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Revolutionizing Spine Care…Changing Lives

Let’s go backpacking (and remember to protect our backs)

As the weather cools off heading into the fall, maybe you’re thinking about a backpack trip you didn’t want to do during the hotter summer months. We thought it would be a good time to remind everyone of a few tips to help you protect your back and avoid back pain while enjoying this wonderful outdoor sport.

 1. Get your back in shape before you backpack. Exercises to strengthen and stretch your back as well as daily exercise will help get you in shape before you go.

 2. Stretch before you strap on your backpack and trek. There are a number of back stretches recommended by professionals. One we recommend you do slowly is to position your left foot about six inches behind you and position your right foot, toe-to-heel, behind the left foot. Then place your hands on a solid vertical object at shoulder level. Allow your body sag slowly forward, which increases the natural curve of your lower back. Now allow your back to twist slowly towards the left or right. Reverse your feet and do repeat this slow twist I the opposite direction. Make sure your motion is slow without any bouncing.

 3. Take short trips. If back pain is sometimes a problem for you, avoid long backpacking trips that require carrying heavy gear. If you’re a beginner, work your way up to longer trips that require heavier backpack loads.

 4. Plan trips with fewer obstacles, less inclines and other challenges. If you suffer from back pain or are a beginner, start with easier courses. More stringent courses can add stress to your back. If you stumble trying to cross big obstacles, the added pack weight can throw you off balance and result in injury.

 5. Lighten your load every way you can. Invest in a good, lighter weight backpack and gear. Look for multipurpose gear that allows you to leave multiple items behind. Lastly, take only what you’ll really need.

 6. Lift your backpack onto your back slowly and correctly. 1) Set one foot firmly on a solid object. 2) Slide your backpack by the shoulder straps up to your knee.  3) Put one arm into one shoulder strap. 4) Lean slightly forward and let your backpack pivot slowly around to your back. 5) Slip other arm into the other strap. 6) Adjust your backpack and all straps.

 7. Use trekking poles. These been shown to reduce the weight on your back and hips and can also help stabilize your walking over rough terrain by reducing side-to-side swaying.

 Backpacking is a great way to get exercise and enjoy the beauty of nature. Safe trekking!

Dr. Michael Duffy

Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

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