Many riders experience pains and aches while riding due to slouching or poor posture. Lower back pain can also occur due to riding with rigid shoulder blades or improper hip rotation.
While horseback riding, it is important that your hips move in the same motion as your horse. Riders who have trouble keeping the hips in line with the movement of their horse are more susceptible to lower pack pain. As we age, the hips lose their range of motion, so older riders have a higher chance of developing lower back pain.
Another reason for the loss in hip motion could be saddle-fit. Riders with improper saddle alignment tend to roll forward onto the pubic bone, which causes severe discomfort and bruising. If your saddle fits correctly and is in the right position, you should be able to tilt forward comfortably at the hip, rather than roll forward onto the pubic bone. This tilt eliminates pressure on the lower back muscles.
Common Horseback Riding Injuries
Frequent riders are susceptible to injury due to a fall, kick, etc., and to injuries such as a herniated disc that develop longitudinally.
Some riders develop sacroiliac joint pain, otherwise known as SI joint dysfunction, which is characterized by pain in the lower back muscles and stiffness throughout the spine. SI joint dysfunction affects each of your sacroiliac joints located at the bottom end of the spine. The SI joints are not designed to be mobile, and so an unusual amount of physical stress placed on them causes inflammation, discomfort, and dysfunction.
Are Certain Riders More Likely to Experience Lower Back Pain?
Often riders are predisposed to lower back pain due to a stiff, weak back as a result of desk work and time spent sitting in the car. These individuals are in a position in which the back is hyper-extended, meaning that pressure is exerted on the discs in the spine regardless of movement. Combine this pressure with improper horseback riding technique and incorrect posture, and you could be in chronic pain.
Lower Back Pain: The Fix
To encourage healing of the joints and muscles affected by improper posture during horseback riding, your chiropractor will advise you to strengthen the core, maintain flexibility in the hips, and to maintain correct alignment to remove pressure from the lower back. While you can train your lower back muscles, they should not be strained to the point of injury from improper technique.
SI joint dysfunction can be treated with heat and ice therapy. Using a hot compress or an ice pack to eliminate inflammation is an excellent first step to take at home. Also, anti-inflammatory medications can be helpful during recovery.
Chiropractors also recommend several stretches and simple exercises to eliminate tension in the lower back muscles, one of these being the splits. When performing the splits, only allow your legs to spread as wide as you can comfortably spread them, and rock the body side to side gently, to stretch the legs and eliminate stiffness. If you are a beginner, don’t push your body too far, as this stretch can be painful if taken too far too quickly.
Chiropractors recommend many variations of yoga and pilates stretches to patients with SI joint dysfunction, to improve balance and restore strength to the core. A strong core is crucial to encouraging good balance, which eliminates soreness in the sacroiliac joints.
Another popular exercise for lower back pain treatment is face down leg raises. These are done with the help of an inflatable workout ball to maintain balance. Lay on top of the ball, with your stomach flat towards the ground, and your palms flat on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Raise both legs until they are about level with your spine and simultaneously suck in the stomach muscles to support the lower back muscles.
Face down leg raises should be done in repetition until burning is felt, at which point you should stop and relax. If you experience discomfort after only a few repetitions, chances are, you’re lifting the legs too high which causes the lower back unnecessary strain.