Back pain is something you’ve most likely felt at one time or another. Maybe it was after you helped a friend move or after a particularly challenging yoga session. Millions of people suffer from back pain. Is there anything you can do to ease or entirely avoid it? Believe it or not, learning how to walk properly may have a substantial impact on back health.
Acute Pain v. Chronic Pain
There are two types of back pain. Acute back pain occurs at the time of injury. It’s an immediate pain following that yoga session. Sometimes it doesn’t start until you’ve had a chance to relax. Ever wake up to an aching back? In any case, acute onset of pain can typically be explained by injury or incident.
After a back injury is treated, some people still experience pain. Back pain that is present 12 weeks after an injury is considered chronic. It is reoccurring and can be difficult to alleviate. Because the injury no longer exists, there is nothing specific to target or treat. Back pain is usually treated with either medication, chiropractic manipulation, physical therapy, or some combination.
Medication administration is by far the most common treatment for back pain. There is an array of medications ranging from over-the-counter to opioid prescriptions that are used to treat pain. While some people respond well to medication at first, chronic pain sufferers usually report the impact lessens over time which leads to stronger medications being prescribed. The danger is the stronger the drug, the more severe the side effects. Side effects can make it extremely difficult to function normally. Stronger opioid painkillers also carry a high risk of addiction. While these dangers aren’t always evident or don’t necessarily have a substantial likelihood of occurring, there are other ways to help treat back pain that can be used with or without medication.
Chiropractors are doctors who use physical manipulation of the skeleton to help alleviate pain. They perform procedures known as adjustments down the neck, spine, and hips that reset and properly realign your bones. This often provides relief for periods of time. Chiropractors also offer massage and heat therapy localized for muscle soreness. Because pain can’t always be pinpointed, treating both the bones and muscles of the back may aid in providing much-needed relief. Chiropractors will also watch the way you stand, sit down, and walk. Since the skeletal system is so interconnected, fixing one area of your body may help reduce pain in another.
Physical therapy is one of the best ways to treat back pain. This is due to several factors. First, therapists use hot and cold treatment to target the entire body, much like chiropractors. They also use electronic wave therapy to stimulate muscles without causing pain. They apply leads much like those used in heart monitors to the affected areas of the body. Subtle but effective electric stimulation exercises muscles with no exertion on the part of the patient. In physical therapy, you will also perform exercises to strengthen muscles not just in the back but also the abdomen, hips, and legs. A physical therapist will also observe your gait and teach you how to walk properly to avoid further back pain and pressure. People who suffer from back pain may try one, all or a combination of these treatments.
How to Walk Properly to Avoid Back Pain
Stand Tall, Walk Proud
As stated above, physical therapists and chiropractors will observe gait and make adjustments. This alleviates pressure to your hips and back. Think about how often you are up and walking around throughout a single day. If you are inadvertently doing something wrong that is leading to pain, wouldn’t you want to correct it?
Did you have that one teacher or aunt who always told you to stop slouching and stand up straight? That advice was good as far as your spinal health is concerned. Over time the muscles in your back will weaken naturally, as all muscles eventually do. If you tend to slouch, your muscles will mold to that form, and over time it will become more difficult and possibly painful to correct. You can take some steps now to help stop this from happening:
- Sit all the way back in a chair.
- Stand with your neck straight and chin and shoulders pulled back (chest first).
- Strengthen your abdominal muscles (core).
- Stretch after being in a seated position for any length of time.
What you wear on your feet is just as important in how to walk properly than anything else. Depending on your activity level, daily lifestyle, etc. your shoe choice can either help or harm your back. If you are a woman, choosing low heels as opposed to high ones is one of the easiest adjustments you can make. Sure, the higher the heel, the better your legs look, but how do you feel after slogging around in them for hours on end? Aside from foot and ankle pain, over time the pressure on your back from the unnatural posture and stance will take a real toll.
For men and women both, arch support and comfort are the main factors in choosing footwear. In today’s world, there are many options for fashionable, healthy shoes. While the occasional heel or flip-flops are acceptable, don’t be surprised if your body tells you when you’ve walked too far on too little support.
Gait is the way or manner in which you walk. Everybody has a natural gait; however, this doesn’t mean it’s a healthy one. There are three factors such as stride, pace, and posture that all combine to affect the way you walk.
- Posture – As stated above, posture is essential for your back because it dictates how your muscles behave over time in supporting your spinal column. In walking, posture is also important. If you are wearing high heels, for example, your posture is shifted forward. This places unnecessary strain and pressure on your lower back. At times overcompensating can lead to an aching back, which moves the tension to the mid back. Footwear aside, posture is essential in ultimately knowing how to walk properly.
- Stride – Stride is defined as the length of your steps. It is measured from the tip of your forward foot to the tip of the back foot. If your stride length is too wide for your body, it can place a strain on your hips and knees. Depending on your speed, this can cause shock to the joints and pressure to the vertebrae. Too long of a stride may also force your posture forward, placing the extra strain on your lower back.
- Pace – The faster you walk, the better your overall health is. While some situations dictate a slower walking speed, every person has a natural rhythm. The rate at which you walk is a culmination of your musculoskeletal system functioning in unison. If your posture and stride are in alignment, your pace will be quicker. This tends to result in an overall smooth gait. Studies have proven that those people who have a faster pace tend to live longer, healthier lives than those who tend to be slower.
Your gait can reveal many things about you. It can also be affected by various factors, three of which are posture, stride, and pace, all of which are critical. When visiting a chiropractor or physical therapist, they can observe your gait and pick out individual vital elements that may be affecting it. How is it that you can correct these issues? Can learn how to walk properly really be that beneficial to your back health?
Practice Makes Perfect
After the chiropractor has made an adjustment or a physical therapist has given you a massage, they will often speak to you about things you can work on independently to help the way you walk. You may be having visions that balancing a book on your head or wearing clunky shoes will be the only remedy for an unbalanced gait. While the book does help retrain your posture and there is a particular measure of assistance with those clunky orthopedic shoes, there are a few other things you can do to help fix your walk:
- Increase flexibility in your hips by performing simple stretching and walking exercises.
- Strengthen your core by performing abdominal exercises and stretching.
- Practice standing up straight and maintaining good posture.
- Improve balance by performing single-leg raises and stretches.
- Get out and walk.
By utilizing the feedback and instructions given by your practitioner, you can learn how to walk properly over time. The more you concentrate on the way you stand and walk, the more it will become second nature and improve over time. Before you know it, you’ll be walking free from the usual pain you were feeling. You may even be able to start walking for exercise and fitness. Learning how to walk properly can drastically improve your physical health, and with feeling better physically, will most definitely lead to better overall mental health as well.
Featured image: CC 0 Public Domain MabelAmber via Pixabay