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Backpacker Magazine – BACKPACKER.com Online Exclusive

Treating Aches and Pains

A personal perspective on healing back, joint and other body pains.

by: Buck Tilton


Pretrip Prevention
Prevention, as always, is the best treatment for back pain. "Not surprisingly, most people who injure themselves," writes Casey Terribilini, a doctor of chiropractic in the San Francisco Bay area (Journal of Emergency Medical Services, May, 1993), "do so by doing too much too soon or by not working out regularly." Exercise often and moderately: brisk walking, swimming, jogging, biking, paddling. And shed extra bodyweight. There will be enough of a load on your back without packing fat around your waist.

"Exercises that increase flexibility and strengthen the trunk (abdomen) and hips," continues Dr. Terribilini," also help maintain a healthy back." Here are five daily exercises you can do to buy insurance against back injury.

  1. Lie flat on your back and pull one knee to your chest. Hold the knee-to-chest position for about 10 seconds. Repeat with the other knee. Do 10 repetitions for each leg.
  2. Stay flat on your back and bend your knees. Do an abdominal crunch by raising your head, shoulders, and arms off the floor toward your bent knees. Do not raise your lower back off the floor, which would put too much pressure on your back and decrease the benefit to your abdominal muscles. Hold each crunch for several seconds. How many? Until your abs burn. Your goal is three or four sets of 25 to 30 crunches.
  3. Lie on your stomach and get into a prepushup position, hands on the floor just above your shoulders. Now arch your back but keep your pelvis on the floor. Hold for about 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
  4. In the same position, extend your arms above the floor. Raise one arm and the opposite leg about 6 inches off the floor and hold for about 10 seconds. Alternate sides. Keep repeating until you feel burning in your muscles being.
  5. Roll over and sit up with your legs extended in front of you. Stretch your hamstrings by keeping your legs on the floor, knees slightly flexed, and reaching gently for your toes. Do not bounce. Hold this stretch for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat several times.
These exercises can be performed after a back injury to help get your muscles working again. Do them slowly and gently and only if they do not increase your pain.

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