© 2019 Copyright by P. K. H. Groth, Denver, Colorado, USA All rights reserved - See contact page
Hunter Neck, Spine, and Bone Risks
Hunter Back Injuries:​ Y ou do not see many hunting articles about simple back and leg hazards. Hauling large packs in and meat loads out takes its toll. Do it right or pay the consequences later in life. I made it, but the toll was the loss of three inches in height and the absence of most functional vertebral discs. Let me tell you that during wet, icy, and snowy weather you have to adjust to conditions. Pushing your weight-carrying limits on a mucky trail may result in breaking a leg or wrenching your back. Five miles from a road head is a walking eternity if your back or neck is dislocated. Slowly driving a potholed road to medical help is going to be the final painful blow. I have driven back-injured men and heard them whimper at the road ruts. I recall the year I took Josh elk hunting with me. Josh had driven nonstop nearly 1,500 miles. He was tired when he got to my house (late and exhausted), and the four hour ride to elk base camp did not adequately replenish sleep. We were setting up a temporary base camp when Josh somehow dislocated his back. After three hours, he relented and let me drive him back to Denver for medical treatment. The forty-mile drive to the interstate drew tears to Josh’s eyes, especially when my Suburban bumper sideswiped a large boulder hidden in the deep snow. He got chiropractic and medical treatment, and a day of rest. We were two days late for opening day, but like all enthusiastic elk hunters, he fought for and got a nice bull. {Interest note: I had a sedentary job that resulted in chronic back problems. My back ALWAYS recovered before hunting seasons because I exercised more. } I now carry a week’s supply of back muscle relaxant medicine and prescription pain medicine when backpacking or hunting. At every yearly physical, I give the doctor the remaining medicine for disposal (commonly all is left) in return for prescriptions for fresh medicines. I started this relationship when I picked up a fish in a remote lake I built along the Continental Divide. Linda wire-sawed avalanched trees with bent bases to fit my hips top contours. Then she strapped me tightly into this back brace and we walked the seven miles up to the Continental Divide and out to I-70, where highway crew members helped lift strapped me into the back of our Blazer. Protect Your Knees: Many backpacking and hunting articles reviewing potential physical and environmental danger fail to point out a quite likely obvious hazard a knee injury. A simple stumble while boulder bashing a trail can bring a painful and potentially life-long knee condition. Of all the places on your body not to fall, the knee is the worst and most often unforeseen accident. A moderate strike below the kneecap might initially only slightly hurt, but the bruise may progress to ligament damage and water boils under the kneecap. I remember slightly tapping my knee. It swelled to double size by the next day, and then my entire leg turned black and blue. Be tender to your precious knees. Walk slower to maintain good balance. Off-load some things and make a second trip when hauling heavy loads (think game meat) downhill. Getting in the in the predicament of being forced down on your knees can be devastating to the hunt. Treasure    and    Protect    Your    Joints    T reasure and respect your vertebrae! Do not overload or over tax them. Lift properly to preserve them. Never lift with a twist, as when jerking a heavy, clumsy backpack up to your shoulders. Outdoor activities demand you stay comfortably ambulatory well into old age. How do hummingbird wings do that !   Birdwatchers recently began banding humming birds in Florida. Banding the tiny birds had never been done before because they are difficult to catch (and later recatch) without injuring them. Their miniscule legs allowed only thin, fragile bands with little information. Beside, few people cared where they went, supposing that they “went to the mountains for the summer” before returning the following fall. Not so! The rascals banded in Tallahassee, Florida were caught summering in Anchorage, Alaska! Those puny little birds flew over 3,500 miles over the Rocky Mountain for their summer vacation, and then flew back! Plus, they fluttered about at winter and summer feeding locations. That is one heck of a feat running on flower nectar! Let’s look at how much hummingbird wings are used. They flutter at 50-70 times a second 60 flutters X 60secopnds X60mionutes X24hours X365days = 1,892,160,000 wing beats a year. How do they do that! I am dead serious: some graduate student should study the hummingbird wing joints to develop a legitimate human joint supplement. That should bring her/him billions. It might also result