Are you experiencing tightness or discomfort in your lower back? Try taking a walk.
Studies have shown walking to be effective in preventing, alleviating and even treating pain in the spine, a condition that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will affect eight of 10 U.S. citizens in their lifetimes.
One particular study, published in the journal Clinical Rehabilitation in 2013, found that walking two to three times each week (from 20 to 40 minutes each time) was effective in alleviating lower-back pain. The study was led by Dr. Michal Katz-Leurer of Tel Aviv University’s Stanley Steyer School of Health Professions at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine.
According to Katz-Leurer, research shows that active walking causes the abdominal and back muscles to work in much the same way as they do when once completes exercises that target these particular areas. And yet, unlike such strengthening programs, walking requires no special equipment or supervision, making it a simple option for those looking for relief from stiffness, discomfort and even pain in the lower back.
“Walking is the most accessible and easiest way for people to get physical activity,” said Dr. Thomas Friedman, the directior of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Such perspective is welcoming news as the weather warms, the days get longer and people are encouraged to get outdoors through efforts such as “Take a Walk in the Park Day,” which is recognized each year on March 30.
“There is no single medicine that comes close to what physical activity can do,” said Friedman. “Being active can help you feel better about yourself and be more productive. Regular physical activity benefits body and mind.”
When it comes to walking, a regular regimen can lead to:
Stronger Muscles: Stronger feet, legs, hips and core muscles will increase the stability of the spine, keeping the body upright and balanced.
Healthier Spine: Walking improves circulation throughout the body, allowing the body to better hydrate and nourish the spine’s soft tissues while washing away toxins.
Better Flexibility & Posture: Along with regular stretching, walking helps increase the body’s range of motion. The promotion of better movement can lead to injury prevention.
According to a study published in The Spine Journal, walking also stimulates the brain into releasing serotonin and endorphins, neurotransmitter chemicals that make you feel better both mentally and physically. Coupled with the natural distractions within your surroundings – the “stop and smell the roses” aspect of your typical walk in the park – the study found a 10 to 50 percent reduction in low-back pain after just a single walk.
If walking is painful or back pain makes it difficult to stand up and move, visit a physical therapist for a thorough pain assessment. A physical therapist can determine the source of your back pain and put you on a path toward healing, whether that path involves exercise, clinical treatment or the advice to visit a physician or specialist.