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How Do I Stop My Lower Back From Hurting When I Walk?

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Woman suffering from back pain while walking

The posture you  have when walking matters more than you  think. Walking places a tremendous amount of weight on the spine, which can affect the support structure of the rest of the  body. If you experience back pain when you walk, your posture may be the underlying cause.

So how do you stop your lower back from hurting when you walk? While the overarching answer can be different depending on the individual, improvements to your gait and general posture is an excellent start.

How to Stop Back Pain When Walking

It’s important to understand that back pain (also known as sciatica, or any pain occurring from your lower back, buttocks, and legs) can have many causes. The way you walk is a likely cause, but other health conditions can also play a role.

However, if you find that you experience sciatica particularly when you stand or walk, there are some changes you can make to your routine.

1. Learning Proper Walking Posture

The right way to walk involves  keeping your spine aligned with the rest of your body, preventing any weight from being concentrated on a specific area, and reducing the amount of pressure on your extremities. This method helps your back distribute the weight of your entire body and cushion the impact of each step you take.

Here are some general tips to follow for the best posture when you walk:

Improving your walking posture helps your lower back by lessening the amount of stress your lower leg, calf, and foot muscles go through. Since you’re putting most of your weight on your foot when you walk, your spine and lower back are affected by the impact of your steps.

This is one of the most effective ways to address chronic pain, since this kind of pain develops because your body has been misaligned for so long. Once it acclimatizes to better posture, you should find that both acute and chronic pain while walking eases significantly.

2. Lose Weight

According to a 2010 review by the American Journal of Epidemiology, the higher incidence of sciatica is directly related to an increase in body mass index (BMI). Your lower back supports more weight the heavier you are so conditions like obesity can lead to persistent back pain.

Extra weight around your stomach pulls your pelvis forward and strains your lower back, which causes acute pain when you walk. The additional weight also pulls down most of the weight of your upper body to your lower back, which adds even more pressure once you walk.

Fat also affects the ligaments and muscles around your back since they go through more effort to move your entire mass while you walk. This is especially debilitating to the muscles around your spinal column because  it forces them to contort away from the neutral position, which puts more pressure on your bones. It’s also a health choice: additional weight can force your posture to shift, which pushes your spine out of alignment when walking.

If your BMI is above what it should be and you experience frequent discomfort when walking or standing up, losing weight is one of the most effective ways to address sciatica. Consulting with your doctor or a nutritionist is highly advised.

3. Get Better Footwear

One likely cause of back pain is flat feet or low arches. While this condition isn’t debilitating, it can cause misalignment with your bones, muscles, and ligaments. This makes your lower back stretch or contract more, leading to  straining or spraining.

Your doctor may recommend that you use orthotics to address this issue. Orthotics are custom-made molds that you can insert in your shoes. These simple tools correct your gait and encourage you to walk more naturally.

Since the  feet automatically compensate for any difference in footwear (similar to if you have something stuck in your shoe), your walking posture will also adjust. Your body will redistribute weight away from your lower back and correct any misalignments in your spine.

Orthotics are also an excellent way to address chronic pain, since they’re easy to integrate into your lifestyle and can produce immediate results. While it may take some time to fully alleviate chronic pain, it can prove short and long-term relief if worn consistently.

Keep in mind that orthotics and store-bought orthotic shoes or inserts are not the same. Unless you have your doctor’s explicit approval, do not buy shoe inserts from a store. Orthotics are always custom built to the patient’s needs and wearing an incorrect shoe insert can aggravate your back pain.

4. Exercise and Physical Therapy

Aside from aging, prolonged inactivity is a significant factor in developing sciatica. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle or don’t get a lot of physical exercise, your joints and muscles will stiffen and freeze up. This can make standing, walking, or even sitting down painful.

Inactivity isn’t solely caused by lifestyle choices either – it’s also a frequent consequence of traumatic injuries or conditions that force the patient to stay in bed. Even after recovery, any kind of movement will be painful since the spine isn’t used to bearing the body’s weight anymore.

Physical exercise is one of the best ways to address chronic pain. However, older patients (or those suffering from health conditions) need to balance the need for physical exercise with their special considerations. In cases like these, physical therapy is a better alternative since medical staff will be close by to assist them.

Exercise and physical therapy are two of the most effective ways to alleviate mild-to-moderate sciatica. Your therapist will put you through a strict training regimen designed to loosen your joints and strengthen your muscles, allowing your spine to better support your weight. They may also recommend some exercises that you can follow at home.

5. Hot and Cold Therapy

Ice bags and heating packs are excellent remedies for acute back pain, though they provide short-term relief compared to other treatments. However, they still work well as supplementary aids when used in  tandem with other methods. 

Heat therapy works by improving blood flow and circulation to your lower back, which loosens your muscles and dilates your blood vessels. This allows nutrient-rich blood to flow into these areas, relieve any pinched muscles or nerves, and promote healing damaged tissue.

Cold therapy works by reducing blood flow, which helps ease inflammation and reduce swelling. This is excellent for joints and tendons that have been pulled or strained while walking. It temporarily reduces nerve activity in your lower back and alleviates pain. 

Like orthotics, you must get your doctor’s approval before integrating these treatments with how you manage your back pain. If there is no discernible change or an increase in pain while you’re applying hot and cold therapy, stop the treatment and see your doctor immediately.

Why Does My Back Hurt When I Walk? 

The spine fulfills two important roles in how the  body works: it’s flexible to allow a wide range of movement, but it’s also the central support column that holds up the  body. This means that it can be subjected to a significant amount of strain from daily activities, with some actions being more stressful than others.

Your spine is also the main pathway of your nervous system, so any pain around your back can be significantly more painful than other parts of your body. And since your spine acts as your body’s primary support, any pain or discomfort it experiences can start a cascade of problems.

Additional weight, poor posture, and lifestyle habits are some primary reasons patients  develop back pain. These factors put significant stress on your spine in areas where it’s not built to handle it, which results in acute back pain when you walk. Even your general health affects how your lower back can hold up to pressure: osteoporosis, smoking, and diabetes are all health conditions that can affect your spine.

Another factor to consider is your sleeping position. Because your spine is built to flex and it follows a normal curvature (also known as the neutral spine position) the wrong sleeping position can cause your joints to freeze or twist unnaturally. If you experience a lot of back pain after waking up, your sleeping position may be the cause.

Get Help For Your Back Pain Today at The Spine And Rehab Group NY

Back pain has many causes but should always be checked by a medical expert before it gets worse. Ignoring back pain doesn’t just result in a dip in your quality of life; you can also ignore potential signs of a more serious health problem.

The Spine And Rehab group has extensive experience in helping our clients manage their back pain, with certified doctors and experts always on call. We pride ourselves on fostering a partnership with each of our patients to help them regain a normal and painless daily routine. If you’re experiencing back pains of any kind, visit one of our New York clinics today.

Learn more: Can Having Flat Feet Cause Back Problems?

Page Updated on Jun 20, 2022 by Dr. Hosny (Interventional Spine Specialist) of The Spine & Rehab Group
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