A hunter’s guide to prevent Low Back Pain

Being from Southwestern Pennsylvania hunting is a big deal! I have always loved the outdoors, but I got into hunting later in life. About 10 years ago my father-in-law told me to buy my hunting license. He had everything else I needed firearm included. If I didn’t like it I was only out $20 for the license. That morning it rained, and rained, and rained some more. We saw 1 deer, and even though I never got a chance to shoot at anything I instantly fell in love with it! The next year I decided to buy a compound bow and get into archery. In my opinion archery season is the best time to hunt. Temps are warmer, you see more deer and there are a lot less hunters in the woods. There is something about being in the woods by yourself with nature! You can’t describe it until you are actually in it. I can go out and not see a thing, but I still feel it was a good day because that is also my time to sit and think. It’s my time to sit and unwind. It’s my time to sit and forget about stress and relax. Sitting is the common denominator here! As hunters we do a lot of sitting while we are in the woods. Sometimes we sit for 4, 5, 6 sometimes 12 hours while in the woods. Now you may be thinking “I sit that long at work, what’s the big deal?” Well, seats are a little different in the woods. Most archery hunters sit in a tree. Tree stands are not all that comfortable in my opinion, and if you have back problems it can be a nightmare. We put our bodies through hell trying to sit still and not move all while trying to stay warm. We find the best spot to try and conceal ourselves even if it means we have to sit crouched down in the most uncomfortable position for hours. All this to try and shoot a deer! Sitting for any length of time is not a good option for you. It can lead to poor health and most importantly Low Back Pain. 

Poor posture can and will lead to back pain. Over time if you sit in a slouched position for too long it puts stretch on the structures that stabilize your spine. You have multiple structures that support and brace your spine, ligaments and muscles being the main supporters. As we sit slouched those muscles tend to want to relax and not work to support our spine. The ligaments that run the entire length of our back are put on a stretch for the entire time we slouch, and most of the time that is hours. Think of it this way, you have a rubber band that you keep in a stretched position for an extended amount of time. Eventually that band is going to lose it’s elasticity and not work properly. This is how the ligaments in your back work as well. So if they are constantly on stretch, when you need the support it will not be there. Hunters need to understand that even though they sit a lot while waiting for their trophy, they need to prepare like this were any other sport. Getting into a good exercise routine will help and prevent injuries. Anyone that thinks nothing goes into hunting needs to try and drag a 200 lb deer out of the woods! It ‘s not fun trust me!

Here are some ways to try and save yourself from back problems this hunting season…

Dress in layers to stay warm:

When you have back pain chances are good that cold weather is going to bother it. Dressing warm can help decrease the amount of stiffness you experience. Also, if you are dressed warm enough you will not have to get into awkward positions to try and stay warm.

Try to use a 2 man ladder stand:

I am a big proponent of ladder stands. They are so much easier to get in and out of because they are permanent. And they are much more comfortable than a hang on. What a 2 man provides is more room. When you have more room to move around that gives you a chance to change positions and not have to sit and stiffen up. It also makes it easier to stand up and stretch a bit.

Stand up every 45 minutes:

Standing up puts your back into more extension which helps to keep your back in a less vulnerable position. While standing up you can do some calf raises to get the blood flowing through your legs and to try and keep yourself warm.

Try to pick a tree that is straight for the most part:

It’s hard to pick a tree to put your stand on, especially if you are looking for one that is straight. My suggestion is as straight as you can get. Once you put up your stand you need something to rest your back on. If you pick a tree leaning forwards that is just going to put you into a more flexed position. Try to keep your mid back up against the tree at all times. This will force you to put your chest out and extend your low back keeping it in a better position. You can also try an Ameristep Lumbar Support for added postural correction while sitting.

Do abdominal bracing and pelvic floor exercises:

The proper way to activate and brace your abdominal muscles is to pretend like someone is going to punch you in the gut and brace. At the same time activate your pelvic floor. This is called a Kegel exercise. Women are familiar with this. Act like you need to go to the bathroom real bad and you need to hold it until you pull over to a rest stop. These 2 combined exercises are the basis behind any functional movement that we do. If we learn to do these things before we actively do something, this will save our backs.

Field dressing your kill:

If at all possible try to face uphill while field dressing. This will put your back in a position so that you don’t have to lean over as much keeping you in a minor extended position.

Dragging a deer out of the woods:

Most people know that going downhill is a lot easier than uphill. If this isn’t possible, find a few friends that you can take turns with. If you have an ATV get it! Don’t waste time trying to be macho! Guys with low back pain from being stubborn are not macho…they are stupid! Make things easy on yourself and get help when possible!

Start an exercise program meant for stability and endurance:

If you have no idea how to do this, find a Physical Therapist! Stabilizing the spine is something that I deal with on a weekly basis. Having a strong core and back will help be more effective not only while hunting, but with general functions throughout the day. 

Low back pain can be avoided, and prevented if you take the right steps. Next time you are out in the woods try a few of these tips. Hunting can be a lot of fun, but if you don’t take the right steps to prevent back pain you will be laid up all season.


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