Bone & Joint | Prevention
June 27, 2018

4 tips for back care in these warm, sunny months

by Gardening

Whether gardening, celebrating or exercising, keep these tips for back pain prevention in mind over the next few warm, sunny months.


Months of warm, glorious sun draw us outdoors to enjoy the weather, but those same months can be tough on the back. Here are four tips for back care to keep in mind this time of year, from Byron Stephens II, M.D., a spine surgeon caring for active people at Vanderbilt Bone & Joint, in Franklin, Tenn.

1. Prevent back pain in the garden.

Thanks to the April showers that poured down on Nashville, we are graced with an abundance of May flowers. Gardening and lawn work is a great physical activity that gives us the opportunity to enjoy the sun and be productive in our yards on the weekends.

However, if you have back and neck pain, avoid doing too much strenuous work in one session. It’s better to divide big tasks into smaller steps to avoid overdoing it, Stephens advises. Also, take regular breaks while bending and stooping so that you can avoid severe muscle pain that comes with doing a sudden burst of work that your muscles are unaccustomed to.

Ask your doctor about whether it makes sense for you to wear a back support brace when working in the yard or doing other hard physical work. Back braces can be appropriate in some cases, Stephens said, but he warned that if a brace is used too often, it can actually discourage the core strength that ultimately allows you to function without back pain.

2. Try icing as back pain treatment.

When it’s hot out, instead of your heating pad, take breaks from your activities to put ice on your back or neck for 20 minutes, Stephens said, to cool down and relax those achy muscle spasms. (Do not put ice directly on skin; wrap in a cloth or use an icepack with a cloth cover.) To get the full benefit of icing, you must endure the 3 phases:

  • Cold;
  • A burning sensation;
  • Numbness.

3. Safety first.

Did you know that July is the month of the year when the most spinal cord injuries due to motor vehicle accidents are reported? So if barbequing and sharing in summertime parties with friends and family are on your calendar for the coming months, be sure to have a great time safely and responsibly. Don’t drink and drive. It could save a life or a spine.

4. Play in the pool.

If you’re looking for a refreshing activity to get you out of the steamy gym this summer, then splash into an exercise regimen that involves swimming. Swimming is a perfect summertime exercise that becomes accessible to more of us as pools open up for the season. Swimming is the ideal exercise for lower back pain because it is low-impact. Plus, it combines strengthening of your back extension and core muscles, leg toning and cardiovascular conditioning all in a cool and refreshing atmosphere.

If you’re not a strong swimmer, an alternative is walking laps in the swimming pool. The water provides more resistance than air, so walking in the pool burns more calories — and works your core muscles harder — than walking on the sidewalk. Also, Stephens recommends water aerobics classes: “These are often offered in the shallow end of the pool, where most people can stand up.” These group classes can burn calories, tone muscle and improve balance — and the water feels good on a hot summer day.

Not only will you look great this summer, but your back will also thank you.

Summer, Safety, Bone Health, Spring

Woman in silhouette, bending over to touch her palms to the floor.

Is your back chronically sore? The specialists at Vanderbilt Bone & Joint can help. To get back to doing the things you love, pain-free, schedule an appointment today at (615) 790-3290.

6 thoughts on “4 tips for back care in these warm, sunny months”

  1. amaxwell888 says:

    It’s nice that you said that back injury treatment could be done with ice. I also like how you said that being in a pool can relive some pressure form it too. My husband’s back is always hurting, so we are looking for a treatment that will help him the best.

  2. Mark Murphy says:

    I really appreciate your tip on asking your doctor on whether or not it would be appropriate to wear a back brace while working outside. My wife has been experiencing some back pain ever since she got into a car accident a couple of weeks ago, and she loves working in the garden. I will be sure to ask our doctor if she should wear a back brace!

  3. Taylor Anderson says:

    I’ve been having a lot of back pain, so I’ve been wondering how I can reduce it. Thanks for pointing out that you should make sure that ice is not put directly on the skin. These tips might really help me, so thank you for sharing them.

  4. kamal Hossain says:

    I’ll have to make sure to read all of your posts! I also have scoliosis! It isn’t bad enough for surgery, thank goodness but it’s there and painful every now and again. My auntie had surgery for it at around 12-13 years old! You definitely seem to have a positive attitude about it. Keep it up 😊😊 check this out.. Scoliosis Back Brace Experience

  5. Gary Puntman says:

    I agree that you should make sure you ask your doctor about wearing a support brace on your back. That would probably be a good idea for when you are doing work around the house. That could help you manage some of the pain. I’ll have to suggest my dad does that.

  6. Ellie Davis says:

    My mother has been complaining about a burning sensation in her back. Thank you for pointing out that this is a sign she should get into a doctor. I’ll have to help her find the best doctor in our area to get her the best treatment.

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