Is walking good for lower back pain? I have been dealing with back problems most of my adult life, and today I want to tackle this question. So many people suffer from lower back pain and are looking for ways to feel better, myself included. I want to take a look at walking and back pain.
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My personal journey with back problems started in 1999. I have been in situations where I have been injured to the point where walking was difficult. Other times in my life, walking was about all I could do for exercise.
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 in 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 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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
If you are interested, these are my favorite pair of shoes for back pain,
Thank you for taking some time out of your day to read this, I certainly appreciate it. If you have any questions or comment, please leave them below, and I will get back to you as soon as I can.