06/20/2016 4 Common Summer Activities that Cause Back Muscle Strains and Sprains

Alli Walsh, Social Media Strategist

4 Common Summer Activities that Cause Back Muscle Strains and Sprains

Does the warm weather have you planning a landscaping or outdoor fixer-upper project? Planning to take a long car trip or tackle those aggressive fitness goals? These are activities we all look forward to when summer rolls around, but before you jump in, be sure to take precautions to protect your spine and its supporting structures. Injury to the muscles and ligaments (spine strains) are the most common causes of back pain, and though usually not serious structural issues, these injuries often hurt enough to send people to the emergency room.

The spine is an intricate network

Bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, discs, nerves and muscles all work together in our spine to hold our bodies upright and to send nerve signals to our brains.  It’s a strong network, but one minor injury can wreak havoc on the whole system and knock you off your feet for days.

A few common summer activities that can make you more prone to these injuries are:

  1. Being a summer fitness warrior.  Bathing suit weather means wanting to look your best, so you may be tempted to jump into an intense workout routine after a long, sedentary winter.  Instead, start slowly and gradually increase intensity as you get stronger, especially when it comes to lifting weights. Consider consulting a physical trainer for the best way to ease into a fitness program.
  2. Outdoor home repairs.  Staining the deck or repainting the outside of your home?  Cleaning the gutters?  These activities put your body into unfamiliar positions for long periods of time, which can result in a back injury.  Pay attention to your posture, and make sure to take a break every 30 minutes or so to stretch and let your muscles rest. Take the project slowly over a period of several days, giving your body plenty of time to rest between sessions.
  3. Long trips.  Summer trips are worth the long car or plane rides, but make sure you arrive pain-free.  During the car, train, or airplane ride, get up and stretch your legs at least every 2 hours.  Try some hamstring stretches-tight hamstrings can cause lower back pain.  Consider buying a lumbar support pillow to relieve pressure, and use heat and ice therapy as needed.
  4. Gardening and lawn work. As we’ve mentioned, gardening has numerous health benefits, but protecting your back is not one of them.  While digging, make sure to keep your spine in alignment, and avoid twisting when shoveling dirt. During extended weeding sessions, sit on a bucket or stool, leaning forward with your spine in alignment, rather than hunching over.  Get help lifting heavy bags of soil, and be sure to bend at the hips and knees, not at the waist.

The good news is that most back pain caused by muscle strains and sprains will resolve itself with rest and over the counter pain medications.

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