From observing breathtaking views to becoming more in tune with nature, there are many things to love about hiking, and it’s also a good way to stimulate some of the muscle groups that support the backbone. But if you’re not careful, hiking could contribute to some unexpected spine-related aches and pains. If your goal is to enjoy a great hiking experience without back pain, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Stretch First

A hike is going to place some degree of stress on muscles in the legs, spine, and even the neck. Therefore, you need to stretch first before you get into hiking mode. Even if you won’t be climbing Mount Everest, you’ll likely run into uneven ground at some point along your trail, which can result in added strain and stress on the soft tissues and joints that ease the burden on your spine. Stretches that tend to be beneficial for hikers include ones involving:

  • Hamstring muscles
  • Shoulder and upper back muscles
  • Hip flexors
  • Calves and quads

Start Slow and Pace Yourself

If you’re just getting back into hiking after taking a season or two off, don’t automatically opt for a grueling 5–10 mile hike. This is especially important if you’re recovering from spine treatment such as a vertebroplasty procedure. Santa Monica hikers should understand that pushing your body also means pushing your spine a bit too hard, especially if you’ll be lugging supplies with you. Instead, be gentle on your spine and gradually work your way up to more challenging hikes.

Pack and Wear Your Backpack Correctly

It’s good for your spine if you bring water along with you on your hike. But if you’ll be going on a longer hike, you’ll likely have a backpack full of other supplies as well. While this is sensible, it could result in back pain if you’re not careful about how you pack and wear your backpack. Ideally, you’ll want to:

  • Invest in a backpack specifically designed for hiking
  • Avoid overloading your backpack
  • Evenly distribute the items you pack
  • Adjust the straps equally so you’re not overstressing one part of your back

Watch Your Posture as You Hike

If you’re not mindful of your posture while hiking, you could end up with back or neck pain. Your cervical spine (neck) is more likely to be affected if you have a heavy backpack that’s causing you to lean forward to compensate and maintain your balance. Avoid this type of spine-related discomfort by:

  • Keeping your head above your shoulders
  • Aligning your shoulders with your hips
  • Asking your trail companions to do random posture checks for you

Treat Yourself to Comfortable, Supportive Hiking Boots

The steps you take while hiking are channeled into your spine. The right hiking boots help your spine by absorbing some of this added stress. Make sure to break in your boots before hitting the trail. Wearing them for short periods around the house or during daily walks can give you a better idea of whether you’re getting the right kind of support.

Finally, check with your doctor or Santa Monica spine surgeon if you’re noticing new or increased back pain during or after your hikes. Even if the problem is minor, nipping it in the bud sooner rather than later can prevent more serious spine-related issues.

If you’re experiencing sudden, severe, or chronic spinal pain, reach out to the industry-leading spinal health experts at The Spine Institute for diagnosis and treatment. To schedule an appointment, give one of our friendly representatives a call at 310-828-7757 today.