This post could have been titled: How to heal back pain with a back pack. And no, I’m
not talking about filling it with muscle relaxants to get you through the day. I’m talking about the work of Stuart McGill, PhD. He is a kinesiologist out of the Univeristy of Waterloo and has done extensive research on the best ways to heal back pain.
One of this methods includes wearing a back pack with 15-25 pounds in it. Sounds crazy, huh? The theory behind it is that if the weight is placed low in the back pack, it aids the spine extension muscles, so it helps to keep you upright. If you are bent over your spine muscles aren’t really working they are in a holding pattern; it is more like they are holding on for dear life to keep you from going nose-first into the dirt instead of acting to give strength and mobility to the spine.
Dr. McGill’s recommendation is that you wear the pack and walk on uneven terrain. Hiking a dirt path would be great. The small subtle changes in the terrain force your spine to accommodate forward and back, side to side twisting and side to side bending.
I had a chance to test his advice three years ago after back surgery. I stayed at about 10 pounds in a fanny back and it worked really well. I was able to go about 30% farther with the pack then without it. I had another “opportunity” to test it today. My back decided to get super-angry after mountain biking this morning and my friend and I still had a 6 mile hike planned for the afternoon. I was hurting. Big-time.
So I let my friend wrangle both dogs, I threw a lot of water bottles in the bottom of a pack and gingerly started making my way along the trail. Ow. Ouch. Holy be-geezus… But it got better. It loosened up. And I did the 6 miles. Tonight, I can feel my back. I iced and I’m getting ready to take some Aleve but it’s good. We are planning another hike tomorrow and my back pack is ready.