Is walking a good self-treatment for low back pain? People with low back pain are usually given the recommendation to remain physically active, and that advice is part of clinical practice guidelines. A few research studies have contributed to the evidence that walking is good for people with low back pain.
For Low Back Pain – Keep Moving
A research study showed that walking for three hours or more a week helped low back pain patients have less pain.
Specific back exercises did not work as well in this study. UCLA researchers studied 681 low back pain patients. One group did specific low back exercises, another group walked the equivalent of three hours of brisk walking per week.
The walking group had less pain, disability, and psychological distress. Unfortunately, the low back exercise group had more pain and distress. This may be due to patients doing the exercises incorrectly. The study was published in the September, 2005 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
Walking as Effective as Exercises for Chronic Low Back Pain
A study published in 2013 looked at whether a treadmill walking program worked as well as a back exercise program. The subjects were 52 sedentary people who had chronic low back pain. They split them into two groups. One group was given a six week clinic-based muscle strengthening program, which required three exercise sessions per week.
The lead researcher, Dr. Michal Katz-Leurer pointed out the advantages to a walking program, which doesn’t require therapist time or equipment. It can be a better use of resources than a clinical back exercise program and patients can be coached to do it at home.
The Walking Prescription for Low Back Pain
Physicians and chiropractors have long prescribed walking for low back pain patients, and that is written into clinical practice guidelines. They must motivate patients to keep moving despite the pain, as the result is less pain and a faster recovery. The old notions of bed rest and the La-Z-Boy recliner for low back pain are dead.
Posture Important for Walking with Low Back Pain
Those with low back pain should practice good walking posture so as to relieve low back stress. Common walking posture mistakes are leaning forward, leaning back, and failing to keep the head up and eyes forward. Simple corrections to your walking posture can prevent low back pain when you walk and assist in pain relief and recovery for those with low back pain.
Does Walking Prevent Low Back Pain?
Systematic reviews of studies have not found evidence that walking prevents low back pain. One study followed sedentary office workers and found that walking decreased the risk of developing neck pain, but didn’t reduce the incidence of low back pain. While researchers such as Dr. Katz-Leurer thinks walking may have a protective effect for preventing aches and pains, this has yet to be proven. The good news is that it doesn’t seem to hurt.