Is Walking Good For People With Lower Back Pain?
Going for a stroll isn't just a pleasant and enjoyable activity, it can be good for your back pain too. So while chronic pain is no walk in the park, walking in the park can be a big help.
I'm sure we all enjoy a good walk from time to time.
It's just a nice thing to do isn't it?
For starters it's easier than regular exercise.
So it will get you out into the fresh air but won't make you gasp for it.
And it can be social too.
Whether that is by chatting to other dog walkers as you take Buster for his morning constitutional.
Or going for a Sunday afternoon stroll with your friends and family.
You can use your time walking for more than just exercise.
And it's something you can incorporate into your day while you are going about your daily tasks.
So you don't have to make time to do it.
Add to that the fact that it's free and can be done anywhere and at anytime.
And you don't need any special equipment to do it.
In fact you can even stop off for a quick pint halfway through if you like.
And there are not many forms of exercise you can say that about!
All of this means that walking doesn't just bring you physical benefits.
It's good for you mentally and emotionally too.
And it can also be great for reducing your lower back pain.
Why Is Walking Good For People With Back Pain?
Alongside the regular health benefits of walking, studies have found that it's great for people with back pain too.
As walking regularly and to a moderate intensity has been shown to reduce pain, and be a safe, effective and beneficial activity for people with chronic lower back pain.
But why is this?
Well as I mentioned previously walking will help you to improve not only physically but mentally too.
And you need to be healthy in both of these areas to be able to manage chronic lower back pain.
So physically it's great because:
- Walking regularly helps you to stay more mobile and active.
- It strengthens the muscles that support your spine, namely your legs, hips and core muscles, which helps you to maintain good posture and spinal alignment throughout the day.
- Walking increases your circulation, meaning oxygen and nutrients make it to your muscles and tissues more easily allowing them to strengthen, heal and repair.
- It also strengthens your bones.
- And when you are walking there is less compression on your spinal discs than when you are sitting or standing. This allows them to stay healthy and support your spinal movement.
- Walking helps to keep your weight down which reduces the load on your spine,
While mentally it'll help by:
- Improving your mood which will give you a more positive outlook making it easier to manage chronic pain.
- Release endorphins that not only make you feel good but also block pain signals to the brain.
- Give you more confidence in what your body is capable of which makes it more likely you'll remain active in other areas of your life.
Pretty good for such an easy and pleasant activity right?
However before you begin you need to make sure you are doing two things correctly.
And that is wearing the right footwear and maintaining a good walking technique.
How to Find the Right Walking Shoes
Finding the right pair of walking shoes may not sound like a difficult thing to do but it can be a bit of a minefield.
And it's vitally important that you get it right.
Because a good pair of walking shoes will help to keep your body balanced and aligned as you walk.
And they will also absorb shocks by cushioning the impact of your steps which minimises any jarring on your spine.
However if you are wearing the wrong type of shoes the opposite is true.
You feel every single jolt and it can cause muscle imbalances to develop in your body.
And even the slightest imbalance when walking can lead to further aches and pains in your lower back.
So you really need to find a pair of shoes that support your walking style and help you to maintain a good posture as you walk.
Now this can be difficult as there are so many different types of shoes available.
And this is because everyone is different.
As we all have a different gait and while some of us have feet that roll inwards when we walk, others have feet that roll outwards.
So you need to find the right pair walking shoes to support your gait and walking style.
The Different Types Of Walking Shoes
There are many different types of walking shoes designed to fit people with different types of foot arch and walking gait.
And while everyone walks with a different gait we all have our own certain type of foot arch too.
Now people generally have one of three different types of foot arch: they are flat footed, have a normal arch, or have a high arch.
And no matter whichever combination of gait and foot arch you have there are walking shoes especially designed to help you.
However the problem is knowing which one's are right for you.
Because if you pick the wrong ones they can do you more harm than good.
As I said it can be a minefield!
A good way to get through this minefield unscathed is to visit a store that specialises in running equipment.
As these stores have staff that are trained to find exactly the right type of shoes you need.
So you can be sure to find the right pair to keep you healthy and supported as you get into walking more regularly.
But if you do want to buy a pair online a good pair all rounders are the North Face Hedgehog GTX walking shoes.
These are lightweight and supportive and provide good protection from the elements as they are waterproof and breathable.
So they are equally good for walking in warm or wet weather.
Make Sure You Walk With A Healthy Technique
Now if you resemble John Cleese in a Monty Python sketch when you walk then good luck to you as you are going to need it.
In more ways than one!
But on a more serious note walking with a bad technique or posture can cause pains, strains and muscle imbalances throughout the body.
