There is a common misconception that in order to help back pain, you have to fork out a lot of money for surgery or physiotherapy when in many cases, something as simple as going out for a walk can be the solution. Walking is not only good for lower back pain, but it is also free and easy to do.

Is Walking Good for Lower Back Pain?

A recent small-scale study found that a program of daily 20-minute aerobic walking that gradually increased to 40 minutes as endurance built was just as effective for low back pain as a twice-weekly muscle-strengthening program typical of physical therapy clinics for back pain. The study was conducted by Dr. Michal Katz-Leurer from Tel Aviv University’s Stanley Steyer School of Health Professions at the Sackler faculty of medicine and colleague Ilana Shnayderman, a graduate student at the department of physical therapy and a practicing physiotherapist at Maccabi Health Care.

The trial mentioned above involved people walking at a steady pace, which is considered to be “aerobic” exercise. This type of walking is not as damaging to the spine as high-impact activities such as running, but it does compress the lower back constantly, which can lead to pain.

Swinging your arms while you walk faster allows for more movement and motion in your spine, which can provide relief from back pain and offer cardiovascular benefits.

Why Is Walking Good for Lower Back Pain?

Hiking with a loaded backpack helps improve treatment by promoting movement in the back and spine. The backpack also adds weight, which helps the body balance and stay upright. The uneven terrain helps improve movement in the lower body even more, providing a workout for the spine and its muscles.

Walking not only helps to get your blood flowing to your muscles, but it also helps improve your flexibility and gives you a sense of overall well-being.

Aerobic walking releases chemicals like serotonin and endorphins, which make you feel good. This distraction from pain may be due to the overwhelming signals your brain receives from the large muscles in your torso and legs.

How to Get Started With Walking for Lower Back Pain

Before starting a new exercise program, it is recommended that you speak to your doctor. Once you have the green light, remember to start slow and increase the intensity of your workout routine gradually.

Start Slowly, Then Work Up

If you have not exercised for a while it is best to start slow by walking for short periods of time. You can gradually increase the time and intensity of your walks as you get stronger.

If You Can Sing When You Walk, Speed Up

The rule of thumb for aerobic walking is that you are going at a good pace if you can hold a conversation, but not belt out a Broadway tune.

Use Good Form

An excessive lumbar curve, known as lordosis, is a common cause of low back pain. The increased curve puts pressure on the vertebrae, which can lead to pain and other serious problems. Checking your posture before you begin any activity is a good way to prevent issues. To do this, raise your arms above your head (or as high as you can if you have shoulder pain) and see how the rest of your body responds. If your ribs protrude or your back arch increases, this is an indication that you may be at risk for lordosis.

To fix lordosis, first lengthen your tailbone by keeping your back straight. Then, lift yourself tall through the crown of your head. To fix your shoulders, roll them forward, then up, and finally back. Your shoulder blades should be on your back, your tailbone should be stretching down, your pelvis should not be tucked, and your ribs should not be splaying forward. The crown of your head should be lengthening up.

Recognize but Don’t Ignore Pain

After your first workout, you may feel sore. This is because you are using muscles that may be tight from overuse, and you are also waking up areas of your body that have been dormant for a while. While some soreness is normal, pain is different. If you experience sharp, stabbing pain or pain that radiates, this is a warning sign to stop. However, don’t be discouraged by the soreness that comes after a good workout.

Recruit Support

It can be difficult to stick with exercise if it might cause some soreness at first. Try scheduling your walks as social time instead of just a workout. This way, you can catch up with your kids or visit with friends while getting into a routine.

Although it may be tough to commit to a workout routine, know that you are not the only one trying to improve your health. An increasing amount of evidence points to the benefits of walking groups for not just physical, but also mental health. A walking group is also a great opportunity to better your health while building positive relationships within your community.

Start a Walking Group

The notion of working out in a group is not original, but recent studies have shown that those who joined walking groups had lower blood pressure, resting heart rate, and total cholesterol. Furthermore, they had a lower body mass index, which is a good indicator of physical fitness, and were more likely to stick with regular exercise than those who walked alone.

The researchers found that those who walked in groups had a significantly lower risk of death than those who walked alone. Researchers from the University of East Anglia used data gathered from over 1,800 study participants in 14 countries. These walkers spent a total of 74,000 hours walking in groups. They included people with health conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The researchers found that those who walked in groups had a significantly lower risk of death than those who walked alone. This research provides strong evidence of the health benefits of walking in groups.