in a life-extending elixir who knows, what helps joints might help the heart! (Note: the black billed warbler songbird is only slightly larger than a hummingbird. It migrates over the Pacific Ocean from New Zealand to Alaska and to Japan and back. Do not underestimate nature. Learn from it . ​Pre-Season Back Exercise to Increase Your High Altitude Breathing: Y ou have two diaphragms melded as one. There are two phrenic nerves coursing down from your neck vertebrae to control these two diaphragm sections, which usually act in unison. Three quarters of your air inspiration results from your diaphragm pulling down from your neck vertebrae to control these two diaphragm sections, which usually act in unison. Three quarters of your air inspiration results from your diaphragm pulling down toward the body cavity. The diaphragm will have to work harder if it has to push down against an enlarged abdomen (think big gut). Try to get rid of that gut. Think of hunting all year, not beer. About one-quarter of inspiration occurs through the muscular action of your rib cage. Intercostal muscles contract to make the lung cavity smaller by pulling the ribs together and inward, thus more completely expelling carbon dioxide enriched air. If you are not physically adjusted to rarified air, you may experience rib muscle fatigue and pain until the intercostal muscles become toned. Consider beginning to tone the intercostal muscles and your back muscles with deep breathing well before the season. You will be able to sleep better if your chest rib muscles are not tender and do not ache at night. Breathing Exercises for your Health and Awareness: Doctors advise breathing and breath control is the easiest way to improve your physical and mental health. Train yourself to breathe deeply and slowly to boost your immune systems and heart health. Begin breath training well before the hunting season and you will adjust to high altitudes easier and quicker. Many of us are tied to the computer during the workday and at home. Your computer work may indirectly create stress, headaches and fatigue but not just in the ways you might suspect. “Fitbit” exercise tracking devises monitor your physical activity. “Spire” is a wearable device that monitors your breathing rhythm, types, and efficiencies. It was used to expose a new kind of apnea, which is a temporary cessation of daytime breathing. People in a computer work study often held their breath, and they commonly took short, shallow breaths that were insufficient to optimally exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen. This results in fatigue, ​sleepiness and physiological stresses on body organs like the heart. There are two types of breathing. Most people breathe “vertically” using mainly their chest, shoulders and neck. When exhausted or excited they use the diaphragm more. A better method of breathing is to use your diaphragm to do most of the inhaling and expiration of the lungs. This breathing type is taught in stress-relief Yoga classes. It involves inhaling rather quickly by pulling your diaphragm down into your gut. Then slowly, deeply exhaling completely. The diaphragm flattens and the ribs flare out. Throughout the year, maintain good posture when working at the computer. Sit straight, do not lean forw ard on your gut, or slouch to the side when on the telephone. Muscle Tone Your Neck Before Hunting: There are three basic movements of the neck: extention, flexation, and lateral rotation. There are some exercises you can do to get in shape for the additional stresses placed on your neck by carrying backpacks and even the heaver loads of winter clothing, gun and ammunition. Extention: place your two hands cupped behind your neck. Gradually pull the hands forward as you push the neck backward. The chin should never be pulled down from further that being level with the floor. Hold that strained position several seconds and then repeat the exercise several times. Alternate with the other two exercises. NOTE: Never pull your hands downward because this can cause damage to the cervical discs and alignment. Flexation: Make fists of your hands and place them together under your chin. Try to push upward while straining the neck to pull down. Hold the position 3-5 seconds and repeat. Lateral: Place one hand over the top of your head and try to pull it sideways as you try to resist the movement with the neck muscles. Hold several seconds and repeat several times. Do not twist the neck while doing this because cervicals may be damaged. Tone Your Shoulder Muscles : The hunting season transition to using your shoulders more for packing, slinging a gun or reaching higher than normal to move branches results in tired shoulder muscles. Tone muscles with shoulder shrugs as you walk, jog or watch TV. Over days gradually increase the weight by