Hiking With A Bad Back – What You Need To Know

Disclosure: We may receive compensation from the companies whose products we review if you click through our affiliate links.

Back pain sucks, there is no getting around it. But, you don’t have to sit at home and let life pass you by.  Today I want to talk about hiking with a bad back.

Hiking is one of my favorite outdoor activities.  It’s a great way to get out of the house and allows me to still enjoy life even though I deal with chronic back pain. Hiking with a bad back involves taking some necessary precautions, but this is definitely an activity you can do and enjoy.

hiking with a bad back
Photo by Austin Ban on Unsplash

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  Click here for details.

My wife and I love to get out and go for a hike. Honestly, a good hike is very high on my list of things to do, it’s a great way to get out of the hustle and bustle of our busy lives and just explore.  I love to explore the outdoors!

Exercise can help back pain

Exercise is a great way to improve your ailing back and it is so much more important than many people realize.  You don’t have to spend hours at the gym, and most people don’t, or won’t, so getting out and doing other activities, things you really enjoy are a great way to exercise and help build the muscles that support your spine.

Hiking is a low impact way to get some really good exercise and enjoy nature.  Now, we live in the desert and we can pretty much go for a hike whenever we want to unless it’s 120 degrees in the dead of summer. Even then, if we get up and out super early in the morning, it’s still doable to get a hike in before you melt.  We don’t have to worry about snow, or freezing cold temperatures, so that is definitely one advantage of living in the desert.

So, again, hiking is a great option as a low impact way to get out, breathe in some fresh air and exercise.

See what you can see

You may think that hiking in the desert sounds really boring, but you would be surprised.  There is a lot of beauty out there if you pay attention, including a wide variety of critters and vegetation. When you climb to a high point, you can see for miles, literally, so it’s a really cool experience for us.

We have the option to do some urban hiking in the mountain preserves here in the Phoenix area. We also get out of town and go to places like Sedona, or Flagstaff when the weather is just unbearably hot.Hiking Peralta Trail in Arizona

That is one of the great things about hiking, especially in Arizona, the variety of landscapes that are available.  Many people don’t ever get to experience the beauty of the desert and personally, I think they are missing out.  So, hiking is a great way to experience the beautiful environment that we live in.

We get out and hike a few times per month, not as much in the summer, but more so during the other seasons.  We try different trails and invite our friends to go with us as well.

Don’t get in over your head

Planning your hike in advance is one critical factor if you are going to be hiking with a bad back.  You want to make sure that the trail you are on will be suitable for you.  If you are just coming off of an injury, you will want to take it slow and try to find a trail that doesn’t have a lot of elevation gain, rocks or other obstacles to climb over.

We found a great trail in Sedona that was pretty flat yet it still offered a lot in the way of scenery.  It was a beautiful walk through the woods. If you are more confident in your abilities, then you may be up for something a bit more adventurous, just don’t get yourself into trouble.

Again, depending on your current physical state, you may want to avoid any serious obstacles, like climbing over large rocks where you will put your back in awkward positions.  I use my upper body a lot when we do encounter some more rugged terrain.  I am able to lower myself as if I am using a dip machine, placing my arm just so, and relying on my upper body strength to make my way down.Steve hiking with a bad back in Arizona

Sometimes climbing up is a lot easier than climbing back down, you can get yourself in some trouble and that is not something you want to do, especially with a bad back.

Make sure you drink plenty of water

Interesting as it may be, not drinking enough water can cause back pain. The disc spaces in our spines contain water and act as shock absorbers to protect our spine from movements, like walking, running, jumping, etc.  The discs lose water throughout the day and need to be rehydrated just like the rest of our body. [1]

Without hydration, the discs will not function as intended and this can lead to pain.  So if you know you will be hiking, make sure you fill up on water prior to your excursion and also bring enough water to replace what you are sweating out.  Water is necessary for your entire body!

Is hiking right for you?                              

Depending on what type of pain you are experiencing, hiking may or may not be a valid option for you.  I have dealt with back injuries to the point that I could not bend over to put my own shoes and socks on, let alone go for a hike.  I was dealing with really bad sciatica at the time, and walking on uneven surfaces was not an option for me.  But once I got to the point that I was able to go for a hike that was awesome.  I had that taken away from me and I was thankful when I was able to return to the trails.

Make sure someone knows where you will be           

As a precaution, and really you should do this whenever you hike, but just make sure you let a friend or family member know you are going out and when you plan to return.  That way if you are stuck on the trail with an ailing back, hopefully, someone will be able to come for you, or send help.

Other stuff to consider

Another tip I highly recommend is to take a GPS so you can easily find your way back to where you started.  If you start out on a hike and just decide that today is not the day for you, make sure you can efficiently find your way back to your home base.

Make sure you have the proper shoes.  The right pair of shoes can not only help with back pain but will provide you with good footing to make your hike enjoyable.  You don’t want to be out on a trail slip-sliding along the way, this can wreak havoc on your back!  If you didn’t have a bad back, to begin with, bad shoes may contribute to that.  These are my favorite trail shoes!Hiking shoes

You may want to consider looking into a back brace for your lower back, which can help to support your low back as you are on the trail.

Conclusion: Hiking with a bad back

Finding ways to get out and exercise with a bad back is something I take seriously.  This is not only good for your physical being but also good for your mental health as well. Back pain can have a really negative effect on your attitude and getting outdoors is a great way to help.

If you are up for it, hiking can be a great way to get out and maybe even take your mind off the pain for the time being.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this article.  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.  Thanks for taking time out of your day to stop by!






Leave a Comment