6 Tips For Avoiding Back Pain While Fishing

Authored by: Dr. Thomas Schuler

Fishing is a great hobby for all ages, and each trip can create lasting memories with friends and family. According to the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation’s Annual Report, in 2020 almost 55 million Americans went fishing at least once. And of those nearly 55 million, 51% of them had the primary goal of spending time with family while fishing. 

I find myself as part of this statistic as I have made great memories fishing with my son throughout his childhood, and was lucky to make some more this summer. This is a favorite hobby of mine, but unfortunately for some it brings unwanted back and neck pain. Spending hours on a boat or in a river, with zero low back (lumbar) support, and constantly hunching over, can really do a number on your back. This is a list of a few tips to keep in mind while fishing — that way you can focus on the big catch instead of your back pain.

6 Tips For Avoiding Back Pain While Fishing

1. Find the Right Footwear

It is best to wear non-slip soles to prevent injuries from either slippery boat decks, or algae covered rocks. Supportive insoles are also important, since fishing can include standing on your feet for long periods of time throughout the day. Look for insoles with good arch support and that evenly distribute weight. When it comes to your shoes, you don’t want to go cheap. Back pain can have a direct correlation with your footwear, so investing in a good pair of shoes will really help you stay in the game.

2. Keep Your Posture In Mind

Whether you’re standing in a river bed for long periods of time, or on a boat in the ocean reeling in a massive fish, you want to make sure you keep your posture in mind. When you’re reeling in a fish, your first instinct is to use your back to create force against it. But what you really need to do is keep your back straight, and bend at the hip to reel that fish in. Many fishing companies make great back belts that support your lower back and have elastic straps to help straighten your posture. 

3. Use Your Legs & Core

Over rotating your back when twisting, and bending your back with a curved spine, are two big components that can halt your fishing trip before it even gets going. By using your legs and your core muscles when casting and reeling, you’ll find yourself in a better position for avoiding back injuries while fishing. Also when casting, using your core muscles to not over rotate will not only help you land your lure where you want it, but will also prevent your spine from over flexing which can cause serious injuries. And once your fish is on your line, having a staggered step approach will allow your legs muscles to assist with your core in creating resistance against the fish’s fight. 

4. Follow Your Fish

Attempting to bend or twist in awkward angles to reel in your fish can one, cause you to lose your fish, but more importantly two, can cause severe injuries from over flexing your spine. Move your feet, and try to keep your fish in front of you as best as possible.

5. Watch Your Step

Stay aware of obstacles or uneven surfaces, especially while reeling in your fish. The last thing you want to take you down, literally, is a fall. Tripping on obstacles or uneven surfaces can cause some very severe back injuries, so make sure you’re using your peripheral vision and taking slow steps when reeling in your catch.

6. Stretch, Stretch, Stretch

Stretching at the beginning, during, and after your trip are crucial when trying to avoid back pain. When walking to your destination can be an exercise within itself, you definitely should be warming up your muscles with some stretches before you begin. And after a big catch, stretching (especially with a backwards bend) will allow your body to counterbalance and reset from the constant forward bend your body was just doing. Stretching during breaks and downtime is great for loosening up any stiffness you’re feeling. And once you’re done for the day, cool down stretching helps calm your body and mind, while also allowing your muscles to rejuvenate for your next adventure.

Fishing is a great activity for making memories, but don’t let back pain be part of the story. Whether your back pain starts while on your trip, or once you’re back home, make sure you schedule an appointment with one of our spine specialized physicians. Don’t let your back pain stop you from getting back out on the water. 

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