Is a stiff lower back causing you pain?
A recent study reviewed 31,000 people suffering from back pain.
The results concluded that getting regular exercise could reduce and even eliminate the need for pain medication and other remedies.
But the type of exercise you need doesn't have to be strenuous.
Experts agree that when it comes to treating stiff lower back pain, walking is the best medicine.
Walking to ease back pain
This simple form of exercise can greatly reduce back pain in most cases.
But the benefits don't end with pain management.
Regular exercise is crucial to maintaining good health into old age.
Making it routine can give you a boost in energy, increase mobility, and even improve mental health.
In this post, we'll examine the different ways walking regularly can improve the sometimes painful symptoms associated with a stiff lower back.
Strengthening stiff lower back muscles
Walking is a low-impact aerobic exercise that provides numerous benefits.
People don't get as much exercise as they used to. And in today's modern era, some people have become prone to sedentary lifestyles.
Sitting for extended periods of time can have huge negative impacts on the health of your spine, particularly the lower back.
Higher pressures are placed on the lower spine while sitting, which can be a contributing factor to back pain.
To help alleviate this, it's important to get up and moving. Especially if exercise isn't a part of your daily routine (for whatever reason).
Walking helps to increase the stability of the spine by strengthening muscles in the legs, abdomen, and hips.
As these muscles gain mass with use, the spine is kept in a more upright position with greater support.
Additionally, walking regularly also increases blood circulation to the soft tissues of the spinal column.
By promoting healthy blood flow to this area, the overall well-being of the lower back muscles is further improved.
Walking releases natural pain killers
Pain management through the use of medication can be a dangerous and slippery slope if one isn't careful.
Pain medications are commonly prescribed for chronic back pain, but sometimes their continued use can lead to a plethora of problems associated with addiction.
Regular dosages of pain medication can actually increase a person's pain threshold.
Although not every case is the same, talk with your doctor about the possibility of cutting back or stopping pain medications in favor of other natural remedies such as getting regular exercise.
In fact, aerobic exercise actually produces its own type of pain management.
As muscles are used they develop small tears, preceding new growth. To fend off the pain associated with strenuous exercise, the body produces hormones called endorphins.
Endorphins block the pain receptors in your brain, much like how an opioid pain medication binds to your brain's pain receptors.
But with regular exercise, these pain receptors are less active. With time and if made routine, walking can help reduce or even stop pain medication dependency.
Endorphins also provide a boost to your mood and exercise can be used to treat a variety of mental health disorders.
Improve flexibility and posture
In addition to improved strength in the legs and torso, walking also helps to increase flexibility and improve posture.
As you become more comfortable with your new routine, and as you begin noticing its benefits, you might notice a greater range of motion.
But this can't be attributed to walking alone.
Your exercise walking routine should also incorporate regular stretching before and after.
Stretching before a workout helps loosen up your muscles and prevents sprains and tears. Doing so after a workout helps your muscles "cool down."
When regular exercise walking is combined with routine stretching, and range of motion is increased.
With time you will become less susceptible to injury.
Furthermore, as your muscles gain strength, your posture will improve as your muscles pull your spine and hips into proper alignment.
Walking helps control weight
Weight doesn't come off like it used to, and gaining more becomes more dangerous with age.
Having a high body mass index also means that more strain is placed on your already stiff lower back.
A regular exercise walking routine will help to manage any weight gains, and could even help you shed a few extra pounds.
Perhaps your stiff lower back has been a contributing factor to unhealthy weight gain.
Walking will help boost your metabolism and should also be paired with a healthy diet.
Now that we've covered why you should begin an exercise walking routine to combat a stiff lower back, let's look at how you should proceed.
Stretching prior to walking
Like with any exercise routine, stretching before heading out for your walk is important and helps prevent injury.
Before taking your first step, begin your exercise walking routine by performing some simple and gentle stretches.
Doing so will help prepare your muscles, ligaments, and joints for the increased strain and range of motion.
After stretching, set forth! But be sure to take it easy for the first five minutes to allow your muscles a chance to warm up.
Your stretching routine should focus on the calves, hamstrings (back legs), and quadriceps (front thigh). However, don't forget to include your hips, back, neck, and arms.
Stretching should also be done after returning from your walk.
Know your limitations
A stiff lower back shouldn't prevent you from taking a stroll through the park.
But depending on the amount of lower back pain you experience, your walking routine shouldn't cause more acute pain.
Work with your doctor to discuss what your limitations are and how to improve them.
If you experience high levels of pain, you may want to seek alternative treatments (which will be discussed below).
Avoid any challenging terrain that may pose risk to injuries, such as uneven pavement or dirt trails.
Furthermore, don't over exert yourself in the name of good health. Pushing yourself is all well and good, but remember, you're walking to prevent injury and not create any new injuries.
No pain, no gain
Now that you have your limitations in mind, don't let them discourage you from pushing yourself past the wall.
Your stiff lower back may twinge a bit for the first few weeks, but this is normal.
Your body is getting accustomed to movement again and should be treated with respect as to avoid injury.
But you should also actively try to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
As previously mentioned, aerobic exercise produces hormones called endorphins, which block pain receptors.
You may experience pain initially, but if you're able, keep walking. It seems counter-intuitive, but your body will adjust to the new activity.
Begin your walking routine slowly and intentionally. As you gain more confidence in your pain threshold, work your way up to a faster pace or a longer distance.
Sometimes the pain is just too much for walking to be a feasible form of treatment.
If this is the case, consider an alternative which has less impact on your back.
Consider starting your routine by using a treadmill. Treadmills are great ways to ensure a proper pace while maintaining footing on a flat and obstacle-free surface.
But if mobility is too much of an issue, or if your pain levels are too high, consider water therapy exercises.
Water therapy exercises include water jogging and other aerobic activities. These exercises are terrific ways to help strengthen lower back muscles in an extremely low-impact environment.
If you're back pain is too much for walking to be an option, consult with your doctor to discuss what other alternatives might be available to you.
Your feet directly impact your spine and lower back.
As such, you should adorn them with the proper equipment.
A decent pair of walking shoes is a worthwhile investment when it comes to improving your stiff lower back.
Take your time to shop around for the right pair, and don't be surprised at how much you spend. Despite the cost, a good pair of shoes is crucial to getting the most from your exercise workout routine.
Walking shoes give your feet basic support and protection. But they also help redistribute weight properly.
As you take a stride, weight is shifted from different areas of your foot and sends the pressure upwards through the leg and into the back.
Finding the pair right for you could help alleviate any unnecessary pain.
Walking comes naturally, but with back pain, it should be done so mindfully.
Always begin at a slow pace and work your way up from there.
Try starting out by walking for five minutes and work your way up from there.
Keep your pace brisk and steady, but take care to not over-exert yourself.
Also, be mindful of your posture. Keep your head up and centered on the horizon in front of you.
Additionally, be sure to rely on your abdominal muscles for extra back support.
Lastly, ensure your strides are neither too long or too short.
Making exercise walking into a routine can have profound positive health benefits for lower back pain.
By walking for 30 minutes three to seven days a week, your back will become stronger and you will experience less pain.
As it becomes regular, you'll not only be in less pain, but you'll be in better shape and a better mood!