using a water filled gallon milk jug in each hand. Carry and toss a rounded cobble from hand to hand as you hike. Graduate into backpack training with ever-increasing loads of milk bottles. Tone Your Diaphragm : E ffective deep breathing without pain at high altitudes will occur if you tone the muscles in your diaphragm. This exercise uses the weight of your gut to make your diaphragm work harder. It will also make the muscles between our ribs work harder and tone. Kneel on your knees with your hands flat on the floor and keep your back straight. Slowly take very deep breaths and equally slowly exhale completely. Do this over many days until the discomfort disappears. Strengthen Your Diaphragm and Respiratory Muscles: This exercise uses your abdomen as a resistive weight against chest and diaphragm muscles. Begin by sitting straight-backed in a chair and slowly breathing very deeply in and pushing completely out your gut on the exhale. Do the numerous times and gradually increase the holding periods. Progress to a second exercise after a few days. Kneel on the floor with your place hands flat on the floor. Do the inhale-exhale exercise above. This will be harder, because the weight of your hanging gut presents more resistance to inhaling. Correct and Preserve Your Back Posture: Realign the back muscles if your lifestyle and job have created muscular asymmetry. In this age, more people are becoming sedentary on the job and at home. Physical exertion is limited. Desk jobs can lead to poor posture. Leaning sideways against a desk while on the phone, driving long distances slouched against the door, carrying a heavy handbag or briefcase in the same hand and a host of other activities can lead to spinal muscular asymmetry, which gradually results in spinal curvature. A straight, muscularly balanced, strong back is less likely to incur sprains and damage. In addition, you can breathe easier and better. Carrying even a light backpack can “lift up” the shoulders and strengthen the back muscles. The mere reoccurring act of trying to keep both pack straps on your shoulders gradually tones the back muscles. Slowly adding more weight such as another bottle of water continues the toning. Try raising your shoulders and simultaneously deeply breathe while you read this. Notice that you can inspire more air and quicker when your shoulders are not drooped? Toning your intercostal muscles will aid you when later ambulating at high altitudes, particularly when you tote a heavy pack of gear or meat.​ Preseason Tone Shoulder and Neck Muscles : The drawings below indicte the muscles which should be strengthened before elk season. Begin by carrying a lightly-weighted backpack on hikes and gradually add weight. Use water filled milk bottles and increase the amount of water on successive outings. I have read articles suggesting emptying the bottles before descending trails. This is not advisable, because weight carried downhill will help tone the shin muscles that can be devastated when trudging do wn steep grades with a heavy lo ad of meat. Backpacks Can Damage Your Spine and Neck: Using an improper backpack or randomingly stowing items in it can put excessive strain on the neck vertebrae. Long- t erm bone and muscle damage can result as the spinal and cervical vertebrae realign to compensate for the continued stresses. The x-ray image on the left is of a neck with normal forward curvature. The curvature allows the neck bones and discs to absorb some shock when walking, and lets the head rotate on the vertebrae. The image on the right is of a neck that,, through years of stress, has realigned to what is called “Foreward Leaning Neck”. It is also in dislocation [cervical subluxation, C3 retrolisthesis]. Note the third vertebra down is cocked/slipped to the right. This pinches the enclosed spinal cord. The inflammation affects nerves emerging from the vertebrae. The neck is straight and inflexible. The bone protrusions on the back of the cervical vertebrae are splayed and do not nestle correctly. These protrusions can rub together causing nerve and muscular inflammation, resulting in debilitating muscular spasms similar to leg muscle cramps but much more painfully and potentially more dangerous. It is not a nice condition and it can result in permanent damage! Misaligned bones deform and undergo "remodeling" changes that become permanent. Using an improper backpack or stowing items in it can put excessive strain on the neck vertebrae. Long-term bone and muscle damage can result as the spinal and cervical vertebrae realign to compensate for the continued stresses. On the left diagram (below), the force vector is essentially straight down. This allows the spine to remain straight AND the head to remain vertical upon the neck. The correct backpack is a deep pack. The weight vortex is pulling