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|| News Item: Posted 2012-08-02

Oh my aching back …
Some tips on dealing with the photographers’ back pain

By Nic Coury

Photo by

Nic Coury on assignment.
I really shouldn’t have been having back problems at 26. But there I was—at 26—having back problems.

It was July 2010, I was unbeatable, didn’t know any better and I was shooting the top tier of world championship motorcycle racing. I’m an Nikon Professional Services member, so I rented some long glass, because I could, and wandered the Laguna Seca circuit with a couple of cameras, my Think Tank Photo waist pouches, a 300mm f/2.8 over my left shoulder and a 500 f/4 also over my left shoulder. The night before the race, I was on the floor and—race day—I took a Red Bull and a Vicodin in order to not feel to pain.

The weekend of overworking did me in. My back was toast. I took most of that week off from work, because, I could hardly move from the floor. My muscles spasmed constantly. A sports therapist later told me that I over-worked my left shoulder, that the lower muscles on my right side were overcompensating and were significantly more built up than my left side. I was uneven.

My dad—who I will admit knows a thing or two—told me, as I lay on the floor, as you get older you need to take care of your body, mentally and physically. I unfortunately learned the hard way.

At first, all I could do was walk around the block in the evenings. I started doing yoga acupuncture and stretching when I woke up and before going to bed. I got a stiffer mattress and taught myself to sleep better. Another doctor told me to cut down on the caffeine (I love me an afternoon espresso...) and drink more water. I started doing tai chi and learned to balance myself—both physically and mentally.

Most importantly though, I started swimming. Lap pools are great. Swimming is a low-stress workout that really works wonders on all parts of the body. Also fortunately, I have a gym membership through my paper and I now swim three times a week.

Still, two years later, I have some recessive pain, mostly from inactivity or overwork, but a combination of running around shooting daily news and a decent, low-impact workout schedule makes sure I keep it in check.

Now, prior to shooting a major sports event where I am carry a lot of equipment, I ration myself 5-10 minutes to properly stretch and prepare my body to carry heavy loads. I am conscious (at 28 now) of my bodily signs of overworking myself and keep a stash of Icy/Hot pads in my car, as well as drinking plenty of water.

Other tricks to reduce physical stress is get a waist bag. Many of us love our Think Tank systems and they work wonders for taking the weight off my shoulders and I put down equipment if I’m not directly using it. No reason to stress the muscles if you don't have to. Put it down.

A few quick tips for daily improvements to better your body:
1) Get yourself a yoga ball and replace your desk chair with it. It forces you to sit up to straight and not hunched over as much.

2) Walk more. To lunch, to the coffee shop on the weekend, to wherever. It helps a lot.

3) Stretch while you’re waiting for something to happen at an event. It takes five minutes to twist a bit, reach for the sky and loosen up.

4) Get a foam, pool “noodle” and lay over it on the floor. It naturally arches your back up. Good to do while watching a movie or television.

5) Yoga, tai chi or some other form of “balance”. It really freakin’ helps your mindset.

6) Get it off your shoulder. If you don’t have to carry it on your shoulder, don’t. It will unnecessarily compress your back.

Nic Coury is a staff photographer with the Monterey County Weekly. To view samples of his work on his Sports Shooter member page:

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