Backpacking is a fun and enjoyable way to spend your weekend outdoors while getting some exercise. Unfortunately, packs can put quite a bit of strain on the body if they are not used properly. Hauling heavy loads can lead to unnecessary pain in your neck, hips, and of course, your back. Fortunately, there are things that you can do in order to prevent pack strain, allowing you to have fun in the outdoors without regretting it for the next few days.
One of the most common issues faced by backpackers who carry heavy loads is neck pain. Neck pain as a result of backpacking is usually caused by leaning forward while carrying a large load. This causes you to fight against the straps of the backpack, forcing your head into an awkward position often referred to as “turtle necking.” This can cause not only neck pain, but headaches and a bad sense of balance. In order to take the pressure off of your neck, you need to actually keep your head leaned back while you are walking. Leading with your chest instead of your head will take some of the pressure off of your neck. Another thing that you should do is adjust the load lifting straps on your backpack to about forty five degrees. Lower angles cause the top of the pack to pull backward.
Another issue that many backpackers can find themselves confronting is tingling fingers. This is the result of decreased blood flow to the arms. In 2007, the University of California, San Diego performed a study which found that packs with weights as low as twenty five pounds could have a significant impact on blood flow to the arms. This can not only lead to tingling and pain in the hands and arms; it can also make you feel tired and sluggish, give you less control over your arms and hands, and cause your hands to become cold during the winter. In order to prevent this from happening, backpackers should adjust the back so that it puts more weight on their hips instead. In addition, they should put the sternum strap just above the height of their armpits. They should then tighten it so that the shoulder straps are pulled inward. This takes strain off of the veins in your shoulders. Another thing that you can do is use your thumbs to pull the straps away from your shoulders while you are backpacking in order to take the strain off of your shoulder veins.
Finally, backpackers often suffer from hip and lower back pain. In 2008, a study was conducted that used MRI scanners to take pictures of people’s backs while they were carrying packs. They found that carrying only ten percent of your own body weight was enough to compress your lumbar spinal disks. A single hike will only cause some mild nerve irritation and sore muscles, but wearing a pack improperly for decades can eventually lead to chronic pain that will not go away as a result of degenerative back disorders and disc compression. In order to prevent this from happening, you must ensure that the pack’s hip belt sits firmly on top of your hip bone. The pack should be worn in such a way that the vertical bars on the internal frame of the pack should curve along with your spine in such a way that they do not press against your sacrum. The lumbar pad should sit comfortably against the pad of your lower back. Professionals can help you adjust your pack in the store so that it is set up properly in order to prevent back problems. Many stores will do this for free.
It is a good idea to stretch both before and after backpacking. The best way to do this is to stand with your feet apart at the same width as your hips. You should then bend forward, keeping your upper back straight. You should keep reaching until your palms rest on the floor next to your feet. If this causes you to feel uncomfortable, bend your knees.
By following these simple steps you can beat pack strain when you are hauling heavy loads, preventing pain and the possibility of long term problems.