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Summertime Spine Savvy: How to Stay Back-Pain Free

August 1st, 2017

The bright sun, longer days and warm heat of summer seem to effortlessly pluck people outside for an activity-packed couple of months. It’s no surprise that this time of year offers the best weather for outdoor activities, pool parties, traveling and spending as much time out and about as we can. “Summer break” seems to not only apply to our school-aged children, but us as adults, as well. Though these summer months are most definitely an invitation to stay active, the extra physical demands can be tough on the back, especially if you’ve previously dealt with spine issues. In the spirit of staying back pain-free, while still enjoying this sunny time of year, here are some helpful ways to take care of your spine this summer.

Summertime Spine Savvy: How to Stay Back-Pain Free

For those people with back pain that's worsened by cold weather, the warm summer months can signal relief, but for others, the change in temperature can be a factor that causes more pain. Increasing heat, humidity and barometric pressure over the summer months can be responsible for back pain “flare-ups,” even in the absence of activity. The easiest way to combat this weather-related pain is to stay indoors in an air-conditioned room to instantly cut out the heat and humidity. Though this option works, it may not be as convenient if you’re someone who likes being active outside. If this is the case and you can’t see yourself hiding from the summer rays, the next best bet is to use ice therapy. Applying ice packs will simultaneously help you cool down, reduce inflammation and soothe your achy muscles. Trade in the heating pad for 20 minutes of icing, remembering that the key is to achieve numbness in the irritated area, and repeat this several times each day (eight to 10 times during a 24-hour period).

Summer is the perfect opportunity for quick weekend trips or long relaxing vacations, but getting to your destination can pose a problem for your back. Long rides in cars, planes or trains with typically uncomfortable and unsupportive seats can do a number on your spine and posture. If you plan to be traveling for an extended period of time, bring a lumbar support pillow with you (or make your own out of a rolled-up blanket) and position it between the seat and your lower back to reduce the stress on your muscles. Traveling always equates to luggage, and handling those heavy suitcases with care can make all the difference. Always bend at the knees when lifting luggage (never at the back), avoid twisting while lifting anything heavy and hold your items as close to your body as possible. Ladies, purses can sometimes be the biggest culprits, so if you're carrying a shoulder bag, switch sides frequently. And if something is just too heavy to lift, don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Our bodies are designed to move, which circulates the blood and keeps the muscles warm, and sitting in one position for too long starts to stiffen the muscles – making them more prone to pain or injury. If you can, pull over every hour during a road trip to get out of the car for a little walk and stretch out the back and leg muscles. On a plane, get up as often as you can (every 30 minutes to an hour is optimal) to walk back and forth down the aisle and get some stretching in, as well.

Along the same lines of getting up to stretch when you’ve been sitting too long is to sit down when you’ve been standing too long. This may sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many of us actually forget to take a break. With all the activity going on – whether that's spending hours upon hours walking through an amusement park, losing track of time working in the yard or packing up and moving (a summertime chart-topper for many) – sometimes we have to remind ourselves to stop and rest, even for just a few minutes. Sit down, take a few deep breaths, drink some water and stretch. Taking multiple rest breaks combined with some deep stretching will keep the neck, back and leg muscles warmed up and flexible, as well as rejuvenated for the rest of the day.

Perhaps the most refreshing summertime spine health tip is to swim. You’re most likely to be near a pool this summer, so why not hop in and turn it into a workout? Swimming is an ideal exercise for low back pain because of its low-impact nature. It allows the back, leg and core muscles to be strengthened without applying much stress on the spine. Along with muscle strength, you’ll get cardiovascular benefits, as well, and all in a cool and rejuvenating atmosphere. While you’re out at the pool relaxing, supervising kids or getting your workout in, remember to always practice safety first. Never run through the pool deck, as the ground is slippery and one misstep can mean game over for your back. Likewise, avoid a traumatic spine injury by never diving into shallow water. If you’re unsure of the depth, definitely look before you leap.

The warmer months of the year can be chock-full of fun times and adventure, so don’t let spine troubles stand in the way. These tips will surely help you enjoy a happy, healthy and back-pain free summer.


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