Just before this past Christmas I suffered a bout of near-debilitating back pain. For many days I had trouble sleeping, walking or even just standing up straight, and I had to undergo medical treatment several times a week. Fortunately this happened after I had wrapped up all my deer hunting for the year, but it made me shudder to think what would have happened if this had hit me while I was away on one of my various far-from-home deer hunts this past season.
|If sitting on the ground, use a seat with a back rest to help support your back.|
My back problems stem from a car accident I suffered about eight years ago. If you've ever had severe back pain, you know it can make you unable or at least uninterested in doing anything, as the pain dominates just about all aspects of your waking world. Pain is your body's way of telling you that something is wrong, so obviously the first step is determining the cause of your back pain, and only your medical professional can do that. But once you've established that, here are some things you can do to keep it from ruining your hunt.
As hunters we put more strain on our backs than most. Whether it's sitting for hours in a tree stand or a turkey blind, or hiking over rugged or steep terrain, back pain can be the result. Ask your doctor to show you a few daily exercises or stretches to help strengthen your core and prevent strains, and make sure you do workout, even while you're away hunting.
This may be particularly important early in the morning to loosen your back up before hitting the deer stand, especially if you've spent a long night in a cold cabin. I do a few single and double knees-to-chest stretches while lying on my back even before getting out of bed, and a few more once I stand up, along with a few hip circles in both directions. Where possible, an electric heating pad can also loosen your back if you find it gets stiff overnight, as can a gel pack that can be heated in boiling water or a microwave. Some are even available as patches or wraps to be worn under clothing.
Once you're in your stand, make use of the most comfortable and softest chair, seat or cushion you can find, preferably something with a back. Try not to go longer than about an hour at a time before standing to stretch a bit, along with some more hip circles. Safety first, so if you're in a tree stand, make sure you are securely strapped in, and rather than full circles, just do some side-to-side hip and back-to-front pelvic stretches. After you're done hunting for the day, the same gel packs that you used for heat in the morning can now be cooled in a freezer or under cold water and used to reduce any inflammation you may be experiencing.
If your back pain stems from problems with your feet and you've been prescribed custom orthotics, use them. Ideally you should have a separate pair sized for each set of footwear you use, including your favorite hunting boots. If this isn't possible, make sure you buy hunting boots that have a removable insole to ensure there is sufficient room inside for your orthotics, and bring your orthotics along to your nearest Bass Pro Shop when shopping for new boots to make sure they will fit.
I'm also going to make sure that I always take some over-the-counter pain relievers/anti-inflammatories with me on my hunts from now on. Again, ask your doctor about what is best and safe for you, and make sure you take it as directed, and use caution when operating vehicles and using firearms.