down away from the body, causing the shoulders and head to lean forward. The spine is curved, resulting in the intervertebral discs to distorting under long-term pressure. High backward force is exerted on the neck, causing it to straighten to carry the backward-pulling weight force. Extensive back packing under these stresses is asking for not only back damage, but also neck problems. (Radiographs courtesy of Renew Chiropractic, Lakewood, Colorado) Use a Proper Backpack to Avoid Spine, Hip and Knee and Foot Damage: An eighty- pound bull elk hindquarter is a beast to pack far. It can really tear up your body and resolve to pack out the rest of the meat, especially the same day. I strongly recommend hunters use a dedicated backpack for hauling heavy meat loads out of the backcountry. The pack should allow loads to be strapped close to the back. Few soft packs allow this, since cinching up the bag does not result in forcing the weight forward flat against your back, but into a barrel-shaped drooping lump. A hard frame pack (or even old pack board frame) permits straps and rope to bring weight close against the back. This reduces backward pull, tiring pack swaying, l oad shifting, and thumpi ng against an unprotected lower back. The pictured Himalayan brand pack frame weighs less than eight ounces (total), has lugs for cinching meat bags to the frame, a webbed back rest for ventilation and comfort, and a hip ​belt to reduce strain on the back. It stores easily in a vehicle and is a potential “trade” item to hunters who came less prepared. It cost half a dollar at a garage sale.​ Fill your backpack with the heaviest items forward and placed high, against the upper back. Put the lightest objects on the bottom and against the rear. Pay attention to balance left-right weight distribution when packing to reduce pack swaying that will tire shoulders. Then cinch the pack tightly to prevent load shifting. Change Body Load Positions During the Year: Avoid always carrying loads such as a pocketbook, daypack, book bag or even the dog leash over the same shoulder or arm. Your body continually responds to forces exerted on it. Using one shoulder to carry weight creates lateral asymmetry of muscles. This can result in gradual misalignment of the spinal column, uneven muscular development and rising of the more-used shoulder. Lateral stress will be exerted on the spine, which gradually deforms in response to the asymmetrical load. It takes a while to create spinal damage, but it will take a heck of a lot longer to correct it! Alternate hands carrying a rifle and avoid carrying a rifle over a preferred shoulder. Y ear-Round Treasure and respect your vertebrae! Do not overload or over tax them. Lift properly to preserve them. Never lift with a twist, as when jerking a heavy, clumsy backpack up to your shoulders. Love of outdoor activities demands you stay comfortably ambulatory well into a golden old age. Prevent Child School Backpack Spine Injuries: S coliosis (bent, misaligned spinal column) affects a considerable number of children. Besides congenital spine abnormalities developed in the fetal stage. Growing evidence suggests birthing itself may cause initial spine damage. Poor early childhood posture of the hip and head cause the developing child's spine to grow out of alignment.​ While boys develop scoliosis, girls between the ages of 8 to 18 seem most prone. Perhaps one reason social peer pressure to take popular posture as they reach puberty and want to "look cool" and differently attractive. Physicians recognize school backpacks are a source of spinal misalignment during the critical early years of bone development. Some children have poorly fitted (oversized, poor strap support, too deep, too thick, and swaying) school backpacks in which they carry up to 30-40 pounds of books and gear. That is a tremendous strain on young, still forming bones and muscles. This forces the head forward to counterbalance the weight with stress to the joints, discs and nerves of the neck. This load is especially damaging if the child sling-carries the pack over one (usually favored) shoulder. Doctors recommend a child carry no more than 15% of their weight, and that they always carry it with BOTH straps equally loaded and properly adjusted. Consider getting a collapsible airport luggage dolly for the child to use on days when there is a heavy load. (Note: Have your child medically tested for scoliosis immediately if you notice spine curvature, shoulders not at equal levels when standing, or if the child seems to favor poor posture for comfort. Untreated scoliosis can lead to serious consequences, including spinal rod implant surgery, maybe multiple surgeries. Like everything else in life, it i s ea sier and cheaper to prevent a problem than to fix it. Drag out heavy loads to save our spine for many more hunts!
