“How to beat aches and pains if you enjoy bird-watching”
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit
Bird-watching is one of the most cerebral as well as relaxing hobbies available. And it can be done year round, too!
And by almost anyone. There is no special talent required… just a love of our feathered friends!
But bird-watching can lead to PAIN!
Bird-watching is a set up for neck pain. The long hours spent in a relatively stationary position as well as any time spent extending your head (bending your head back) can lead to neck strain. This causes muscle aches in the neck and shoulders. You can also get headaches. So what do you do? Well, first, recognize that this is going to happen if you don’t take frequent breaks particularly if you hold your head in one position for a long time. It’s a good idea to stretch before and after your bird-watching sessions. Also, if you carry a backpack, this can lead to neck pain. Try to use a pack that places most of the load on your hips. Try to avoid heavy loads altogether if you have a neck problem.
Your shoulders can also hurt. When you work with your arms held in one position… and especially if you work with your arms at shoulder level (holding your binoculars), you can run into a problem called impingement syndrome. This is when your rotator cuff tendons get pinched. It’s a common problem. Specific stretching exercises for the shoulder before and after you bird-watch should help. Also, make sure you take frequent breaks. Ice packs after you work sometimes help with the pain as do over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines.
Elbow pain is a common problem after any type of repetitive arm motion. Writing in your journal or sketching can lead to painful condition called lateral epicondylitis. If you stock the bird feeder, you may develop problems. This is a type of tendonitis that affects the outside part of the elbow. Stretching before you work can help as can stretching and ice after you work. Anti-inflammatory medicines, an elbow band, and physical therapy also can help. You may need a cortisone injection. This is falling into disfavor as a treatment since it weakens tendon tissue. A much more physiologic approach is to use ultrasound guided platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection to heal the tendon.
Hand and wrist pain is another common problem. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition where the median nerve into the hand gets pinched. This causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand. Treatment consists of physical therapy, a splint, and sometime injecting with steroid. In some instances, surgery is required. Different forms of tendonitis can also develop. You can get trigger finger where the finger seems to stick. A painful tendonitis of the thumb can also be a result of repetitive activity.
Low back pain can come on from standing or sitting too long in one place or by lifting and carrying heavy articles. Make sure you lift with your legs. You may need to go down on one knee before you lift. Keep your back straight and your head up. Test the item you’re going to lift before you lift it. Don’t twist. Stretch before you lift and also afterward. Use ice packs if you strain your back. Over the counter medication can sometimes help also. See your doctor if the pain is severe or doesn’t go away within a day or two.
Knee pain can result if you’re not careful when you squat. Be careful not to go down too long or with too much weight. Sometimes moving through the woods and underbrush can play havoc on your hands and knees. Use good knee pads and take frequent breaks.
Wear comfortable shoes to protect your ankles and feet.
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