Summer brings a welcome change in routine. Work hours may shorten, recreation activities may increase, and the day comes earlier and ends later.
Here are just a few tips to keep neck and back pain in check during the summer months:
Summer vacations can be a lot of fun, but as the miles add up so does neck and back pain from long hours in a car or plane. Adjust your car seat, headrest and backrest so that your spine rests comfortably. Plan your road trip so you can make frequent stops. On planes, lift heavy luggage slowly, especially into overhead compartments. Booking an aisle seat will make it easier to get up and stretch frequently. Stay hydrated and try not to fall asleep. If you fall asleep, your body may assume an uncomfortable position which will aggravate your neck and back pain.
Long summer days can lead to a change in sleep patterns and aggravate neck and back pain. Increased activity out of the house can make it impossible to keep a consistent sleep schedule. Summer vacation may have you sleeping on a different bed and mattress. Also, heat and humidity can make it difficult to be comfortable falling and staying asleep.
Sporting events are fun but sitting on stadium seats and bleachers is often not very comfortable. If you are allowed, bring your own seating to the sideline or a seat cushion if you have to sit in bleachers or stadium seats. Any type of portable product that provides support to your lower back while sitting will help.
Amusement parks can mean hours of standing in line. Roller coasters and other rides that forcefully throw your body in different directions can be hard on your lower back and neck. Doing some neck rolls and other stretching exercises before getting on a ride can loosen up tight muscles and might help to reduce spasms. Staying hydrated helps keep the intervertebral discs hydrated, which helps disperse forces from one vertebra over the next lower vertebra more evenly, reducing disc problems.
Spinal posture, shoulder posture, hand positioning, proper breathing and jaw relaxation can affect how your neck and lower back feel after running, especially in heat and humidity. Stretching, hydration and awareness of your body position while on a run can help prevent neck and back pain later.
Gardening in the summer, much like snow removal in the winter, can put a great deal of strain on your back. Digging and weeding can worsen neck and back pain due to muscle stress and improper posture. Use seating aids while weeding, and bend from the hips and knees rather than the waist while lifting bags or shovelfuls of soil.
Summer is the perfect time of year to rehabilitate your sore neck and back. Strengthen core body muscles, tackle low impact aerobic exercises, and perform regular stretching to keep back pain at bay.
In summer, the ocean and outdoor pools beckon us for swimming and water exercise, which tend to be especially gentle on your neck and back. Of course, never ever dive into any body of water without knowing its depth. According to the ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation, as many as 1,000 spinal cord injuries occur each year due to shallow water diving. For many with low back pain, biking is also a good low impact form of exercise that is gentle on the lower back.
People who jump into summer activities are at a higher risk of suffering from neck and back pain than people who exercise regularly. Their muscles may not be conditioned to withstand sudden stretching and pulling. This sudden use of muscles, tendons and ligaments can lead to neck pain and back pain.
Any neck or back pain that results from an accident, slip, fall or strain that does not get better within a few days should be evaluated by an orthopedic specialist. Have a happy and pain-free summer.
Dr. Balar, an osteopathic physician board-certified in internal medicine and sports medicine, is the director of sports medicine, Human Motion Institute at Raritan Bay Medical Center. The Institute is a comprehensive musculoskeletal program dedicated to returning patients to normal activities quickly and safely with help from a nurse navigator who guides patients and their families through surgical care.
The new Back and Neck Center uses a multifaceted approach to accurately diagnose and treat back and neck pain. Treatment options include physical therapy, medication, alternative therapies, lifestyle changes, non-surgical and minimally invasive surgical procedures, all performed within the continuum of care offered by The Human Motion Institute.
For referral to an orthopedic specialist at the Back and Neck Center, call 1.877.MDS.RBMC. For more information on The Human Motion Institute, call 1.855.5.MOTION.
With locations in Perth Amboy and Old Bridge, New Jersey, Raritan Bay Medical Center delivers critical world-class healthcare services care to Monmouth and Middlesex County residents. As providers of first-class healthcare in the areas of stroke, cardiology, cancer, physical rehabilitation, pulmonary rehabilitation, pediatric medicine, Raritan Bay Medical Center continues to stay on the forefront of medicine.
Questions, issues or concerns? I'd love to help you!