© 2016 -2017 Copyright by P. K. H. Groth, Denver, Colorado, USA All rights reserved - See contact page.
Hunter Neck, Spine, and Bone Risks
Hunter Back Injuries:​ You do not see many hunting articles about simple back and leg hazards. Hauling large packs in and meat loads out takes its toll. Do it right or pay the consequences later in life. I made it, but the toll was the loss of three inches in height and the absence of most functional vertebral discs. I have no intent lecturing about lifting weights and backpacking heavy loads. Do let me tell you that during wet, icy, and snowy weather you have to adjust to conditions. Pushing your weight-carrying limits on a mucky trail may result in breaking a leg or wrenching your back. Five miles from a road head is a walking eternity if your back or neck is dislocated. Slowly driving a potholed road to medical help is going to be the final painful blow. I have driven back-injured men and heard them whimper at the road ruts. I recall the year I took Josh elk hunting with me. Josh had driven nonstop nearly 1,500 miles. He was tired when he got to my house (late and exhausted), and the four hour ride to elk base camp did not adequately replenish sleep. We were setting up a temporary base camp when Josh somehow dislocated his back. After three hours, he relented and let me drive him back to Denver for medical treatment. The forty- mile drive to the interstate drew tears to Josh’s eyes, especially when my Suburban bumper sideswiped a large boulder hidden in the deep snow. He got chiropractic and medical treatment, and a day of rest. We were two days late for opening day, but like all enthusiastic elk hunters, he fought for and got a nice bull. {Interest note: I had a sedentary job that resulted in chronic back problems. My back ALWAYS recovered before hunting seasons because I exercised more.} I now carry a week’s supply of back muscle relaxant medicine and prescription pain medicine when backpacking or hunting. At every yearly physical, I give the doctor the remaining medicine for disposal (commonly all is left) in return for prescriptions for fresh medicines. I started this relationship when I picked up a fish in a remote lake I built along the Continental Divide. Linda wire-sawed avalanched trees with bent bases to fit my hips top contours. Then she strapped me tightly into this back brace and we walked the seven miles up to the Continental Divide and out to I- 70, where highway crew members helped lift me into our Blazer. Protect Your Knees: Many backpacking and hunting articles reviewing potential physical and environmental danger fail to point out a quite likely obvious hazard – a knee injury. A simple stumble while boulder bashing a trail can bring a painful and potentially life-long knee condition. Of all the places on your body not to fall, the knee is the worst and most often unforeseen accident. A moderate strike below the kneecap might initially only slightly hurt, but the bruise may progress to ligament damage and water boils under the kneecap. I remember slightly tapping my knee. It swelled to double size by the next day, and then my entire leg turned black and blue. Be tender to your precious knees. Walk slower to maintain good balance. Off-load some things and make a second trip when hauling heavy loads (think game meat) downhill. Getting in the in the predicament of being forced down on your knees can be devastating to the hunt. Treasure and Protect Your Joints Treasure and respect your vertebrae! Do not overload or over tax them. Lift properly to preserve them. Never lift with a twist, as when jerking a heavy, clumsy backpack up to your shoulders. Outdoor activities demand you stay comfortably ambulatory well into old age. How do hummingbird wings do that! Birdwatchers recently began banding humming birds in Florida. Banding the tiny birds had never been done before because they are difficult to catch (and later recatch) without injuring them. Their miniscule legs allowed only thin, fragile bands with little information. Beside, few people cared where they went, supposing that they “went to the mountains for the summer” before returning the following fall. Not so! The rascals banded in Tallahassee, Florida were caught summering in Anchorage, Alaska! Those puny little birds flew over 3,500 miles over the Rocky Mountain for their summer vacation, and then flew back! Plus, they fluttered about at winter and summer feeding locations. That is one heck of a feat running on flower nectar! Let’s look at how much hummingbird wings are used. They flutter at 50-70 times a second 60 flutters X 60secopnds X60mionutes X24hours X365days = 1,892,160,000 wing beats a year. How do they do that! I am dead serious: some graduate student should study the hummingbird wing joints to develop a legitimate human joint