Hiking with Back Pain

One of the many lessons I’ve learned from the pandemic is how amazing the great outdoors is for both our physical and mental health. My wife and I actually go out on one to two big hikes every weekend so that we can enjoy the fresh air and add some awesome physical activity to our time off from the workweek. But hiking can be challenging when you have back pain. With every step uphill or downhill, trying to catch your footing, maintaining your balance, each is an opportunity to flare up your lower back pain and sciatica. So over the next few videos, I’m actually going to show you exactly how you’re able to hike without low back pain or sciatica so you can enjoy this awesome activity in nature. 

The key to your success is ensuring that your core is neutral and as tight as possible as you traverse the land. So the first part of many hikes is actually walking uphill. The great news is that an uphill climb is a fantastic way to increase the intensity of any sort of walking workout and it’s actually really safe on the low back, hips, knees, and ankles. I like uphill walking even more than I like climbing stairs. The inclines of the hill actually increase the amount of load that your legs have to move through as you ascend the mountain. So you can do this without loading up your spine which is often a huge fear and concern for those suffering from low back pain. 

So follow these three action steps and you should be climbing mountains without pain in no time. 

The first one is going to be leaning forward. You have to lean forward and that allows you to hinge at the hips and it also engages your trunk muscles so that you can maintain a stable core throughout the motion. Now contrary to popular belief, if you do lean forward, it doesn’t put more stress or tension on your back and that’s what your abs are for: to maintain that position. 

Two, you have to swing your arms. Not only are your legs swinging forward and backward, but there’s also little side to side and twisting motions that occur at the pelvis. What’s really cool about swinging in your arms is that it actually strengthens the normal rotational forces that occur at the pelvis and shoulders and this means less movement and torsion at your spine, a stronger core, and little to no pain in your back. 

The third piece is to emphasize your posterior chain. Now I love the fact that uphill walking engages the two most important muscles outside of your core which includes your glutes and your hamstrings. Both sets of muscles are responsible for the movement of hip extension, which is your leg pushing straight back. Now if you have weak hamstrings and glutes, the hip extension would actually occur at the lower back increasing that arching motion at the spine and this can irritate your low back even more. The good news is that the moment you start to think about your butt and the back of your thighs, your hamstrings, these muscles already turn on, so use them while walking uphill. 

These three tips will ensure that you work up a great sweat and have no pain when walking uphill. 

The next step is walking down and that’s going to be in the next video. If you need help managing your low back pain or your issues in your sciatica so that you can return back to the things that you love such as hiking, then click on the link below or email me at


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