Hiking and backpacking is a fun way to get out and enjoy nature while also getting plenty of exercise. It can also be hard on your lower and upper back, along with your neck. The following tips can help you avoid a back and neck injury when you head out into the back country for your next adventure.
Tip #1: Wear good shoes
Proper footwear isn't just to avoid foot injuries and blisters, it is also important for your back. You need sturdy shoes that provide proper arch support. Poor arch support affects the way you step, which in turn affects your posture. This can lead to poor alignment as you walk, a common cause of lower back pain. If you plan to hike long distances, consider having your hiking boots custom fit and and adding inserts to match the shape of your foot.
Tip #2: Choose the right pack
Whether you are using a small daypack or a larger expedition pack, it needs to fit properly to avoid injury to your back or neck. Even small packs should have hip belts to help take the weights off of the neck and shoulders. Have the pack professionally fit at an outdoor store so you can be sure your hips are carrying the bulk of the weight.
Tip #3: Load the pack correctly
The way you load your pack is also vital for back and neck health. Heavier items need to be carried low in the back and against the back, with lighter items placed nearer to the top and outside of the pack. Placing heavy item high and out causes the pack to pull you backward, putting unnecessary stress on your back and shoulders. This also leads to more fatigue, which can lead to poor posture.
Tip #4: Get a professional once over before you go
If you have a history of back or neck pain or are recovering from an injury, schedule an appointment with a chiropractor before your next trip. Bring your fully loaded pack with you to the appointment. Your chiropractor will check your alignment both with and without the pack and make any necessary adjustments. They can also help locate possible posture issues and give advice on how to avoid them. A chiropractor can also prescribe trail-specific exercises to help remedy problem spots in your back, along with warm-up exercises to help you avoid back pain on the trail.
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