Roller coasters can wreak havoc on the back with every sudden twist, turn or drop.
Now that summer is in full swing, the amusement parks are packed with adrenaline junkies looking for the next thrill, ignoring signs the back may not be up to it.
But take heart amusement park fans, there are some practical tips you can take to prevent back pain riding roller coasters.
How Do Roller Coasters Cause Back Pain?
Amusement park rides, especially roller coasters, are some of the most frequent causes of neck and spine injuries. The sudden jerks from side to side and increases in speed can be hard on the lower back and neck, causing pain, trauma to bones, muscles, ligaments, and soft tissue.
For someone who has a history of back pain, bending forward during twists and turns can increase pressure on the backside of discs in the back, aggravate arthritis pain, or set off muscle spasms.
If you feel a little sore the day after the amusement park, rest, an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication or cold packs can often help to relieve pain and swelling.
It’s not uncommon, however, for roller coasters to cause more serious back conditions, such as a bulging or herniated disc. If the pain doesn’t go away after taking steps to reduce the pain and swelling, it may be worth a visit to your physician.
Prevent Back Pain Riding Roller Coasters
- Follow all the warning signs – many amusement park rides warn customers who are pregnant, have heart problems, have a pre-existing condition, or have back or neck problems not to ride.
- Stretching can help – Stretching regularly and performing back strengthening exercises is not only a great idea for thrill ride aficionados, it’s a great habit for anyone who wants to maintain optimal spine health and avoid back pain and injuries. Also, stretch before getting on a ride to loosen tight muscles and reduce the risk of muscle spasms.
- Drink plenty of fluids – with the sun beating down it’s easy to get dehydrated when having fun at the amusement park. It’s important to stay hydrated.
- Test the seat – many amusement park roller coasters have seats for visitors to sample. Take a seat and see if the ride will be comfortable enough for you.
- Hold on – most thrill rides have grab bars in front of you or on each side of your head, so you can brace yourself through each and every turn, loop, and drop.
- Eyes on the prize – Unless you are very familiar with the coaster you are riding, it’s always a good idea to keep your eyes on the track so you can anticipate each turn, loop and drop.
- Keep your head – some roller coasters accelerate to speeds of 30 mph or more. If you’re not ready for it, you risk a neck injury or whiplash.
- Don’t lean forward – when you lean forward, the twisting and rotation caused by sudden turns can increase the pressure on the backside of the disk. This can cause back pain, especially if you have a history of disc problems.
Roller Coaster Facts
With the number of roller coasters operating in the United States, it’s surprising that you don’t hear more about back pain associated with them.
There are approximately 741 roller coasters in the United States, according to the Roller Coaster Database census.
Florida comes in second in the United States with 50 roller coasters, most of which operate in the Tampa and Orlando regions with nine and 16 roller coasters, respectively.
Some roller coasters in the U.S. can reach speeds more than 100 mph. Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point in Sandusky Ohio travels at a top speed of 120 mph and Kinga Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey tops out at 128 mph.
So the next time you take a trip to the amusement park, make sure to remember these tips on how to prevent back pain riding roller coasters.