Although you might think camping is a relaxing and sedentary activity, I still have numerous people walk into my office Monday mornings with severe neck or back pain after a weekend of camping. Therefore, I’d like to make some suggestions to help you prevent this from happening to you.

When you camp, it’s impossible to take your favourite ultra supportive mattress with you. This doesn’t mean you have to sleep on the hard ground. Sleep on something that will offer a little cushion and support to your back. A sleeping “foamy” is typically light, portable, and will be the most durable. Even a good air mattress is better than nothing. However, air mattresses are likely to pop if exposed to rough or sharp surfaces. If this happens during the night, you could find yourself sleeping directly on the ground and with a sore back come morning.

Take your favourite pillow with you wherever you go. Using a completely different pillow or a rolled up pair of jeans is just asking for a stiff neck in the morning. If you don’t have your favourite pillow, try to keep your neck in a neutral position when sleeping. If you sleep on your side, your neck should not be bent sideways toward the ground. If you sleep on your back, your neck should not be bent backwards. Basically, if you imagine the position of your neck and head while you sit up straight in a chair, this is the position your neck should be in when you are lying down.

Do not sleep on your stomach. When lying on your stomach, you have to turn your head to the side in order to breathe, and keep it there all night. This is not a desirable position for your neck and can result in some serious pain and stiffness in the morning.

If you’ve experienced mild back or neck stiffness for the past week or more prior to going camping, you should address this before you go. If there is already mild stiffness in the joints of your neck or back and you challenge these joints even more by sleeping on a hard surface or without a pillow, you are even more prone to having problems. Before heading out for a relaxing weekend camping by a lake, see your chiropractor. He or she is specifically trained to do “adjustments” or “manipulation” to restore the proper movement to the joints of the back or neck so you are less vulnerable to waking up sore.

To further prevent neck and back problems visit my website (merrittchiro.com) and check out the neck and back stretches and exercises.