Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: January 28, 2016
As we’ve mentioned on the blog, regular exercise is one of the best ways to prevent and treat problematic back pain. Unfortunately, the prospect of intense exercise can seem daunting for someone who is suffering from back pain. Luckily, you don’t need to hit the gym or do rounds of burpees to improve your spine health. According to new research, a daily walk can help keep your back in top shape.
In an effort to see how walking improved spine outcomes as opposed to other treatment options like prescription medications or braces, researchers conducted a forensic review of more than 31,000 patients with back pain. What they uncovered was that while prescription medications help control pain, walking actually helped strengthen muscle groups and improve back functions. Researchers said walking was even preferred to some more intense exercise routines because it is less likely to damage certain joints than other activities, and it helps maintain optimal bone density.
“Exercise is definitely helpful in back pain,” said chiropractor Tim Hutchful. “It’s very important to keep as gently active as possible.”
Pair With Education
According to Dr. Hutchful, walking and low impact exercises are great ways to keep your spine healthy, but it’s only half the battle. General practitioners and spine specialists need to educate patients about how back pain develops and what actions exacerbate this pain so they stop doing activities that make back pain worse. Exercise paired with education is best.
“The available evidence suggests that education alone, back belts, shoe insoles and ergonomics do not prevent lower back pain,” said Dr. Hutchful. “The results of this systematic review indicate exercise in combination with education is likely to reduce the risk.”
One such activity that should be avoided is excessive sitting. Dr. Hutchful noted that sitting for long periods of time can put twice as much pressure on the spine as standing, and it can reduce blood flow to muscles and joints, which may lead to stiffness. When stiffness sets in, people can become reluctant to exercise, which only serves to make the problem worse, because if we don’t actively work to strengthen those back muscles, we can lose them.
“One of the problems of modern life is de-toned muscles,” said Dr. Hutchful. If we don’t use them, we lose them.”
So in the end, try to ensure your get at least 30-45 minutes of walking in each day. If you’re a little sore afterwards, don’t see it as an ominous sign, it’s just a signal that you’re gaining muscle in the area. Any discomfort can best be treated with over-the-counter pain medications and a heat/cold pack, but if acute pain develops, schedule a consultation with a spine specialist. You could be dealing with a larger issue that is best managed with a more hands-on approach.