We all know there are many benefits of walking, such as lowering cholesterol, improving your sleep quality, lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes and decreasing stress. But did you know that walking can have positive effects on lower back pain?
Low back pain is a common issue. It can be caused by something as simple as sleeping funny one night, sitting at your desk for too long, or repetitive bending/lifting. This pain might go away after a couple of days, but can also last for months, especially if not addressed. When your back hurts you might avoid moving for fear of hurting it more, but our bodies were designed to move! Not moving can lead to increased pain or slower recovery. A safe way to get your body moving while experiencing lower back pain is by walking.
Another cause of low back pain is weakness and instability in the muscle of the back. Walking is not only a great exercise to reduce lower back pain, but can also help prevent it! Walking improves bone health, cardiovascular health, can help reduce arthritis, is cost effective and is not strenuous on the body. This low impact exercise can help improve your muscle endurance in your feet, legs, hips and back. When we walk our muscles make lots of smallcontractions, which is what helps strengthen the muscles that help keep the low back and pelvis stable.
If you are new to exercise, start by walking 5 minutes twice a day and increase the time as tolerated until you are walking 30 minutes once a day. Make sure you are able to comfortably hold a conversation throughout. This helps to make sure you are not over-exerting yourself, keeping your heart rate steady and breathing only slightly elevated. Start by walking on flat level ground, as hills can change the position of your back and hips and can add stress onto the back. Introduce a slight incline when you feel stronger and relief from back pain.
In addition to daily walks, stretching can also help improve the flexibility in the hips and back and help relieve pain. Here are some easy stretches to incorporate before and after your walk to keep you feeling good!
Single leg knee to chest: To do this stretch lay on your back and bend one knee so your foot is flat, take your other leg and using your hands bring your knee up to chest, you can hold this position for 15 seconds and then switch legs. This is a great exercise to stretch the muscle in your back and also take some pressure off the spine.
Hamstring stretch: Your hamstrings are the muscles in the back of your thigh, these attach to the hips and when tight can put pressure on the back and pelvis. To stretch these muscles sit on the ground/bed with your leg out in front of you, keeping your back straight lean forward at the hips as if you were trying to touch your toes. You should feel this stretch in the back of your thigh, hold for 15 seconds working your way up to 30 seconds.
If your back pain is persistent make sure to book an appointment with any of our physiotherapists for a specialized program to help with your pain!