While lower back pain can manifest in various situations, one of the most prevalent and discomforting scenarios is experiencing lower back pain while walking. Walking is part of everyday life for most people, so when this seemingly innocuous act becomes painful, it can have a profound impact on function and movement.. It can begin to affect everyday activities, work, and even socialising, which can have flow on effects to quality of life.
Keep reading to delve into the types, causes, and symptoms of lower back pain when walking, exploring prevention strategies and treatment options for getting better. At Orleans Physiotherapy, our aim is to provide our patients with effective and valuable treatment options for a range of musculoskeletal issues, including back pain. Book an appointment with one of our experienced physical therapy team.
Understanding Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain, or lumbar pain, refers to discomfort or pain localized in the region below the ribcage and above the buttocks. This type of pain can be categorized into two primary types: acute and chronic.
Acute Lower Back Pain
This type of pain typically lasts for a few days to a few weeks and is often attributed to muscle strain, injury, or other temporary factors. It can result from incidents like lifting heavy objects improperly or sudden movements that place stress on the lower back.
Chronic Lower Back Pain
Chronic pain, on the other hand, persists for longer periods, often beyond 12 weeks. It is usually associated with underlying medical conditions, structural issues, or ongoing health problems, such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or arthritis.
Symptoms Of Lower Back Pain When Walking
Walking can aggravate pain in the upper, lower, or middle of back, depending on the underlying cause. The symptoms can range from mild, moderate, to severe. Other symptoms of lower back pain when walking include:
- Numbness or tingling
- Muscle weakness
- Decreased range of motion
- Pain aggravation with movement
- Radiating pain
- Altered gait
The Role of Walking in Lower Back Pain
Walking enables us to move from one place to another. It's not just a mode of transportation but also a valuable exercise that promotes cardiovascular health, strengthens muscles, and improves overall well-being. However, when lower back pain becomes associated with walking, it can limit your mobility and diminish your quality of life.
The connection between walking and lower back pain is multifaceted. Walking typically involves complex movements of the spine, hips, and legs. When any of these movements are compromised, it can lead to lower back pain. Factors contributing to this problem include:
- Poor Posture and Walking Mechanics: Maintaining a slouched or improper posture while walking can place excessive strain on your lower back. This often happens when people slouch forward, leaning their upper body out of alignment with their hips and legs.
- Muscle Imbalances and Weaknesses: The core muscles, which include the abdominal and lower back muscles, play a crucial role in providing support to the spine. Weakness or imbalances in these muscle groups can lead to instability and lower back pain during walking.
- Spinal Conditions and Injuries: Pre-existing spinal conditions such as herniated discs or spinal stenosis can be exacerbated by the movements involved in walking. These conditions may cause pain or discomfort, particularly during extended periods of walking.
- Overuse and Repetitive Stress: Engaging in excessive walking or standing for prolonged periods can lead to overuse injuries, muscle fatigue, and stress on the lower back. This is often experienced by individuals who have physically demanding jobs or those who engage in rigorous exercise routines without proper rest and recovery.
As there are a range of different causes of lower back pain when walking, it’s essential to get a proper diagnosis before starting any treatments. Otherwise, the treatment may do nothing or may even worsen the symptoms. Consult a physical therapist or doctor for any unusual, persistent, or severe symptoms.
Treatment Options for Lower Back Pain
When musculoskeletal issues like lower back pain when walking occur, timely and appropriate treatment is essential. The following are some of the treatment options a doctor or physical therapist may suggest to resolve the underlying causes of back pain:
Rest and Lifestyle Adjustments
The body may need rest to recover from lower back pain. A physical therapist may suggest avoiding activities that exacerbate the pain. Additionally, they may encourage making necessary lifestyle adjustments to reduce strain on the back, such as avoiding heavy lifting and sitting with proper ergonomics. Maintaining a healthy diet is also helpful as being overweight can be a risk factor for back pain.
