Walking away from your back pain isn’t something we say flippantly. Walking is something that many of us take for granted until it is taken away, either temporarily through injuries to our legs or episodes of back pain. Or it can be taken away from us permanently from severe injuries to the spinal cord and brain.
Walking is a great activity for increasing your exercise levels and is therefore a fantastic way to improve your physical fitness, aid in weight loss and in the management of diabetes1,2. Amazingly it has also been shown to improve your mental health, as well as your physical wellbeing3. The best thing about it though it that it is free! No gym membership required!
Increased physical activity, including walking has been shown to have a positive impact on patients with severe illnesses such as cancer4–9. In their randomised controlled trial, Chen et al (2015) found that walking for 40 mins, three times per week for 12-weeks improved the subjective measure of quality of life, including anxiety and depression in patients with lung cancer2. Chen et al also cite other studies that have should positive improvements in the same quality of life measures, including anxiety and depression in other cancer patients7–9.
Optimising your walking for spinal health and back pain management is something that can very easily overlooked by many sufferers of back pain and indeed keen walkers. Whilst it seems paradoxical, walking can have significant benefits for back pain both in the early stage and in patients with a long history of pain10. This great book by Professor Stuart McGill “The Back Mechanic” has been written by Prof McGill specifically for patients in which he discusses “The secrets to a healthy spine your doctor isn’t telling you”. This book is a great resource containing lots of information regarding self-management strategies for you. We have a copy in the waiting area of our clinic for patients to read.
Nordic walking is defined as walking with the aid of specially designed poles, similar to ski poles11. This provides the walker with both extra balance and stability whilst walking, and it is great for supporting an upright posture. Nordic walking has been shown to have significant benefits for back pain both in the early stage (acute)12 and with long-standing (chronic)11 stage. By pushing down and through the poles, the muscles of your back become more active, providing support to the area reducing pain whilst increasing stability11. Nordic walking has also been shown to have positive affects on patients with Parkinson’s disease13, 14.
We recommend Nordic Walking to our patients who have struggled in managing their back pain and have suggested the use with these Covacore Nordic Walking Trekking Poles. They are adjustable in length for people of all heights and for taking different terrain. They are light weight and can collapsible for ease of carrying and storage. They also come with several different styles of tips so you can use them anywhere.
If you struggle with back pain or other joint pain when walking, this could be the result of altered biomechanics in your feet. We have discussed foot biomechanics in our post “Custom Orthotics” and how altered patterns of movement can have a negative impact on other joints of the body. Altered foot mechanics from ankle pronation or fall arches (flat feet) can contribute towards pain in the feet, ankles, knees, hips and low back12. If this is something you are struggling with, then getting your body assessed fully is a great place to start. At Spriggs Chiropractic, we perform postural assessments including your feet as part of our initial consultation. We also offer specific foot assessments for those patients’ whose pain may be the result of foot issues. There are also some great prefabricated orthotics on the market including Superfeet. For those of you who think your feet are impacting on your walking, your sports or your back, prefabricated orthotics are an easy way to get started. However, we always recommend you get your feet assessed properly by a trainer healthcare provider first. If prefabricated orthotics are all you need, then your healthcare provider should recommend a pair for you that fit your needs. For those of you who may require more specific or complex requirements, then custom orthotics maybe what you need.
According to one study by Song et al (2018) for the best results and get the maximum benefit on your mental health, its best to walk through forest areas15! Enjoy walking away from your back pain and we at Spriggs Chiropractic & Nutrition look forward to seeing you out on the trails. In Newbury, there are specific walking groups available also in the community. Check them out here.
- Davies-Tuck ML, Wang Y, Wluka AE, et al. Increased fasting serum glucose concentration is associated with adverse knee structural changes in adults with no knee symptoms and diabetes. Maturitas. 2012;72(4):373-378. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2012.05.013
- Yates T, Edwardson CL, Henson J, et al. Walking Away from Type 2 diabetes: a cluster randomized controlled trial. Diabet Med. 2017;34(5):698-707. doi:10.1111/dme.13254
- Kelly P, Williamson C, Hunter R, Niven AG, Mutrie N, Richards J. Infographic. Walking on sunshine: Scoping review of the evidence for walking and mental health. Br J Sports Med. 2019;53(14):903-904. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2018-100289
- Chen HM, Tsai CM, Wu YC, Lin KC, Lin CC. Randomised controlled trial on the effectiveness of home-based walking exercise on anxiety, depression and cancer-related symptoms in patients with lung cancer. Br J Cancer. 2015;112(3):438-445. doi:10.1038/bjc.2014.612
- Burt J, Ravid E (Natalie), Bradford S, et al. The Effects of Music-Contingent Gait Training on Cognition and Mood in Parkinson Disease: A Feasibility Study. Neurorehabil Neural Repair. December 2019:154596831989330. doi:10.1177/1545968319893303
- Kim JY, Lee MK, Lee DH, et al. Effects of a 12-week home-based exercise program on quality of life, psychological health, and the level of physical activity in colorectal cancer survivors: a randomized controlled trial. Support Care Cancer. 2019;27(8):2933-2940. doi:10.1007/s00520-018-4588-0
- Mock V, Dow KH, Meares CJ, et al. Effects of exercise on fatigue, physical functioning, and emotional distress during radiation therapy for breast cancer. Oncol Nurs Forum. 1997;24(6):991-1000. doi:10.1016/s0001-2092(06)63210-9
- Courneya KS, Friedenreich CM, Quinney HA, Fields ALA, Jones LW, Fairey AS. A randomized trial of exercise and quality of life in colorectal cancer survivors. Eur J Cancer Care (Engl). 2003;12(4):347-357. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2354.2003.00437.x
- Mehnert A, Veers S, Howaldt D, Braumann KM, Koch U, Schulz KH. Effects of a physical exercise rehabilitation group program on anxiety, depression, body image, and health-related quality of life among breast cancer patients. Onkologie. 2011;34(5):248-253. doi:10.1159/000327813
- McGill S. Low Back Disorders: Evidence-Based Prevention and Rehabilitation. 3rd ed. Human Kinetics; 2016.
- Hartvigsen J, Morsø L, Bendix T, Manniche C. Supervised and non-supervised Nordic walking in the treatment of chronic low back pain: A single blind randomized clinical trial. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2010;11. doi:10.1186/1471-2474-11-30
- Kendall JC, Bird AR, Azari MF. Foot posture, leg length discrepancy and low back pain – Their relationship and clinical management using foot orthoses – An overview. Foot. 2014;24(2):75-80. doi:10.1016/j.foot.2014.03.004
- van Eijkeren FJM, Reijmers RSJ, Kleinveld MJ, Minten A, ter Bruggen JP, Bloem BR. Nordic walking improves mobility in Parkinson’s disease. Mov Disord. 2008;23(15):2239-2243. doi:10.1002/mds.2229
- Reuter I, Mehnert S, Leone P, Kaps M, Oechsner M, Engelhardt M. Effects of a flexibility and relaxation programme, walking, and nordic walking on Parkinson’s disease. J Aging Res. 2011;2011:232473. doi:10.4061/2011/232473
- Song C, Ikei H, Park BJ, Lee J, Kagawa T, Miyazaki Y. Psychological benefits of walking through forest areas. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(12). doi:10.3390/ijerph15122804