How to avoid back pain while camping?

With summer upon us, outdoor activities are at their peak. Camping is one of the most popular activities. A weekend in nature to hike and sleep on a campsite is probably one of the best remedies to the day-to-day stress of work.

Since this past summer, Quebec’s campgrounds have gained in popularity. Whether in Gaspésie, Saguenay or thirty minutes away from Montreal, you will find a new landscape to discover. Sepaq, the organization that manages Quebec’s national parks, also offers a discount on its annual pass to promote access to nature and camping.

But for many, the simple idea of sleeping in a bed a few centimeters thick is enough to give them a backache. If you want to plan a camping weekend and come back rested, this article is for you.

Causes of back pain while camping

A number of things can cause back pain on a camping trip. The long drive, the sleeping position and the effort to set up your camp are just a few examples.

Back muscles are often the cause of these pains. Don’t worry, this is normal. During a work week, most people don’t put much strain on their back muscles. When the weekend arrives, you change your habits and ask your back to work harder than usual. Your back will react with a few aches and pains over the next few days.

Normal aches and pains should diminish within a week.

What equipment should you use to prevent back pain?

Even if ready-to-camp sites are designed for you to sleep comfortably on flat ground, branches can often prevent you from being comfortable. Getting the right gear is the first step in reducing the chances of ending your camping weekend with a bad back. Here are the most relevant items to buy:

  • A camping chair
  • A backpack
  • A mattress and a pillow

The camping chair will allow you to be the last one to go to bed on your evenings around the campfire. Your back and buttocks will thank you for the investment.

A backpack will allow you to go about your daily activities while carrying warm clothes, water and snacks for the family. Be sure to get a bag that features a comfortable and adjustable waist strap.

The mattress and pillow will ultimately provide you with a comfortable night’s sleep. Consider investing a few extra dollars in these two items. Remember, the thickness of the mattress does not guarantee its comfort, as a thicker mattress will often be a little softer. Many stores offer demonstrators that you can try in-store.

You can find quality equipment for a reasonable price in many stores in Quebec. Nothing beats going in person to get good advice and choose the right equipment for your needs.

If your budget is limited, you can also find used equipment in good condition on Kijiji or on outdoor groups through social networks.

Tips and exercises to avoid back pain

If you usually come back from a weekend camping trip sore and want to prevent lower back pain on your next camping trip, you should do some stretching and strengthening exercises. A short workout of 10 to 15 minutes daily can quickly boost the health of your back and eliminate the painful area.

Consult one of our physiotherapists or kinesiologists for specific exercises for your condition. Or, you can sign up for a course such as yoga to help you maintain good physical health.

If you are considering sports activities, but have a fragile back, you could wear a lumbar belt. Do not hesitate to discuss this with your doctor or an orthotist.

What should you do if you still have back pain?

If you still experience back pain on your camping trip or when you return home despite all of the above advice, come and see one of our physiotherapists at the CMI clinics.

Your pain could be due to poor posture, lack of muscle strength or lack of mobility in the dorsal-lumbar area. We will discuss this with you in order to understand your pain and then evaluate your movements to identify its cause.

Our physiotherapists are outdoor enthusiasts and will be able to assist you with any questions you may have regarding your equipment. We will teach you how to quickly relieve back pain with various exercises.

Happy camping season! Be sure to book your camping nights soon, they sell out fast!

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Vincent has a master’s degree in  physiotherapy  from the University of Montreal.  Vincent brings his knowledge of skiing as an instructor for the Quebec Foundation for the Blind since 2014. He also works as a lifeguard for Patro le Prévost, one of the oldest non-profit organizations in Quebec.

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