Preventing Back and Neck Pain While Hiking

Headshot of Peter S. Harvey, M.D.
Written by: Peter S. Harvey, M.D.

The beautiful Georgia spring weather is finally here and it's time for those of us who like to hike to get outside and hit the trails. During the past year, many of us may not have been as active on the trails, so I wanted to offer some tips to help you decrease your chance of experiencing neck and back pain as you explore all the hiking trails and national parks that Georgia has to offer.

Hiking Safety:

It's always a good idea to hike with a partner so that if one of you becomes injured, the other can go for help. However, if you like to experience nature by yourself, be sure to tell a friend or family member where you are going and when you plan to return as a safety measure in the event that you run into problems during your hike.

Stretch before and after your hike:

Before you go hiking, make sure you stretch in order to loosen up your muscles and joints. This reduces the likelihood of pulling muscles in the neck or back during your hike. Similarly, while hiking, take frequent rests to give your muscles a break and avoid overexerting them. Then, once your hike is completed, you should perform stretches that help your neck and back loosen up from carrying the weight of your backpack.

Backpack:

Selecting a backpack for your hike is an important consideration for your time on the trails. Choose a backpack with padded straps and be sure to use both straps while hiking. This helps take the stress off of your neck and decreases the risk of neck pain during your hike. If you are carrying supplies in your backpack, such as water and food, be sure it is evenly distributed and should not weigh more than 20% of your body weight to help decrease any neck or back pain while your hike.

Walking Sticks or Hiking Poles:

Using walking sticks or hiking poles helps take stress off of your back and hips and transfers it to your upper body. They help you keep your balance and allow you to walk more forward which helps distribute your weight to your shoulders, arms, hips, back and legs.

I hope these tips help you avoid neck and back pain as you explore our great outdoors. But if you do experience neck and back pain after hiking that doesn't go away after a few days, the doctors at Resurgens Spine Center are here to help you get back out on the trails.