Ice Fishing and Back Pain
Posted at 12:26h in Kingsford by Janell Larson

by Jake Miller, Physical Therapist Assistant | UP Rehab Services

Millions of Americans report living with chronic back pain. For those who enjoy ice fishing, this pain may result in a diminished ability or interest in this winter activity. In some instances, the pain might require one to stop participating in their favorite pastime all together. Ice fishing can place a tremendous strain on the back and neck, but minimizing and managing pain is possible through proper posture and techniques.

Getting out to the fishing site can be dangerous. When hiking out to the shanty, use short steps that will help overall stability. Taking large steps will widen your center of gravity, thus decreasing steadiness. Rushing can trigger a fall and/or possible injury, so take it slowly and steadily to decrease chances of slipping on the snow and ice. Lastly, invest in a pair of boots or Yaktrax with enough grip to provide ample traction.

Using an ice auger places great strain on the back, especially when not used properly. Many augers are heavy, awkward and challenging to use. When drilling through the ice, use a neutral spine and upright trunk. The most pressure/strain on the back is caused by carrying a heavy object, bending over, and twisting the trunk. Keep the object close to the body and bend knees with a straight back to reduce the amount of stress on the lumbar region.

What would ice fishing be without having to wait for the fish to bite? Sitting in a static position causes muscles to become tight and tense. More often than not, those long periods of remaining sedentary tend to result in a slumped posture. This type of posture places much stress on the lower back. It may seem elementary, but if a fisherman/woman is prone to back problems, the best thing to do is to sit up straight, “nice and tall,” in a chair with lumbar support. This causes the core to engage and takes pressure off of the lower back. Also, it is important to remember to get up and move/stretch at least once per hour to keep the back and extremities limber. Keeping the same posture for more than an hour causes muscles to become tight, lessening mobility, cause spasms, and induce inflammation and pain.

By taking the proper precautions while ice fishing, slip and fall injuries can be avoided and back pain managed or even alleviated. Don’t let pain stop you from doing what you love and “catching the big one.”