How To Keep Summer Activities From Wrecking Your Back

— With summer comes family gatherings, outdoor sports, outings with friends, vacations and sprucing up the yard. But summer fun can also bring a higher risk of back injuries.

“Too often we start the summer with enthusiasm, only to be sidetracked by back pain,” says Dr. Bradford Butler, a chiropractor and author of The Blueprint for Back Pain Relief: The Essential Guide to Nonsurgical Solutions (www.drbradfordbutler.com). “There are important prevention steps you can take to avoid back pain associated with summer activities and help you enjoy the summer as you should.”

Butler looks at five summer activities that cause back injuries and offers ways to prevent them:

•Travel. Sitting for long periods on car rides or in cramped plane seats can do a number on your spine. “My advice is to bring extra support, such as a folded blanket or inflatable pillow for your lower back and neck,” Butler says. “Wear comfortable shoes that have lots of arch and ankle support. Take driving breaks to move your body during a long trip, and adjust your seat so you’re close to the steering wheel.”

•Amusement parks. “People love to experience the rush of riding a rollercoaster, but sadly, their spines pay the price,” Butler says. “All those jerky, jolting movements can injure the neck and back, causing it to become misaligned. I’d advise anyone who already suffers from back or neck pain to steer clear of roller coasters. If you decide to ride, make sure to follow all safety precautions and see your chiropractor for an adjustment after your trip.”

•Gardening and yard work. “Yard work involves a lot of bending, stooping, twisting, squatting, and lifting,” Butler says. “Combine all of those, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a sore back and a misaligned spine. Warm up before an afternoon in the yard. Yoga, or any kind of stretching, and brisk walking are great ways to loosen up. When lifting, utilize your leg muscles, and hold objects close to the body. When mowing, avoid leaning far forward and take breaks.”

•Golf. When swinging a golf club, the lumbar spine undergoes a twisting motion, which can lead to disc herniation or chronic back pain. Butler says there are several ways to reduce the risk of lower back injury: proper stretching, core strengthening and proper swing technique. “Also, it’s best not to carry your golf bag, which can weigh up to 30 or more pounds,” he says. “Use a pull-cart.”

•“Weekend warrior” pursuits. After being glued to an office chair for five days without any physical activity, Butler says it’s unwise on the weekend to engage in high-intensity sports or hard workouts. “Rather than risking back pain from a weekend of overexertion, he says, “get in 30 minutes of moderate exercise or more every day so you’re stronger and better conditioned.”

“A good rule of thumb is to ease into any physical activity you aren’t used to doing— especially after a long winter,” Butler says. “Listen to your body; if you feel pain or weakness, that’s your body telling you that it’s time to take a break. A healthy spine makes for a fun, pain-free summer.”

Dr. Bradford Butler, a chiropractor and author of The Blueprint for Back Pain Relief: The Essential Guide to Nonsurgical Solutions is the owner and director of Oakland Spine and Physical Therapy, which has three locations in northern New Jersey. For more information, visit: www.drbradfordbutler.com.