Don’t Let Back Pain Reel You In

For diehard anglers like myself, nothing beats being out on the water. I’ve been fishing since I was 10 years old and can’t imagine the possibility of not being able to enjoy doing one of my favorite pastimes.

That said, I found myself dealing with chronic back pain that became so debilitating, it put my ability to fish in serious jeopardy.

I ended up herniating two discs and pinched a nerve in my lower back. It got to the point where I was in so much pain that I had to think about all of my moves before I made them. In a sport like fishing that requires the ability to move quickly at the turn of a dime, this really became a pressing issue I felt like I had to address.

Back pain is all too common among anglers. In fact, according to a Duke University Medical Center study, 69 percent of fishermen suffer from back pain at some point during their fishing career. Heavy lifting, repetitive motions, and long days of standing with the body in the same position can cause stress, tension and muscle fatigue in the back and makes us susceptible to a number of debilitating back injuries.

Personally, I decided I couldn’t let back pain control my life, so I began looking for options to find relief from my chronic pain. Originally, I looked to traditional, open-back surgery, but constantly found that my options for this type of procedure were a fusion or a procedure with a “long, deep cut” that would take months or years to heal.

Looking for an alternative and a quicker recovery, I found Tampa-based Laser Spine Institute which specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery. The procedure lasted no more than an hour, and then I had only an hour of recovery time. Before I knew it, I was standing up, perfectly straight and feeling no pain, something I hadn’t done in about six or seven months. It was a huge relief to realize I would be able to fish again, pain free.

Since my procedure with Laser Spine Institute, I can get out on the boat again and I can get back out on the water and do what I love on a regular basis without pain. I’m spending 200 days a year on the water now and I’m back to who I used to be.

While I was fortunate to be able to return to fishing, there are still several things every angler should keep in mind to limit their risk of developing back pain:

Get really comfortable shoes. Traditionally, fishermen wear flip flops, boat shoes or bare feet. These shoes offer little support and have no cushion to absorb shock. Try wearing shoes that are more traditional for jogging than for fishing.

Stretch. Even five minutes worth of stretching before you get on the boat or mid-day can make a tremendous difference. Try touching your toes or the floor and reaching your hands over your head to stretch your back.

Maintain a strong core. A strong core will make you better prepared for the various motions involved when fishing, such as throwing a cast and reeling in a fish. Planks, push-ups, v-sits and leg lifts are all great exercises to develop a strong core.

Take Advil. Anti-inflammatory medications in mild doses will always help. Try taking some anti-inflammatory medications prior to taking the boat out to help prevent inflammation during the day.

Stay active. Don’t be sedentary. The kiss of death is sitting all day on a boat. One great way to help your back muscles stay active, warm and loose while on the boat is the cat-and-dog exercise: position yourself on your hand and knees and alternate between rounding your back by looking down on the ground and arching it by looking up into the sky.

Stay hydrated. Drinking enough water is essential to helping reduce pain. It helps keep the muscles hydrated and helps avoid muscle cramps.

Follow this advice and you should be able to fish day and night, free of pain. Life is too short to be in pain doing what you love, so don’t let back pain harness you from getting out on the water.

Peter Miller
Peter Miller is the host of Bass 2 Billfish and a lifelong avid fisherman and outdoorsman. Peter grew up fishing in Tappan, New York and quickly becam...