Is walking good for lower back pain?

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Walking to Relieve Back Pain

There are varying degrees of back pain and circumstances that lead to specific back problems.  Some people have mild problems with back pain, mostly caused by tight muscles, and some have much more severe issues.  So let us look at some of the aspects related to walking and lower back pain.

Walking is gentle

Walking is a very gentle way to exercise.  I know when I was dealing with a lot of my back problems, and even to this day, high impact exercise is not really an option for me.  Therefore, walking is a much gentler exercise than other forms out there.

From an impact standpoint, walking can be great for people who are not able to otherwise exercise. Because walking is gentler on your body, this is a great way for people to get some form of exercise during the day.  For people recovering from injury, walking is a great way to get back in the game. If you cannot take a Zumba class, at least you can get some exercise by walking.

On the other side of the coin though, I have been in such pain that I was not able to walk very well at all.  I have had sciatica pain to the point I was barely able to drive to work, and then walk from the parking lot to my desk.  Granted it’s a little bit of a walk to get from the parking lot at work to my desk, but there have been times when I couldn’t make it all the way without stopping.

When I was dealing with stenosis in 2016, I was bent over at the waist, and I couldn’t walk very far at all.  I needed a shopping cart to lean on when I went to the grocery store.  I used to lean on my kids with my arms draped over their shoulders.

My point is that even though walking can be good for back pain that is not always the case.  If you suffer from serious injury or other back problems, definitely check with your doctor before you begin any kind of treatment plan.

Baby steps to build your confidence

When I was at the point in my recovery in 2016 that I was finally comfortable to walk limited distances, there was no holding me back.

My wife and I have a “loop” that we walk around in the evenings. We meander through different neighborhoods.

I remember just hoping that I would be able to make the whole route and it was such a confidence booster when I was able to do that.

I think that the boost of confidence alone helped to propel me in my recovery.  Even though it was just a mental hurdle; the fact that I could make the whole route was very encouraging for me.

Walking is a very convenient form of exercise

You can literally go for a walk just about anywhere. If I need a break at work, and I notice I am slouching a lot, or just need to get up and stretch my tight muscles, (typically hip flexors and hamstrings), from sitting too much, I will go for a walk.  For me, walking helps out a lot when I am at work, and my back is hurting.

The other beautiful thing about walking is that all you need is a pair of shoes. Compared to cycling, swimming, or other forms of light exercise, it is much easier and less expensive to just get out for a walk. In case you are wondering, my favorite shoes that I use for walking are the Brooks Ghost 12.

Brooks Mens Ghost 12 Running Shoe - Navy/Deep Water/Gold - D - 11.0
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Brooks Mens Ghost 12 Running Shoe - Navy/Deep Water/Gold - D - 11.0
  • THIS MEN'S SHOE IS FOR: Neutral runners looking for a lightweight shoe and a smooth ride without sacrificing cushioning. Whether you’re a Ghost loyalist or are lacing one up for the first time, you’ll find plenty to like.
  • SUPPORT AND CUSHION: The neutral support type provides high energizing cushioning. Ideal for road running, cross training, the gym or wherever you might want to take them! Predecessor: Ghost 11
  • BALANCED, SOFT CUSHIONING: BioMoGo DNA and DNA LOFT cushioning work together to provide a just-right softness underfoot without losing responsiveness and durability - yet it feels lighter than ever.
  • SMOOTH, STABLE RIDE: No matter how your foot lands, our Segmented Crash Pad - an integrated system of shock absorbers - will cushion every step and stride for smooth heel-to-toe transitions.
  • SOFT, SECURE, FIT: The newly engineered mesh and 3D Fit Print practically disappears on your foot with strategically placed stretch and structure.

For you maybe it is walking after a long commute, or recovering from an injury.  Because walking is convenient, you can go for a walk just about anytime and anywhere. You can start out with just a few minutes maybe a trip around the block and work up from there.  You can also vary your pace to start slow and work up to a faster pace as you loosen up.

