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June 2003

A Speedy Recovery

Sidelined by injury? Get back on the trail fast with this easy treatment plan.

Lower Back

The pain: Back pain is usually caused by chores that require lifting, or by a fall or auto accident. Exercise can aggravate resulting weaknesses, causing chronic throbbing and stiffness.

The plan:

>>> Rest easy: Sleep on your side or back with thick, stiff padding under your knees. Avoid sitting, especially for long periods, since it stresses the lower back more than standing does.

>>> Walk: Stroll around the neighborhood to relieve stiffness in the initial phases of the injury.

>>> Crunch: These modified sit-ups help stretch back muscles. Lie on your back with your knees raised and feet flat on the floor. While tightening your abdominal muscles, lift your head and shoulders and press your lower back into the ground. Do 5 to 10 crunches, and stop if you feel pain.

>>> Massage: A good rub at any point in your recovery may speed healing.

>>> Add weight: When you can walk pain-free, try hiking with a light pack.

When to call a doc: If the pain doesn’t diminish in a week to 10 days, if it wakes you up at night, or if pain, tingling, or numbness begin to creep down your legs.


The pain: Soreness in the front or side of this joint is often caused by activities that require reaching: climbing, swimming, tennis, and softball.

The plan: Start with simple movements. Bend over at the waist with your arm hanging down and do a series of small circles, first with your palm facing your body and then facing away from your body. Slowly enlarge the size of the circles. As the pain goes away, you can start exercising with a little weight. Hold a can of soup with your arm out to the side at a 30-degree angle to your body and your thumb down. Raise your arm up, but not higher than your shoulder, and repeat until your shoulder tires. When you can wear a daypack and walk without pain, you’re ready for the trail.

When to call a doc: If you don’t feel better after a week, or if you experience acute pain and severe swelling.

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