Theme parks first attracted the attention of thrill-seekers back in the 1800s. Today, there’s still something special about visiting any of the 400-plus amusement parks and attractions in the United States. However, if you happen to be among the 30 million or so Americans with chronic back pain, your experience with such destinations isn’t likely to include anything that drops, sharply turns, lunges forward, or leaves you hanging upside down. Fortunately, many theme parks offer less-intense forms of entertainment with parades, shows, exhibits, and rides that aren’t so demanding on the spine. If you enjoy regular trips to theme parks, keep the following tips in mind if you have back pain.
1. Personally Prepare for Your Trip
Before leaving for your preferred theme park, make sure you’re as prepared as possible to minimize any issues that trigger back pain. Wear comfortable clothing and supportive shoes, especially if you’ll be doing a lot of walking from one attraction or show to the next. You can also personally prepare for your theme park visit by:
• Bringing ibuprofen, aspirin, or other over-the-counter pain meds in case you have a sudden uptick in back pain
• Taking a lumbar or neck support cushion for the car ride to the theme park
• Wearing a supportive back brace or lumbar support belt to minimize instances of movement-triggered back pain
• Renting a motorized scooter if you know you won’t be able to easily walk around or stand for hours
2. Explore the Different Shows and Exhibits
Even if you’re at a point where your back pain is under control, you shouldn’t take a chance and hop on the latest monster roller coaster or death-defying ride. However, this doesn’t mean you won’t have entertainment options galore. It’s surprisingly easy to spend an entire day at places like Disney World, Knott’s Berry Farm, or Six Flags just enjoying the various shows and exhibits. If you’re not sure what non-ride options are available at your preferred theme park, check out their website and make a list of things you can do that won’t involve straining your back.
3. Take Breaks to Rest and Stretch
At Walt Disney World alone, four theme parks cover more than a thousand acres altogether. Even if you only spend time in one of them, the constant moving necessary to get around could take a toll on your spine if you already have issues with back pain. Minimize your risk of being distracted by back pain as you explore and take in the sights by:
• Finding spots to sit down and relax (many theme parks have outdoor cafés, and most have an abundance of benches)
• Taking time to do simple stretches to keep your back-supporting muscles limber
• Listening to your body and knowing when to stop and rest if your back pain starts to become a distraction
4. Stay Hydrated
Even when you’re not at a theme park, your spine and its various parts need to be well-hydrated. Water keeps your spinal discs spongy and maintains a steady flow of nutrients to your spine’s tissues, which facilitates the healing and recovering process. Lack of sufficient hydration can also contribute to muscle fatigue, spasms, and cramps, especially in the lower back area. Most theme parks have drinking fountains or water refilling stations strategically scattered throughout their properties.
Tip: If you want to save money and do the planet a favor, bring a refillable water bottle with you.
5. Be Mindful of Signs Warning of Potential Risks
Many theme parks take steps to avoid the risk of litigation should a guest become injured. For this reason, it’s not unusual to see signs warning people with back pain or similar issues to steer clear of certain rides. Theme park workers aren’t going to ask for a permission slip from your doctor before letting you get on a ride. However, warnings are included on certain signs for a reason, so err on the side of caution and pay attention to them.
If you want back pain to be less of a distraction the next time you visit a theme park, talk to your Santa Monica spine surgeon about treatments or approaches to physical therapy that may minimize your discomfort or strengthen your spine-supporting muscles. Some people with chronic back pain respond well to electrotherapy, injections, or chiropractic adjustments, while others benefit from low-impact aerobics and water-based exercises.
If you want to explore surgical options for your chronic back pain, get in touch with The Spine Institute. Dr. Hyun Bae has years of experience in various surgical procedures such as foraminotomy and anterior lumbar interbody fusion. Santa Monica residents can put their trust in Dr. Bae to help them find effective relief. To talk to one of our friendly representatives and schedule an appointment, give us a call at 310-828-7757.