supplement. That should bring her/him billions. It might also result in a life-extending elixir – who knows, what helps joints might help the heart! (Note: the black billed warbler songbird is only slightly larger than a hummingbird. It migrates over the Pacific Ocean from New Zealand to Alaska and to Japan and back. Do not underestimate nature. Learn from it. ​Pre-Season Back Exercise to Increase Your High Altitude Breathing: You have two diaphragms melded as one. There are two phrenic nerves coursing down from your neck vertebrae to control these two diaphragm sections, which usually act in unison. Three quarters of your air inspiration results from your diaphragm pulling down from your neck vertebrae to control these two diaphragm sections, which usually act in unison. Three quarters of your air inspiration results from your diaphragm pulling down toward the body cavity. The diaphragm will have to work harder if it has to push down against an enlarged abdomen (think big gut). Try to get rid of that gut. Think of hunting all year, not beer. About one-quarter of inspiration occurs through the muscular action of your rib cage. Intercostal muscles contract to make the lung cavity smaller by pulling the ribs together and inward, thus more completely expelling carbon dioxide enriched air. If you are not physically adjusted to rarified air, you may experience rib muscle fatigue and pain until the intercostal muscles become toned. Consider beginning to tone the intercostal muscles and your back muscles with deep breathing well before the season. You will be able to sleep better if your chest rib muscles are not tender and do not ache at night. Breathing Exercises for your Health and Awareness: Doctors advise breathing and breath control is the easiest way to improve your physical and mental health. Train yourself to breathe deeply and slowly to boost your immune systems and heart health. Begin breath training well before the hunting season and you will adjust to high altitudes easier and quicker. Many of us are tied to the computer during the workday and at home. Your computer work may indirectly create stress, headaches and fatigue – but not just in the ways you might suspect. “Fitbit” exercise tracking devises monitor your physical activity. “Spire” is a wearable device that monitors your breathing rhythm, types, and efficiencies. It was used to expose a new kind of apnea, which is a temporary cessation of daytime breathing. People in a computer work study often held their breath, and they commonly took short, shallow breaths that were insufficient to optimally exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen. This results in fatigue, ​sleepiness and physiological stresses on body organs like the heart. There are two types of breathing. Most people breathe “vertically” using mainly their chest, shoulders and neck. When exhausted or excited they use the diaphragm more. A better method of breathing is to use your diaphragm to do most of the inhaling and expiration of the lungs. This breathing type is taught in stress-relief Yoga classes. It involves inhaling rather quickly by pulling your diaphragm down into your gut. Then slowly, deeply exhaling completely. The diaphragm flattens and the ribs flare out. Throughout the year, maintain good posture when working at the computer. Sit straight, do not lean forward on your gut, or slouch to the side when on the telephone. Muscle Tone Your Neck Before Hunting: There are three basic movements of the neck: extention, flexation, and lateral rotation. There are some exercises you can do to get in shape for the additional stresses placed on your neck by carrying backpacks and even the heaver loads of winter clothing, gun and ammunition. Extention: place your two hands cupped behind your neck. Gradually pull the hands forward as you push the neck backward. The chin should never be pulled down from further that being level with the floor. Hold that strained position several seconds and then repeat the exercise several times. Alternate with the other two exercises. NOTE: Never pull your hands downward because this can cause damage to the cervical discs and alignment. Flexation: Make fists of your hands and place them together under your chin. Try to push upward while straining the neck to pull down. Hold the position 3-5 seconds and repeat. Lateral: Place one hand over the top of your head and try to pull it sideways as you try to resist the movement with the neck muscles. Hold several seconds and repeat several times. Do not twist the neck while doing this because cervicals may be damaged. Tone Your Shoulder Muscles: The hunting season transition to using your shoulders more for packing, slinging a gun or reaching higher than normal to move branches results in tired shoulder muscles. Tone muscles with shoulder shrugs as you