of a sore back that signals a problem with a muscle group.
And no medical advice is being given here, only a few suggestions that have worked for me.
First, you have to slay the dragon called "But I don't wanna do back stretches".
That "dragon" (or draggin') is a motivational issue, and the only advice I have is to visualize yourself with painful back spasms, writhing in agony on the trail and cursing your lazy self for neglecting your daily back stretches.
If you've got more gentle motivational strategies, please send them my way using the CONTACT box to your left on this page.
For now, let's assume you're plenty motivated, due to a recent episode of back pain.
Hikers tend to be determined, driven folks.
So I caution you against jumping whole hog into incorporating extensive stretches into your hiking routine.
Instead, vow to incorporate stretches in a gentle, cautious way, as in these 5 gentle stretches in video format.
Your muscles will feel so good after a stretch session that you'll want to keep at it.
Here's an easy one to try right now. I mean it!
However, if this type of gentle stretching is causing you a lot of pain (over and above normal muscle soreness), you need a trip to your health care provider to sort out the underlying problem.
Current medical thinking in the U.S. is to remain active during an episode of back pain.
After your pain is a distant memory, it's time to consider regular back exercises to:
These exercises (illustrated with photos to accompany the instructions) will improve your core strength, and yield huge dividends on the hiking trail.
But you have to find the discipline to do them! I find that self bribery works, and no, I won't share my bribery system. You know what works for you, right?Stretching at the trailhead
before and after a hike, also recommended, but again, self discipline is the key.
Hiking might not be the (only) culprit in your back pain.
What's your posture like?
If you really want to find out, put a mirror where you can catch a glimpse of yourself:
Your daily activities train your muscles to hold you, and move you, in routine patterns.
Changing the strength and length of those muscle groups will improve your posture.
But becoming aware of your posture is the first step.
You could also ask someone to snap a few candid photos of you on the hiking trail. Then analyze them from the perspective of your back muscles.
Break up your daily non-trail routine as much as possible to avoid chronic back problems like stiffness or weakness.
What, and how, do you sit and sleep on every day for 16+ hours?
All of these approaches to relaxed back muscles result in more flexible movements and a back that will cooperate in your intense hiking activities such as:
If you have a cat, or like to watch cat videos, mimic the felines and stretch out on the floor just because it feels great.
If these suggestions seem "too simple", don't dismiss them until you've tried them.
Sometimes, simple is just right.
It's your back, and your back pain to either live through, or avoid.
Sometimes back pain is a message asking you to change your habits, as outlined above (posture, sleep position, and more).
Other times, your sore, aching back is brought on by over exertion, disc deterioration, or an injury.
Pay attention to what you were doing before the pain presented itself, and what makes it feel better or worse.
Use that important information as a starting point to remove yourself from the back pain "club".
Back stretches are just one of the ways to do that!
Back Stretches For Hikers
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