Chronic back pain a common problem that can be incredibly frustrating for those who experience it. An achy or painful back can limit your movement at best and can leave you immobilized and in extreme pain at worst.
It might sound counterintuitive and maybe even a little scary, but if you want to have a healthy back, the one thing you need to do is to make sure that you are moving regularly with physical activity like walking.
How Does The Back/Spine Heal?
To understand how to heal your aching back, you should first have a basic understanding of the two different kinds of injuries that can be the root cause of your pain: soft tissue and spine injuries.
Soft tissue refers to your muscles, ligaments, and tendons. The muscles in your back are especially prone to injury, and you might experience soft tissue injuries in the form of strains, sprains, and muscle spasms. This can be caused from overworking (for example, lifting weights with your back) or from acute injuries or falls.
Spine injuries, on the other hand, are a structural problem. Your spine is made of several vertebrae that protect your spinal cord, which is the large nerve that connects your body to your brain. Back pain stemming from issues with your spine might be due to damaged or bulging disks, unusual spinal shape, or from weakened or compromised bones.
Knowing whether your back pain stems from your soft tissue or from your spine will determine exactly how you approach treatment.
Why Is Movement So Important For a Healthy Back?
In order to keep your back healthy, your need to be moving regularly and keeping physically active with exercises like walking.
The discs in your spine are avascular, meaning that they don’t have blood vessels and therefore don’t have a direct blood flow source to deliver oxygen and nutrients. Unfortunately, this can lead to cell death and disc degeneration that can then become a root cause for spinal back pain.
Because of this, your spine relies on ambulation, or movement, to keep the blood flowing, improve circulation, and to deliver essential nutrients to uphold its health. In fact, staying active is such an effective way to keep your back healthy that research has found that it can actually reduce reoccurring back pain attacks by half!
Is Movement Good For Every Back Injury?
While movement is important for improving circulation and delivering oxygen and nutrients to your spine, it isn’t the right solution for every back injury, which is why it’s important to know whether you’re dealing with soft tissue or spinal issues.
If you have a soft tissue injury like back muscle strain, you might find that a little best of rest immediately following the injury is a better route for your recovery than immediately starting to move. This is especially true with lower back pain, since it can help to take the weight and pressure off of the sprained or strained muscle and ice it to relieve some of the achiness.
You don’t want to stay at rest for too long either way, though, since that can actually lead to weaker muscles over a longer period of time.
Why Is Movement Counterintuitive To Spine Injuries?
When you’re experiencing back pain from a spinal injury, it might sound a little scary to start moving since you don’t want to further exacerbate the pain.
When you first start walking to try to cure the pain, your body might react by going into “survival mode” and sending signals to shut down the movement. This can come in the form of muscle spasms or other pains.
However, once you figure out whether the injury stems from a soft tissue issue or a spinal issue like a bulging disk, you can override those signals by moving. It might be a little uncomfortable at first, but it should help strengthen both your spine and the back muscles supporting it.
How Should You Walk During A Back Injury?
If you’ve experienced a back injury and are ready to start moving, you’ll want to take it very slowly at first in order to not exacerbate the injury. When you’re ready to get going, try a very short session – for example, walking just around the couch and back. From there, you can continue to work on improving your endurance and strengthening your muscles to carry you so you can build up to a brisk walking pace.
The right form and posture are key if you want to improve your back health during your walks. Make sure to brace your abdominal muscles and keep your head up and shoulders back to the best of your ability. You’ll also want to work up to a decent speed, since walking slowly can actually be worse for your back because it steadily compresses your spine, rather than flexing it and helping it recover.
The most important thing is to listen to your body. If at any point you feel that the movement is too much and is causing more harm than good for your back, take a break. You can always work in smaller bouts until you’re ready to progress to longer walks.
Movement is absolutely essential for keeping your back strong and preventing further injuries down the road. You need to use your muscles if you want to keep them primed and healthy, and you also need to move in order to circulate the blood and nutrients to your spine. Establish a regular walking routine to get your body moving with minimal impact on your bones and joints.