walk, jog or watch TV. Over days gradually increase the weight by using a water filled gallon milk jug in each hand. Carry and toss a rounded cobble from hand to hand as you hike. Graduate into backpack training with ever-increasing loads of water filled milk bottles. Tone Your Diaphragm: Effective deep breathing without pain at high altitudes will occur if you tone the muscles in your diaphragm. This exercise uses the weight of your gut to make your diaphragm work harder. It will also make the muscles between our ribs work harder and tone. Kneel on your knees with your hands flat on the floor and keep your back straight. Slowly take very deep breaths and equally slowly exhale completely. Do this over many days until the discomfort disappears. Strengthen Your Diaphragm and Chest Respiratory Muscles: This exercise uses your abdomen as a resistive weight against chest and diaphragm muscles. Begin by sitting straight-backed in a chair and slowly breathing very deeply in and pushing completely out your gut on the exhale. Do the numerous times and gradually increase the holding periods. Progress to a second exercise after a few days. Kneel on the floor with your place hands flat on the floor. Do the inhale- exhale exercise above. This will be harder, because the weight of your hanging gut presents more resistance to inhaling. Correct and Preserve Your Back Posture: Realign the back muscles if your lifestyle and job have created muscular asymmetry. In this age, more people are becoming sedentary on the job and at home. Physical exertion is limited. Desk jobs can lead to poor posture. Leaning sideways against a desk while on the phone, driving long distances slouched against the door, carrying a heavy handbag or briefcase in the same hand and a host of other activities can lead to spinal muscular asymmetry, which gradually results in spinal curvature. A straight, muscularly balanced, strong back is less likely to incur sprains and damage. In addition, you can breathe easier and better. Carrying even a light backpack can “lift up” the shoulders and strengthen the back muscles. The mere reoccurring act of trying to keep both pack straps on your shoulders gradually tones the back muscles. Slowly adding more weight such as another bottle of water continues the toning. Try raising your shoulders and simultaneously deeply breathe while you read this. Notice that you can inspire more air and quicker when your shoulders are not drooped? Toning your intercostal muscles will aid you when later ambulating at high altitudes, particularly when you tote a heavy pack of gear or meat.​ Preseason Tone Shoulder and Neck Muscles: The drawings below indicte the muscles which should be strengthened before elk season. Begin by carrying a lightly-weighted backpack on hikes and gradually add weight. Use water filled milk bottles and increase the amount of water on successive outings. I have read articles suggesting emptying the bottles before descending trails. This is not advisable, because weight carried downhill will help tone the shin muscles that can be devastated when trudging down steep grades with a heavy load of meat. Backpacks Can Damage Your Spine and Neck: Using an improper backpack or stowing items in it can put excessive strain on the neck vertebrae. Long- t erm bone and muscle damage can result as the spinal and cervical vertebrae realign to compensate for the continued stresses. The x-ray image on the left is of a neck with normal forward curvature. The curvature allows the neck bones and discs to absorb some shock when walking, and lets the head rotate on the vertebrae. The image on the right is of a neck that,, through years of stress, has realigned to what is called “Foreward Leaning Neck”. It is also in dislocation [cervical subluxation, C3 retrolisthesis]. Note the third vertebra down is cocked/slipped to the right. This pinches the enclosed spinal cord. The inflammation affects nerves emerging from the vertebrae. The neck is straight and inflexible. The bone protrusions on the back of the cervical vertebrae are splayed and do not nestle correctly. These protrusions can rub together causing nerve and muscular inflammation, resulting in debilitating muscular spasms similar to leg muscle cramps but much more painfully and potentially more dangerous. It is not a nice condition and it can result in permanent damage! Misaligned bones deform and undergo "remodeling" changes that become permanent. Using an improper backpack or stowing items in it can put excessive strain on the neck vertebrae. Long-term bone and muscle damage can result as the spinal and cervical vertebrae realign to compensate for the continued stresses. On the left diagram (below), the force vector is essentially straight down. This allows the spine to remain straight AND the head to remain vertical upon the