View Full Version : Scoliosis

08-16-2004, 17:10
Does anybody have Scoliosis or any experience with long distance hiking and back pain? My wife has a pretty severe case of scoliosis and we are planning a thru-hike next year... Any suggestions for keeping the back pain to a minimum?

08-16-2004, 21:48
The idea is not to have back pain. Has she been fitted for a backpack by someone who knows anything about them? Does she know how to use her hip belt to shift weight directly to her pelvis? How much weight is she carrying, especially compared to her body weight?

<Danger, Danger Will Robinson! Don't tell the Internet her weight!>

There are many of us with histories of back problems. I usually found less pain and more flexibility after a section hike than before. Now that I'm post op, I find no real problems other than some weakness in my legs on day hikes.


Pooja Blue
08-16-2004, 22:01
I have scoliosis but it isn't severe. A large Golite Gust has worked for me, I have even carried up to 40 pounds in it without problems in comfort or additional back pain (my back always hurts even when I'm not hiking) although I understand that isn't typical (the Gust is only recommended for up to 30 pounds).

If I were her I'd start researching ultralight backpacking and utilize as much of that as is practical for her and her preferences. It might take trying different combinations of gear until she finds what works for her.

She might also want to consult a physical therapist to show her stretches to do for her back (and all of the major muscle groups) after a day of hiking. That really helped me.

08-17-2004, 07:28
Just a thought on packs here. While keeping weight to a minimum is certainly a good goal, I would caution anyone with back problems to be careful when purchasing an ultralight pack. These types of packs can be sparse in regards to hipbelts and padding. While PB may not have had any problems overloading his/her pack, ultralight packs are designed to carry light loads and often have specific weight capacities. A few extra ounces for pack suspension could be a real help. Also, a slightly larger pack for you ;) .

08-17-2004, 12:48
We are trying to keep her load down to a minimum... She is heading this weekend to Walasi-Yi Center to get fitted as best a possible and to talk through how best to carry the weight. anybody in particular she should talk to? And does anybody have any comments on frameless packs that are much lighter weight vs. packs with more support but also end up heavier... so i guess it comes down to wieght vs. support...

08-17-2004, 15:18
There are several types and degrees of scoliosis. An adult who has lived their entire life with such a congenital anamoly (unless it is an extreme case/degree) may well have developed some compensatory muscles and a posture that "works" with the spinal curvatures to achieve an almost normal gait.

I work in orthopedics/sports medicine and I would suggest that they first pay a visit to an orthopedist ...and preferably one who is an outdoor enthusiast and knows/ understands the special demands of backpacking. Often, someone with scoliosis has grown up with a difference in leg length. Often that can be dealt with by adding inserts in boots, if necessary. Another possibility is some form of back brace/support to be worn while hiking with a backpack.

Scoliosis, in and of itself should not preclude someone from backpacking but for maximum enjoyment (or said another way ...for minimum discomfort) it would likely pay dividends to have a thorough check-up and to get some professional medical advice before hand.

AT 2003

08-18-2004, 08:21
maybe she could use a large waist pack, which would keep all the weight off her back. She should also give poles a try to see if they help/hinder. Also, you should learn some back massage techniques that might alleviate muscle tension.

08-18-2004, 14:37
I have good back problems, too, and I was real worried about it when I started hiking. I found a good pack where my hips supported more of the weight than my shoulders. I also hiked with a back brace, and it was essential--definitely get one. I also stretched my back out before I hiked every morning and before I took off again after lunch. I found that my back slowly got stronger as the weeks passed and was surprised not to have any back pain at all. good luck.

08-20-2004, 12:30
Thanks for all the tips. I'm headed to Walasi-Yi this weekend, X-ray's in hand to show the folks there what I'm dealing with. The funny thing is, my spine is so badly curved on both sides (it looks like an "S") that my weight is completely evenly distributed on both feet--something that I'm told doesn't happen often even with straight spines. So that's good! But I do have a hip 20cm higher than the other, which makes going downhill a real punk. I do use poles--they are part of my essential hiking gear. I also do a lot of weight training for my back and yoga, too. I'll keep doing the yoga as much as possible on the trail--seems like not stretching hurts a lot of people's efforts, not just those who are gimpy like me.:rolleyes:

I'm just getting a lot of mixed messages from folks about carrying a lighter pack with less support vs. a supported pack where the weight will add to my issues. So I'm gonna get me a pack soon and try it out as much as possible to see if it's right for me. If it's not, I'll keep trying till we leave. Take that, spine!

I'll report back soon on my pack travails.

08-20-2004, 15:00
I have a relative with moderate scoliosis in his lower back; his doctor said "if you go backpacking try to keep the weight high on your back" but everyone's situation is different. He hiked 100 miles last year no problem. If you're going on a major hike I would think it would be worthwhile to get a orthopedic doctor's opinion just so you don't make something go from bad to worse.

Orangebug, that "Danger Will Robinson" warning was a real hoot (I haven't heard that in 35 years!) but then I do live under a rock, sort of. :)