[at-l] backpacking with a bad back

Mark Hudson mvhudson at gmail.com
Sun Jul 3 11:08:58 CDT 2011

Fortunately I can't speak for dealing with a bad back myself...
And while not quite the same problem, my sister broke her back in a fall
years ago. She was in a back-brace for three months as I recall, and about
another month to wean off of it.
What was amazing was just how much the brace looked like a backpack frame.
And when she did get back to hiking she was more comfortable with the pack
than she was at home.
(She did have to spring for a more cushy sleeping pad).
Like you, she also found out that stretching and yoga helps, and if she
doesn't do it regularly she pays for it. And every so often she needs to get
tweaked by the chiropractor.

The catch is that what she was dealing with was basically a one-shot problem
- in that it hasn't gotten worse. If your problems are degenerative that's a
whole different ball game.

So, my only real suggestion is to transfer as much weight to your hips as
possible. So if you're going lightweight that may actually require a pack
with a sturdier frame.

Say, wasn't Black Wolf dealing with back problems? Maybe he'll chime in...
otherwise chase him down.



I recently started having some new back / sacroiliac pain, and my
chiro sent me for an x ray and then an MRI.  I have five bulging disks
- 3 lumbar, 1 thoracic, one cervical.  2 of the lumbar disks are torn.
 And the L5-S1 joint looks like two heads of cauliflower having an

I'm headed to a neurosurgeon on Friday to get professional advice, but
I'd love to hear from anybody with similar issues about how, if at
all, it has affected your backpacking.  Do you have to carry a lighter
pack?  Sturdier pack frame?  Do shorter miles?  Avoid steep sections?
Is it really horrible when you fall?

The back pain I'm having isn't horrible, and in fact is not nearly as
bad as it was ten years ago before I started doing yoga and a lot of
walking.  So I'm thinking I will be fine.  I mean, I walked 1400 miles
last year and most of this damage was probably already there.  But I
bet the neurosurgeon will tell me otherwise - everybody always tells
me to stop doing the things I love when stuff goes wrong.  I usually
ignore them, which might be why I have five bad disks now
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