Physical Therapy and Exercise
Physical therapy is a highly beneficial approach for addressing lower back pain when walking. It involves the guidance and expertise of trained physical therapists who design customized exercise programs to target the root causes of the back pain. Through a combination of exercises and techniques, physical therapy aims to strengthen the muscles supporting the lower back and improve walking mechanics.
Physical therapists will typically start by conducting a thorough assessment of your condition, taking into account factors such as pain intensity, range of motion, and gait analysis. Based on this evaluation, they will create an individualized treatment plan tailored to each patient’s specific needs.
The exercises prescribed during physical therapy often focus on:
- Core Strengthening: Strengthening the core muscles, including the abdominals and lower back, is crucial for providing stability to the spine. These exercises can enhance overall posture and support the lower back during walking.
- Flexibility and Range of Motion: Stretching exercises are employed to improve the flexibility of the hip and lower back region, helping reduce muscle tension and preventing stiffness that can contribute to pain.
- Posture and Body Mechanics: Physical therapists also teach proper posture and walking mechanics. These techniques can help maintain an upright posture, reduce strain on the lower back, and walk with greater ease.
By diligently following a physical therapy regimen, it can provide significant pain relief and restore comfort when walking. Moreover, it's not just about treating the symptoms but also about preventing future episodes of lower back pain. Physical therapists can offer strategies for coping during rehabilitation, or may refer to other services for techniques like meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation exercises that can also help alleviate the toll of back pain.
Medication and Pain Management
Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or prescription medications may be used by doctors to help patients to manage both acute and chronic back pain. Other treatments, such as epidural injections, may also be considered by the medical team for more severe cases.
For cases of chronic and severe lower back pain, surgery may be a consideration. Surgical options may include spinal fusion, discectomy, or laminectomy. However, surgery is typically reserved for those who do not respond to conservative treatments.
Preventing Lower Back Pain While Walking
From proper posture and muscle strengthening to the choice of footwear, there are several techniques that can significantly enhance walking comfort and health. Below are some of the practical approaches to prevent and manage back pain when walking:
Maintaining Proper Posture and Walking Technique
The foundation of preventing lower back pain when walking lies in maintaining good posture and proper walking mechanics. Here are some tips a physical therapist may suggest to achieve this:
- Stand tall with the head, shoulders, and hips aligned
- Engage your core muscles to support the spine
- Maintain relaxed breathing
- Avoid slouching or leaning forward
- Take shorter, quicker strides to reduce any impact on the lower back
Strengthening Core and Back Muscles
Strengthening the core and back muscles is paramount for providing adequate spinal support and preventing lower back pain. A physical therapist may consider incorporating exercises like planks, bridges, and supermans into a patient's rehabilitation. Resistance training with proper form can also help improve muscle imbalances and weaknesses.
Stretching and Flexibility
Maintaining flexibility in the hip and lower back regions can mitigate the risk of pain when walking. Stretching exercises such as hamstring stretches, hip flexor stretches, and gentle yoga under the guidance of a trained health professional can help maintain flexibility and reduce strain on the lower back.
Choosing Appropriate Footwear
Footwear plays a crucial role in lower back pain prevention. Opt for shoes that provide proper arch support and cushioning to reduce the impact on the spine. A visit to the podiatrist may be beneficial if this is a suspected underlying cause of any symptoms. Investing in quality, comfortable footwear can go a long way in alleviating stress on the lower back during walking.
Finding The Solution For Back Pain When Walking
Lower back pain when walking is a pervasive issue with multifaceted causes. It affects people of all ages and backgrounds, but with the right support it can often be prevented and managed effectively. Physical therapy is a valuable option for treating lower back pain. A trained therapist can help with exercises and techniques that strengthen the muscles that support the spine. These exercises can significantly alleviate pain and prevent future episodes of lower back pain when walking.
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Informed Health. Low back pain: Why movement is so important for back pain. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK284944/
Health Direct. Back Pain. Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/back-pain