How Do I Stop My Lower Back From Hurting

How can you prevent lower back pain when walking? The answer may vary depending on the person, but improving your gait and posture is a good place to start.

Learning Proper Walking Posture

To walk correctly, you should keep your spine aligned with the rest of your body, so that no extra weight is placed on any one area. This will help to distribute the weight of your body more evenly, and reduce the amount of pressure on your extremities.

Here are some general tips to follow for the best posture when you walk:

When you are walking, it is best to keep your head up and to not look down too much. This will help reduce the amount of strain that you are putting on your neck.

Your balance is also thrown off. To avoid injury, push off from your rear leg and take shorter strides.

To avoid straining your back muscles, avoid slouching and instead let your shoulders roll naturally as you take your steps. You can also shrug occasionally to help keep your shoulders relaxed.

When you walk, try not to roll your hips. It’s important to keep your hips level, otherwise you might start to sway, which can lead to losing your balance and putting too much weight on one side of your body.

If you want better balance, engage your core muscles by pulling in your stomach. This also helps avoid putting too much weight on your lower back.

Proper footwork is key and your heel should be the first part of your foot to hit the ground. Roll through to the ball of your foot and push off with your toes. Avoid flat steps or hitting the ground with your toes first.

Since you carry most of your weight on your feet when you walk, your spine and lower back can be affected by the impact of your steps. Improving your walking posture can help to lessen the amount of stress on your lower leg, calf, and foot muscles, and improve your lower back health.

One of the most effective ways to address chronic pain is by improving your posture. This is because chronic pain develops when your body has been misaligned for a long period of time. Once your body gets used to being in a better posture, you should find that both acute and chronic pain while walking eases significantly.

Get Better Footwear

One possible cause of back pain is flat feet or low arches. While this condition isn’t debilitating, it can cause problems with the alignment of your bones, muscles, and ligaments. This can make your lower back stretch or contract more, leading to straining or spraining.

If you have an issue with your gait, your doctor may recommend you use orthotics. Orthotics are custom-made molds that you insert into your shoes and they help correct your gait so you walk more naturally.

Different shoes can cause your feet to compensate in order to maintain balance, and this can also affect the alignment of your spine.

Orthotics (custom-made shoe inserts) are an excellent way to address chronic pain, since they’re easy to integrate into your lifestyle and can produce immediate results. While it may take some time to fully alleviate chronic pain, it can prove short and long-term relief if worn consistently.

Do not buy shoe inserts from a store unless you have your doctor’s explicit approval, as they are not the same as orthotics. Orthotics are custom built to the patient’s needs and wearing an incorrect shoe insert can aggravate your back pain.

Exercise and Physical Therapy

If you don’t exercise regularly or move much, you’re more likely to get sciatica. That’s because when you don’t move, your muscles and joints get stiff and Freeze. That can make it hurt to move around, even to stand or sit.

Though lifestyle choices can contribute to inactivity, it is also often caused by injuries or conditions that require a person to stay in bed. Even after recovering, moving will be painful because the spine is not used to bearing the body’s weight.

Although physical exercise is beneficial for chronic pain, older patients or those with health conditions need to be careful and balance their exercise with special considerations. In these cases, it may be better to do physical therapy with medical staff close by to assist if needed.

While there is no cure for sciatica, making these changes to your lifestyle can significantly reduce the pain and improve your quality of life. Exercise and physical therapy are two of the most effective ways to alleviate mild-to-moderate sciatica according to your therapist. Your therapist will put you through a strict training regimen designed to loosen your joints and strengthen your muscles, allowing your spine to better support your weight. They may also recommend some exercises that you can follow at home. There is no cure for sciatica, but making these changes to your lifestyle can significantly reduce the pain and improve your quality of life.

Hot and Cold Therapy

Ice and heat packs are great for short-term relief of back pain, but they work best when used with other methods.

This therapy improves blood flow and circulation to your lower back, which in turn loosens your muscles and dilates your blood vessels. This increased blood flow allows nutrient-rich blood to flow into these areas, relieves any pinched muscles or nerves, and promotes the healing damaged tissue.

Applying cold to an injury can help reduce inflammation and swelling. This can be helpful for joints and tendons that have been pulled or strained while walking. Cold can also temporarily reduce nerve activity in your lower back and alleviate pain.

You should talk to your doctor before using hot or cold therapy to treat back pain, as they may need to adjust your other treatments. If you don’t see any improvement, or if your pain gets worse, stop the treatment and see your doctor.

 

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Rhoda is an award-winning dietitian, mature age model, and CEO of Sayvana Women.  

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