Wellness

Walking to Relieve Your Back Pain. Start Today

Source: Mayo Clinic
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Whether your back pain is caused by fibromyalgia, arthritis, or bulging discs, walking may provide some relief that you are looking for. In fact, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2007 showed significant improvements in physical function for women with fibromyalgia who participated in a four-month exercise routine. It seems counterintuitive that exercise would help fibromyalgia, a mysterious disorder characterized by prolonged pain and fatigue, but it is definitely beneficial.

Small Changes. Big Difference

If you suffer from chronic pain or fibromyalgia, walking is a great low-impact exercise to start with if your physical capabilities are not limited. The great thing about walking is that you can do this exercise almost anywhere: whether it be taking a walk on your lunch break, to walking around the mall, taking time to walk around a track, or parking a bit father from the grocery store entrance to do a little extra walking. While these may seem like small changes, over time you may realize the benefits.

Getting Stronger

Walking increases strength in the legs, hips, feet, and torso, and also increases spinal stability and muscles in the core and back to maintain the body’s upright position. Walking aids more robust circulation by transporting nutrients into tissues and removing toxins. For people with chronic back pain, increases in balance and stability improve your capability of performing daily activities, while decreasing the frequency and severity of future pain episodes.

Getting Started

Before beginning exercise walking, it is recommended to warm up with some gentle stretching to prepare the muscles and joints for the necessary increased range of motion. Start by taking an easy five minute walk to warm up the muscles so that they loosen a bit before stretching.


Once your have warmed up your body and performed some light stretches, there are several guidelines that should be followed to maximize the benefits of exercise walking.


If you have not exercised in a while, it is recommended to begin with a 5 minute walk and work up to longer walks of at least 30 minutes with a frequency of 3 to 4 times per week.

The Right Walking Form

When you are walking maintain specific elements of form to help protect the back and avoid injury as follows:


Feet 

Each step should land gently on the heel and mid-foot, then roll smoothly to push off the next step with the toes. Use the toes and balls of the feet to propel forward with each new step.


Head and shoulders 

Look straight ahead and relax the shoulders while maintaining an upright posture and avoiding slouching forward.


Arms and hands 

Keep the arms close to the body with elbows bent at a 90 degree angle. The arms should swing front to back with each step, at the same pace as the stride of the opposite leg. The hands should be relaxed and not clenched or in tight fists.


Abdominal and core muscles

Keep the core muscles engaged and active to help in supporting the body and spine.