4 Outdoor Activities for Neck and Back Pain Sufferers
As warmer weather approaches, the hope of enjoying outdoor activities begins to build. For many, back and neck pain can often be exacerbated by colder weather, making spring a welcome occurrence.
Outdoor activities are a great way to get moving and enjoy the benefits of endorphin-producing exercise. Throughout the winter months, we tend to be less active, making spring the perfect time to get outside and strengthen our muscles, increase flexibility, and improve mobility. For those itching to get outside and enjoy some sun, try these low-impact, spine healthy activities, and get moving!
Walking is a fantastic outdoor activity because it can be done almost anywhere and with minimal equipment. A supportive pair of sneakers and a safe pathway is all you need to perform this low impact exercise. Walking is also a great way to include friends and family in your exercise program and since an exercise partner is likely to keep you on track, extending invites is a smart idea. While it may simply seem like an everyday task, walking has profound health benefits. It can:
- Improve mood
- Encourage weight loss
- Strengthen muscles and bones
- Decrease back and neck pain
- Increase circulation/li>
- Improve balance
- Promote a healthy weight
- Improve coordination
Walking around more often also reduces your chances of future injury and improves overall spine health. When the temperature starts to rise, lace up those sneakers and get outside!
Swimming is an ideal form of exercise for neck and back pain sufferers. Water reduces the force of gravity on the body, protecting the joints and spinal structures due to the nature of buoyancy. Because water helps to support the body while providing resistance, swimming is a great activity for improving balance and coordination, while strengthening muscles, tendons and ligaments. Additionally, heated pools can help relax soft tissues, often providing relief for sore, tight and inflamed muscles. A water aerobics class or simply walking in the pool are both great ways to get started.
Riding a bike has less impact on the spine than other forms of aerobic exercise. If done on a paved, smooth surface, cycling is a great way to build muscular strength, improve endurance, increase circulation, and improve cardiovascular health. Even when weather conditions aren’t conducive to outdoor activities, a stationary bike can be used to provide the same benefits. While riding, be sure to avoid hunching and keep your spine straight and aligned. This will prevent unnecessary stress on the lower back, while strengthening both the abdominal and back muscles. Perhaps most importantly, make certain to ride a bike that is fitted to your body. Proper size is critical to avoiding injury and maintaining proper posture while riding.
If you live near water, paddle boarding is a great low-impact form of exercise. It is relatively easy on joints, ligaments, and tendons, while engaging nearly every muscle in the body. It is especially effective for strengthening the core muscles which help provide stability and strength for the entire body. For those new to the activity, it may be best to start in calmer water such as a lake before progressing to faster-moving waters with waves or currents.
Whatever you choose, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider prior to beginning an outdoor exercise routine. If you are currently suffering from neck or back pain, be certain to discuss safe options with your doctor to avoid causing further injury or damage. Always warm up first, start slowly and gradually build up to longer durations. Proper hydration and consistent stretching will also help keep your spine healthy, so be sure to include those in your routine as well.
When dealing with a spine issue, it’s important to consult a specialist to ensure you receive top quality care and treatment. Dr. Marc A. Cohen of The Spine Institute is a board-certified surgeon with decades of experience helping those with spine issues heal. Call 973-538-4444 to schedule an appointment or contact us for more information.