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Avoid Back Pain This Camping Season

When summer finally arrives, many of us are eager to load up the car and escape from the city. A weekend in the great outdoors can be just the thing to de-stress and enjoy time with loved ones.

Unfortunately, roughing it can be hard on the body. Sleeping in a tent without a proper bed or sitting in a canvas camping chair can bring on aches and pains, as can hauling heavy gear in and out of the car. Folks who enjoy hiking, climbing, and similar pursuits can experience muscle soreness or even strains or sprains.

Here are a few tips to avoid injuries while camping or adventuring this summer.

Stay Hydrated

Whether you’re sitting around a campsite or scrabbling up a mountain, it’s important to stay hydrated in warm weather. Drinking lots of water will help avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke, but also back pain, as dehydration causes the body’s tissues to become stiff and sore.

If you need to bring your own potable water, make sure you bring more than you think you’ll need — even if your trunk is already packed tight. You can learn more about staying hydrated here.

Gear Up

Bring the right gear for your outdoor activities. Hikers can minimize strain on the lower back and the stress on their joints by wearing proper hiking shoes with good cushioning and suitable ankle and arch support. A well-fitting backpack that distributes weight evenly and bears load in the proper areas is also important in avoiding neck, upper, and lower back pain. If you’re climbing, make sure your shoes are broken in to avoid blisters, and check that your equipment is in good condition (ropes, belay devices, etc.). Remember helmets for cycling, climbing, and other sports with a risk of head injury.

Sleep Easy

Most people aren’t used to sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag and will wake up feeling stiff the next day. Even if ‘glamping’ is not your style, you can bring along some of the comforts of civilization for a more comfortable — and ergonomic — sleep. Consider a self-inflating air mattress, camp cot, or even a memory foam mattress pad to support your body. You can also bring along your favourite pillow from home, which should suit your usual sleeping position (thicker if you’re a side sleeper, thinner if you sleep on your stomach or back).

Easy Does It

Schlepping gear can be rough on the back, neck, and hips. If you’re prone to back pain, find alternatives to bending over (for instance, using your feet to push in tent pegs). If you can’t avoid lifting heavy things, make sure to keep your back straight and bend at the knees (not your waist). Hold objects close to your body to minimize strain on your lower back.

Loosen Up

Whether you’re setting up a campsite or hiking up a mountain, take some time to warm up your body before engaging in activity. Walk for a few minutes to get your heart rate up, swinging your arms to loosen your shoulders, and then try some simple stretches. For exercises and stretches you can do before an activity, check out this blog post. The below stretches are good after a long car ride or after physical activities like hiking:

Calves: Stand a couple of feet in front of a tree and lean forward in a plank position with both heels on the ground. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times.

Hamstrings: Sit on the ground with straight legs in front of you; slowly and gently lean forward to reach toes with your back as straight as possible (rest hands on your ankles, shins, or knees if you can’t reach your toes). Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times.

Thighs and knees: Stand on one foot, bend one leg at the knee, and pull your foot towards your buttocks. Hold for 30 seconds on each side, repeat 3 times.

Ankles: Roll your ankles clockwise and counterclockwise, 10 times each direction.

Back: While lying on your back, keep one leg straight and bring the other knee to your chest and pull it close. Hold for 30 seconds. Alternate legs and repeat 3 times.

Shoulders: Suggest the Pectoralis stretch that we did a few blogs back. Use a tree instead of a wall.

Neck: Turn your head right and left, tilt your head right and left and look down. Perform 5 times in each direction.

Keep Moving

If you spend a lot of time lounging at your campsite, remember to take breaks to stand and stretch or go for short walks. Movement will help you avoid aches and pains, and make the most of your outdoor adventure.

To learn more about avoiding injury while camping, book an appointment to chat with one of our physiotherapists. New clients are always welcome without a doctor’s referral.