And this will only cause your back pain to intensify.
Therefore it's vital to get into good walking habits.
Because walking with good posture and technique will help you to:
- Breathe easier.
- Walk more comfortably and for longer.
- Stop muscle imbalances from developing.
- Prevent aches and strains.
But what constitutes a good walking posture?
In short you need to make sure you don't lean forwards or backwards, keep your chin up, and keep your eyes looking forward as you walk.
You can also watch the video below to get some good ideas:
By making sure you have the foundations of a good walking technique before you start you can be sure you are going to gain the maximum benefit from your walks.
And not do yourself any further damage.
How to Get Started With Walking
Ok so you have the right footwear and your walking technique is all sorted out so it's time to get started.
And walking is probably the easiest activity to get started with.
As all you need to do is open your front door and off you go.
However when you first start out it's important not to overdo things.
Don't be like me and go on a 14km hike and spend the next week with serious leg pain!
So if you've never really walked before start slowly with a couple of gentle 10-15 minute walks.
Then gradually build this up over time until you can walk briskly for between 30-60 minutes at a time.
And when I say walk briskly I mean walking with enough pace to get the aerobic benefits but not so fast that you'll be out of breath.
So if you are walking so fast that you can't talk at the same time slow down a touch.
Also when you are starting out try to walk on flat surfaces only.
This is because walking up and down hills and slopes puts extra strain on your back and can unbalance you.
So build up your walking proficiency first before venturing away from the flat ground.
How To Stay Motivated
Getting started with walking is only half the battle.
As to feel the real benefits you need to make it a regular part of your routine.
So once you are up to a decent level try to make going for a walk something you do regularly.
Personally I go for a 45 minute walk every morning as it really helps me to wake up my body and freshen up my mind.
But I understand that not everyone's schedule will allow for this.
However do try to find a time every day that you can dedicate to going for a walk.
As you'll be more likely to keep it up if it becomes a regular habit that you do at a certain time.
And another trick to keep yourself motivated is to make your walks social.
So ask your have friends if they'd be interested in going for regular walks too.
If so that's perfect as you can keep each other company and motivate each other.
And your walks together will become something you look forward to.
But if you can't find anyone don't worry as there are many walking groups around that you can join.
These groups are great as you get to meet new people while also getting your exercise in.
And if you'd rather walk alone a good way to keep yourself motivated is to use a fitness tracker.
These trackers allow you to set daily goals and keep count of the amount of steps you take, the calories you burn, the distance you cover, and the time you spend walking.
And keeping track of these stats is not just a great way to follow your progress.
It also will push you on to go out walking on days where you might not fancy it.
As I guarantee that if you find you are short of your daily step target you'll be itching to get outside and complete it.
So use your brain's psychology and reward system to your advantage!
Now there are many popular options for fitness trackers on the market these days with the most popular one being the FitBit fitness wristband.
And you can also use the FitBit to keep track of other activities you do as well as walking.
However if you want something more simple (and cheaper) then there are other options.
For instance there are pedometer phone apps which will count your steps if you take your phone on your walk with you.
And if you are interested in one of these I'd recommend an app called Accupedo Pro which is the one I have on my phone.
Want More Intensity? Try Nordic Walking
Now remember the golden rule when it comes to exercising for chronic lower back pain:
Don't overdo it!
But if regular walking is a bit boring for you there are more challenging options you can try.
And one of these is nordic walking.
Nordic Walking is a taking off as a popular form of exercise at present and can be a great option if you want something more challenging.
And it was found in one study to not only be helpful for people with chronic lower back pain, it also reduced the amount of pain medication they needed to take afterwards.
So it can work!
But what is it?
It's a form of brisk walking taking long strides but at the same time also using your arms to plant walking poles as you go.
In a way it is quite similar to using the cross trainer at the gym.
And unlike regular walking it works 90% of your bodies muscles at the same time.
So if you are after more of a workout than just a brisk walk you should give nordic walking a try.
To get an idea of what it's all about check out the video below:
It's another great option for keeping you active.
And there are nordic walking clubs popping up all over (find your nearest one in the UK by clicking here).
So it can be another social option too!
I hope that after reading through this article you can see that walking can be more than just a pleasant activity.
Because when it's done regularly and correctly it can be a massive help in reducing your back pain.
And this can be acheived through normal, brisk walking, either alone or with friends and family.
Or through nordic walking if you want something more challenging.
But whichever form of walking you decide to go for getting into the habit of walking regularly will bring great benefits for your health and how you handle your chronic pain.
So while living with chronic pain isn't a walk in the park, walking in the park can certainly help!