You can strengthen your body

Another thing that is great about walking, even though you may not realize it, you are strengthening not only your muscles but also your whole body.  If you walk with good posture, you can improve core strength, which is great for improving back problems. walking to relieve back pain

I have changed my posture when I walk, from a slightly bent over, shoulders slouching position to a much stronger posture.  I notice that when I walk with shoulders back, head up, and core muscles tight, I feel better and stronger.  I try to shorten my stride and land midfoot.

It has taken some getting used to after my injury in 2015 and subsequent recovery, but a strong walking posture is good for the body.  I think the slouched position can be attributed to sitting behind a computer much of the day along with commuting to and from work.

Walking will help to strengthen your lower body and even your core, which will in turn help to relieve pressure on your spine.  This study shows that walking exercise is beneficial for lumbar function.

Get the blood flowing

Captain obvious here, but of course, when you go for a walk, you are increasing your blood flow.  The increase in blood flow helps to carry oxygen throughout your body.  Have you ever had your legs go numb, or cramp up, from sitting all day?

Well, going for a walk can help to increase the blood flow and oxygen to all areas of your body [1].  Oxygen will also help to wake you up when you are snoozing at your desk.

Natural pain relief

When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins, which help reduce the perception of pain. So if you commit to a walking regimen, you can potentially reduce the level of pain you are feeling.

I know this to be true for myself.  There have been times when I was dealing with sciatica, I would go to the gym and at least do what I could, ride a bike, or elliptical or something and afterward I would feel great.  My pain level would decrease, only to have it return a few hours later.

So, even if temporary, this can be a boost to your attitude and the overall feeling of your body.

Walking may even help you shed a few pounds, which is never a bad thing when you are dealing with back pain.


Depending on the severity of your back problems, walking may be a great way to help you work out the kinks and get some great exercise in.  Walking can provide you with a big boost of confidence; maybe provide some relief, even if temporary.  I recommend that you start slow and do not overdo it. Check out this article for more information on walking and back pain.

8 thoughts on “Is walking good for lower back pain?”

  1. Hey Steve,

    Awesome article, I really do need to walk more – fortunately my back pain isn’t constant it comes and goes.
    You make some good points, these are seriously helpful (although I must admit I did chuckle when I read about you leaning on your kids).

    • Thanks for your comment. Well, it’s good to hear that your back pain is not debilitating. Yeah, leaning on my kids was novel for a little while, but then all parties involved got tired of it. Thanks again for stopping by!

  2. Great post Steve and a reminder for me to walk away from my desk and go for a walk outside. I am actively making sure that I park as far away from the stores as I can so that I get as much walking in every day as I can.

    I used to suffer from regular bouts of sciatic pain, and I was telling a friend about it and she said that she used to suffer but now “walks it off”, so when I have sciatic pain (rarely now), I walk for as long as I can.

    Thanks for the tips!

    • Thank you for your comment. It’s great to hear that you are able get out and walk when you have bouts of sciatic pain. I can tell you from experience, that is tough. Good idea on parking far away from the store, sometimes I do that as well. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I love to walk and think it is a great form of exercise. I now have horrible heal pain (plantar fasciitis) in my right heel. I am not sure if walking will help that or make it worse. I have been thinking I should go in to the doctor and see what they say. I have tried all things they suggest to do, to no avail 🙁 Maybe I can walk it off?

    • I am sorry to hear about your heal pain, I have not experienced that, but I am sure it’s painful. I am sure there are lots of products out there, just finding the right one for you may be the challenge. Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

  4. Great insights in to walking. Many people do not know that running actually is hard on your joints and to just jump into running can have some repercussions. Walking actually catches more of your leg muscles in your ankles and calves. I am a regular jogger, and I remember one summer where my wife and I began to do evening walks together with our new daughter in the stroller. My feet and legs were killing me the next day! Walking can be a GREAT workout!

    • Thank you for your comment, I appreciate it. I have never been much of a runner, but I do run sometimes just for a quick sweat. I agree with you, walking can be great, especially if people are limited with what exercise they can do. I have been there. Thanks again for stopping by!


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