Summer Adventures With Back Pain

Low back pain is one of the most common injuries and cause of disability in the country! According to an article by the bureau of labor statistics, in 2016, back injuries made up 38.5% of all musculoskeletal workplace injuries (

That’s probably why I get asked all the time, “How can I do ________ with my back pain?” Or hear, “I can’t do (xyz) anymore because of my back.”

It’s such a common injury that people suffer from, and when it hurts, we stop using it. Makes sense right? In the short-term, it makes sense not to move around too much. After all, it hurts!

The problem is, when we stop moving or being active the muscles that help protect your back begin to weaken and the joints stop moving as much causing increased stiffness.

When the muscles get weak and the joints stop moving as much… the pain gets WORSE when you actually do have to move.

Now, your back hurts worse when you move now after being “careful” for 2-3 months. On top of that, things you enjoy doing start to be cut out of your life.

Maybe you stop doing things like playing with your kids on the floor, backpacking in the wilderness, or playing a game of basketball with friends. You begin doing these things less and less, and then you realize you’re not having very much fun or enjoying your life.


However, there are some things you can do to help reduce your backpain or manage it, and still do things you love to do!

Today, we will review some simple tips/tricks to manage your back pain, and still enjoy the outdoor adventures you love.

For the sake of today’s blog, we will review tips for a few different outdoor adventures, and discuss how to help with mild-moderate back pain (think aches and stiffness).

More severe pain may mean you JUST injured yourself, or that you need to seek medical attention.

Also, there are many causes of backpain. Without knowing your pain personally, I can’t tell you which of these tips/tricks will work for you. What I can say is that these all do work…


Before you even head out for your adventure, you should start spending a few weeks doing some core strength and mobility activities.

Work on strengthening your deep core muscles (not just those 6-pack abs). You will also want to get your spine and muscles moving, especially if you suffer from stiffness.

Believe it or not, tight hips and hamstrings can have a big effect on your back. Proper stretches 3-5x/day can often times reduce a surprising amount of back pain.

If you need a little guidance on getting started with a strength and mobility program, Idaho Direct Physical Therapy offers a Back and Core Strength and Mobility Program!

You can reach out and ask about this program at


If your feet aren’t well supported, that can cause pain all the way up what is called the “kinetic chain.” The best way to describe what this is means is to think about the childhood song. You know, “The foot bone’s connected to the leg bone…”

If your feet are supported well, that in turn will help support the joints further up your leg. If those are supported well then it helps your back. It’s a little more complex than that, but that is the basic principle.

If you’re planning on heading out to the great outdoors for some adventures here are a few tips…


Hiking: Get a good backpack that fits you well. Also, use one that has a chest strap and waist strap. This can help distribute the weight and keep the pack closer to your body.

If your pack is too loose it can sway away from your body causing greater pressure on your low back.

Also, using a hiking stick or poles can help relieve some added stress on your low back.

Kayaking: Make sure you have a comfortable seat and your foot pedals are positioned to provide a slight bend in your knees. If you have tight hamstrings and don’t have your knees slightly bent that can lead to more strain on your low back.

Oars that fit your height will also help. Too long of an oar can lead to extra twisting and strain on your low back.

Camping: Have a quality pad and sleeping bag to lie down on. Have utensils long enough to limit bending over as much as possible.


Hiking: Make sure your shoes and pack are positioned well and you have a good fit. For packing your bag a tip is to think of it like you are bagging groceries. Place heavy items on the bottom of your pack and lighter items on top.

This can reduce the sway of the backpack during your hike minimizing the strain on the low back.

Placement of your backpack is important! You want the backpack to stay close to your body which reduces strain on your back. Make sure the heavy part of the backpack is just above your pelvis for best positioning.

Kayaking: For sitting activities, like kayaking, you want to make sure to have your back supported well. You can do this by simply rolling up a towel and placing it horizontally across your low back just above your pelvis.

This will provide some extra lumbar support.

Also consider making sure your hamstrings are well stretched/warmed up for kayaking. Prolonged sitting in a kayak with legs stretched out can lead to your hamstrings pulling on your pelvis which then adds pressure to your low back.

Camping: One adjustment that can easily be made for sleeping is to take a blanket, or couple sweat shirts, and roll it up and place under your knees when lying on your back.

With camping there is also a lot of bending down for things like tending to the campfire. When doing this, make sure to squat down keeping most of your weight on your heels rather than bending over.

If you squat down and place most of your weight on your toes, you will add stress to your knees eventually causing knee pain. We don’t want to add to the pain, so squat with good form.


You won’t find a faster way to get out of pain, and get yourself ready for the summer adventures than by working one-on-one with a physical therapist.

If you love a good adventure outdoors, it may be beneficial to work with a physical therapist that does too!

Request more information about how Idaho Direct Physical Therapy can help by clicking here and submitting the short form. We will get back to you within one business day!

Dr. Tyler Burke, DPT

Hope this helps! Get out there and enjoy the great outdoors. Adventure Awaits!!


Disclaimer: This content is for general, informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice.


Dr. Tyler Burke

DPT, Owner and Founder of Switchback Direct PT

We help injured outdoor enthusiasts to stop hurting and start adventuring.

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