There are many questions about the relationship between riding and the pain of the riders back. The only thing we know for sure is that there is no definitive answer.
The fact if riding is good or bad for your back completely depends on the individual patient and his specific back problem. Therefore riding can cause a great relief of the pain as well as a terrible increase.
Back pain is a problem in any modern society. In Germany for example about 80 % of the entire society at least once in their lives sufferes from back pain and around 30 % even have chronic back problems. The origin of this “society” pain is easy to find: lack of movement, stiff and long sitting at the desk or in front of a computer and general slouching. The muscles are tensed and this leads to great pain. “More movement” is the best prevention and the best therapy at once. If you suffer from back pain the worst option is to avoid any movement because through this your muscles only become even more tensedand cramped. Regularly exercises in stretching and a stabilization of the entire back muscles are the most effective ways to relieve pain.
Riding stabilizes the vertebral column and the back muscles
The extraordinary characteristic about riding is the relationship between the rider and the animal. If you want to be a successful rider, you need to work together with the horse and become a team. This means that the rider needs to adapt to the rhythm of the horses movements. Through this horse and rider have a regularly and fluent movement and avoid any sudden jerky. The muscles of the rider are tensed up and relaxed in regular intervals. This helps to ease tensions of the muscles and relieve the pain.
If you sit on the horse in an upright and relaxed way you train and stabilize your stomach and back muscles. This has a great importance because you do not only train a single part of muscles but also the respective opponent. In any kind of sports this is the prerequisite for an effective but gentle training of the muscles. The movement of the entire upper body effects a stabilization of the vertebral column. Additionally riding can help to temporarily relieve the intervertebral disk because the movements force the hips and pelvis to do all the work.
Moreover riding offers many further positive effects like the improvement of the own coordination, the motor skills and the own balance. Riders who train regularly additionally ameliorate their physical endurance and this has positive effects on the circulatory system. To sum up: under the condition that you ride in the right way, this sport positively influences many different parts of your health.
But: Riding can also increase the back pain
Riding can be quite dangerous if the rider already has problems with his or her back before actually starting to ride. In every individual case riders are hardly advised to contact a doctor in advance and to discuss with him about the possibility of riding and the most effective therapy.
In many cases riders suffer from pain which occurs during or directly after the ride. Mostly this is caused by a wrong posture of the body during the ride. Single parts of the muscles are tensioned and camped. Additionally especially riding beginners are affected: they often are timid and eventually scared so that they stiffen their head, back, shoulder and pelvis. If the rider already suffered from a light back pain in advance this stiffening obviously is the worst thing you can do. All muscles become tensioned and cramped what leads to hard parts of the muscles and pain.
From all possible gaits trot is the worst for the back. Even if the muscles of the upper and lower leg are able to compensate a bit of the vibrations the vertebral column gets stressed a lot. Therefore riders with back problems are hardly advised not to sit down while trotting. The best gait, however, is the tölt of the Icelandic horses because this gait is really comfortable and less jerky.
General information about back pain
In general back pain can be caused by two different origins. The first one is the tension of a certain part of the muscles. Only special exercises can relax these tensions and relieve the pain. Secondly, certain parts of the bones or even the vertebral column itself can be the origin for back pain. Obviously this origin is much more difficult to cure. In any case riders with back pain should contact a doctor or another specialist. These experts are necessary if you want to find out if riding helps or even worsens the back pain.
Several Horseback riding stables are specialized on riding therapy. This great method helps to prevent as well as to cure the back pain. Therapists help you to train your muscles with individual physiotherapeutic exercises. The great difference to other physiotherapies is that the patient is sitting on the back of the horse and therefore can take benefit from the great and unique relationship between horse and rider. This special therapy is called “Hippotherapy” (“hippo” is the Greek word for horse). For more information, please click here. Until today this unique therapy already achieved great success and a relief of the riders back pain.