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When your back hurts, it seems like everything you do causes your back to hurt. That's because your back is the axis that your body moves around, and every single movement you make affects it. Something as simple and seemingly unrelated as a yawn can give you a jolt if you have back pain.
Years ago, if you experienced a sudden onset of severe back pain, you were put on bed rest for a week or more. Now we know that isn't a good idea at all. Your spine is a complex structure of bones, small joints, discs, ligaments, tendons, nerves, and muscles. Your back is an intricate structure that creates a very cramped space where small issues can create big pain.
Mobility of the spine at every level is essential to a healthy back, and some conditions might make it very painful to walk. Let's dive right in and see why walking might increase lower back pain, what you can do to manage back pain while walking, and when it's a good idea to seek medical advice.
It's worth mentioning again that small issues can create big symptoms when it comes to your spine, particularly your lumbar spine or low back. Don't automatically assume that something is seriously wrong because you have back pain when you stand or walk. Here are some reasons why you may get spinal pain when you walk:
Did you know that every pound of extra weight you carry puts an extra 4 pounds of pressure on your joints.? Your spine has many small joints called facets that allow you to bend and twist. A weight gain of just 5 pounds can add 20 pounds of pressure to your spine. That's a lot.
Try walking short distances, swimming, or cycling to take some of the weight off initially. Then work on building up your walking tolerance. Doing a little bit every day will improve your overall health, strengthen your legs, and contribute to your overall physical fitness.
Your posture plays a pivotal role in back pain, especially when standing or walking. The lumbar spine has a natural backward or posterior curve to allow for flexibility. The muscles of your back work together with your front and side abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine.
The curve mustn't be too big, which can happen if your stomach muscles are flabby and not doing their job. Then your pelvis gets pulled forward, increasing the curve, which can cause pain. Tightening your stomach muscles and squeezing your glutes while walking or standing creates better posture and improved muscle balance.
Flattening of the curve in the low back can also cause back pain. Standing in a forward bent position can cause your lower back muscles to tighten up and pull down on your pelvis, which flattens the curve in your spine, which restricts movement resulting in pain and stiffness.
Low back stretches and abdominal bracing exercises will help relieve pain walking by improving your spine's mechanics.
Too little activity can cause a plethora of health problems. People who don't exercise their bodies are at risk for disuse syndrome that affects both the body and mind. First brought to light in 1984, disuse syndrome has been linked to chronic low back pain and many other chronic illnesses. It is believed to be "the base of much human ill-being."
Exercise doesn't have to mean going to a gym or working out with weights. Taking a brisk walk around your home or on a treadmill is an effective activity. Doing some simple stretching exercises when you wake up in the morning can stave off lower back pain and get you moving too.
Keeping your body and muscles flexible is important for maintaining good health and independence throughout your life.
Some common medical problems can occur in your back that will increase low back pain when walking. Some of these include:
When a narrowing occurs in the spinal canal of the low back, that is called lumbar stenosis. It can occur for various reasons, including a bulging or herniated disc, a bone spur, or boney narrowing due to degeneration in the spine.
No matter what the cause, it makes standing and walking very painful. Sitting down often relieves some of the pain of spinal stenosis as it opens up the spinal canal and temporarily creates more room. Leaning forward may also relieve pain in the lower back associated with stenosis.
Spondylolisthesis is an instability of the spine that causes increased movement in the vertebrae. Standing with your back in a neutral position or sitting can temporarily relieve the pain, but it is often made worse by any movement type. Walking for long periods and bending tend to increase the symptoms of spondylolisthesis.
The name sounds funny, but the pain associated with it is not. Your sacroiliac joints (SI joints) are flat joints that lie right under the dimples in your lower back just above your buttocks. They are flat joints that tend to get stuck on one side or the other. If you stand on one leg a lot during the day or sit leaning to one side all day, it can cause your SI joints problems.
The pain associated with SI joint dysfunction is most commonly felt while transitioning from one position to another, such as standing up from a chair. It is commonly treated with physical therapy.
Sciatica is back pain associated with irritation of the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body. If the sciatic nerve gets irritated, it can cause pain in the low back, buttocks, and leg when walking. It typically occurs on one side or the other and can lead to chronic low back pain if left untreated.
It is also important to note that if you have severe pain in your back, you cannot get under control, lower extremity numbness or weakness, or become incontinent of bowel, bladder, or both should seek medical attention immediately.
It's so important to be able to walk without pain. Not being able to enjoy waking limits your ability to function daily. Plus, there are so many health benefits that walking provides, including:
-Increased blood flow
-Improved joint flexibility
-Decreased blood pressure
-Decreased blood cholesterol levels
-Anxiety and depression management
-Reduced risk of heart disease and dementia
That's a lot of awe-inspiring health benefits, so don't give up walking because of lumbar spine pain. Let's take a look at some ways you can reduce low back pain with walking.
-Start Slow - Begin with a 5 to 10-minute walk and do it every day. This will start to strengthen your postural muscles and build your tolerance for walking. Gradually build up the amount of time you walk but don't try to do it too quickly. Walking on a treadmill or elliptical machine is fine too, if you prefer to do that.
-Walk in Water - If walking is painful for you, then use the power of buoyancy. Walking in waist-deep water reduces the compression on your spine and can make it much more comfortable moving around and even exercising. It's a great place to start until you feel ready to transition to land-based walking.
-Good Posture - Always walk with good posture. Stand up tall and bring your belly button in toward your spine. You may find that you have to stop frequently and re-set your posture while walking but pay attention to how much better your back feels when walking with proper posture. Eventually, your muscles will get stronger and support your back on their own.
We have many great articles on our blog that have exercises and stretches for managing lower back pain, the importance of a good mattress, foods to eat, proper posture, and more, so make sure to check them out. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments, and we will be happy to answer them for you.
You don't have to live with chronic low back pain. There are plenty of self-help measures that offer good results. However, don't hesitate to see your doctor if you don't get pain relief independently. There are plenty of procedures that reduce back pain. Additionally, physical therapy can prove very helpful and provide you with some good skills to use throughout your life to manage back pain.