If you’re suffering from back pain, there’s a good chance a medical professional or physical therapist has told you regular exercise is a must. Staying in shape is especially important when you have back issues, because the less weight and strain you put on your body, the kinder you’re being to your back and spine.
However, when you’re in the grips of chronic pain — especially intense pain — the idea of exercising seems like a mirage. You want to do it, but if you’re hurting, what kind of exercise can you do that won’t make your pain worse?
The good news is walking can help reduce back pain. According to a recent article in Prevention, “it can help to stabilize your spine and prevent muscle imbalances.”
Why a sedentary life is bad for the spine
If you think about your body mechanics, it’s easy to understand why sitting for long periods of time isn’t a good long-term plan for easing back pain. If you’re sitting down right now, take a moment to scan your body. Are you sitting with good posture or are you slumping? If you’re slumping, that’s impeding your path to back health.
Poor posture while sitting down causes compression on the discs in your spine, so if you’re dealing with a bulging disc, a herniated disc or premature degeneration, sitting for hours at a time will only make the pain worse. In fact, “Poor posture is one of the leading causes of lower back pain,” according to an article on Pain News Network.
Time to get moving
Walking sounds easy enough, but before you put on those tennis shoes and hit the pavement, there are few things to consider to make the most of your physical activity. Paying attention to your walking shoes, posture and stride can make your strolls more effective.
Proper footwear matters
We all have a favorite pair of tennis that fit like a glove, but are they supporting your back? Remember, standing and walking starts at your feet, so the correct shoes are important.
The proper pair of tennis or walking shoes will help you stand in a natural posture that supports the alignment of your spine. An imbalance in your posture while you walk, even though it may be slight, can actually cause unnecessary wear and tear on your back over time.
Perfect your posture
When you start walking, you need to pay attention to you posture. Good posture means your head and shoulders are tall. You want to look ahead of yourself, but with your chin up.
As you walk, you want to focus on your core strength by sucking in your stomach to engage your abdominal muscles. Imagine pulling your abs in tight to your spine, and try to keep them that way for your entire walk.
Shorter strides are best
There’s no need to try to take big strides as you walk, because smaller steps are more beneficial to reduce back pain. In fact, according to an article from Spine Health, “long strides can irritate your sciatic nerve by compressing your lumbar discs.”
Keep your pace steady enough so that you can carry on a conversation, and focus on hitting the ground between your midfoot and heel. You want to roll your foot towards your toes when you take your strides.
Walking through the pain
Stay positive as you embark on this new fitness routine, because your back pain will not be gone immediately. Walking to ease back pain takes time. There’s no need to beat yourself up mentally if you can only walk for 15 minutes. You’ll naturally build strength and endurance by walking, but it may take 4-6 weeks to feel improvements.
Stick with it, be consistent and be confident you’re doing something good for your back health, your body and your life.
Have you walked your way to freedom from back pain? If so, share your tips with us in the comment section below.