neck. The correct backpack is a deep pack. The weight vortex is pulling down away from the body, causing the shoulders and head to lean forward. The spine is curved, resulting in the intervertebral discs to distorting under long- term pressure. High backward force is exerted on the neck, causing it to straighten to carry the backward-pulling weight force. Extensive backpacking under these stresses is asking for not only back damage, but also neck problems. Use a Proper Backpack to Avoid Spine, Hip and Knee and Foot Damage: An eighty-pound bull elk hindquarter is a beast to pack far. It can really tear up your body and resolve to pack out the rest of the meat, especially the same day. I strongly recommend hunters use a dedicated backpack for hauling heavy meat loads out of the backcountry. The pack should allow loads to be strapped close to the back. Few soft packs allow this, since cinching up the bag does not result in forcing the weight forward flat against your back, but into a barrel-shaped drooping lump. A hard frame pack (or even old pack board frame) permits straps and rope to bring weight close against the back. This reduces backward pull, tiring pack swaying, load shi fting, and thumping against an unprotected lower back. The pictured Himalayan brand pack frame weighs less than eight ounces (total), has lugs for cinching meat bags to the frame, a webbed back rest for ventilation and comfort, and a hip ​belt to reduce strain on the back. It stores easily in a vehicle and is a potential “trade” item to hunters who came less prepared. It cost half a dollar at a garage sale.​ Fill your backpack with the heaviest items forward and placed high, against the upper back. Put the lightest objects on the bottom and against the rear. Pay attention to balance left-right weight distribution when packing to reduce pack swaying that will tire shoulders. Then cinch the pack tightly to prevent load shifting. Change Body Load Positions During the Year: Avoid carrying loads such as a pocketbook, daypack, book bag or even the dog leash over the same shoulder or arm. Your body continually responds to forces exerted on it. Using one shoulder to carry weight creates lateral asymmetry of muscles. This can result in gradual misalignment of the spinal column, uneven muscular development and rising of the more-used shoulder. Lateral stress will be exerted on the spine, which gradually deforms in response to the asymmetrical load. It takes a while to create spinal damage, but it will take a heck of a lot longer to correct it! Alternate hands carrying a rifle and avoid carrying a rifle over a preferred shoulder. Y ear-Round Treasure and respect your vertebrae! Do not overload or over tax them. Lift properly to preserve them. Never lift with a twist, as when jerking a heavy, clumsy backpack up to your shoulders. Love of outdoor activities demands you stay comfortably ambulatory well into a golden old age. Prevent Child School Backpack Spine Injuries: S coliosis (bent, misaligned spinal column) affects a considerable number of children. Besides congenital spine abnormalities developed in the fetal stage. Growing evidence suggests birthing itself may cause initial spine damage. Poor early childhood posture of the hip and head cause the developing child's spine to grow out of alignment.​ While boys develop scoliosis, girls between the ages of 8 to 18 seem most prone. Perhaps one reason social peer pressure to take popular posture as they reach puberty and want to "look cool" and differently attractive. Physicians recognize school backpacks are a source of spinal misalignment during the critical early years of bone development. Some children have poorly fitted (oversized, poor strap support, too deep, too thick, and swaying) school backpacks in which they carry up to 30-40 pounds of books and gear. That is a tremendous strain on young, still forming bones and muscles. This forces the head forward to counterbalance the weight with stress to the joints, discs and nerves of the neck. This load is especially damaging if the child sling-carries the pack over one (usually favored) shoulder. Doctors recommend a child carry no more than 15% of their weight, and that they always carry it with BOTH straps equally loaded and properly adjusted. Consider getting a collapsible airport luggage dolly for the child to use on days when there is a heavy load. (Note: Have your child medically tested for scoliosis immediately if you notice spine curvature, shoulders not at equal levels when standing, or if the child seems to favor poor posture for comfort. Untreated scoliosis can lead to serious consequences, including spinal rod implant surgery, maybe multiple surgeries. Like everything else in life, it is easier and cheaper to prevent a problem than to fix it.
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