If you search for solutions to back pain, one of the most common suggestions is to move more- exercise can often help relieve pain and be used as a method of improving the condition that caused pain. But what happens when moving is what causes you pain? It can be common for walking to cause back pain, especially in the lower back for many people, especially those who have been in a recent car accident.
Whether an acute injury is the cause or you suffer from an underlying condition, the pain will usually worsen over time if not treated properly by a car accident doctor.
The Lower Back
While pain can occur throughout the entire back, it is most common for people to suffer from pain in the lumbar region of the spine, which starts below the ribcage and ends at the hips. Because this area is highly complex, containing multiple joints, nerves, ligaments, muscles, and other tissues, there are many reasons for this pain. The lumbar spine is responsible for supporting and stabilizing the body as well as allowing certain movements, including movements of the trunk and the legs, so even a small misalignment can cause severe pain. The vertebrae, discs, nerves, and tissues are all subject to this phenomenon.
Causes of Lower Back Pain When Walking
While any small issue can cause this issue, there are certain scenarios that are most likely to be the root of back pain when walking.
If the muscles in the lower back and legs become tired, it can cause aches and pains that may worsen when they continue to be strained during walking. This can be normal after excessive use but may also be a sign of weakening muscles or a lack of muscle tone. People who are overweight may also be at higher risk for this fatigue, as the muscles must work harder to support their bodies.
Muscle fatigue can usually be resolved with rest, heat therapy, over-the-counter pain medication, or gentle stretches to loosen tight muscles. If it is a long-term concern, weight loss can also be helpful.
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is a condition that results in a narrowing of the spine, which places additional pressure on the spinal cord and surrounding nerves. It is common or this to occur in the lower part of the back, leading to lower back pain when standing and walking. Most people with stenosis report that the pain is relieved by sitting down or leaning forward, and it may be accompanied by weakness in the legs, sharp pain down the legs, and numbness or tingling in the back and legs. If you are experiencing this, it is important to be warry of activities that can make spinal stenosis worse, like contact sports for example.
Aging is the most common cause of spinal stenosis, and it is most commonly found in those over 50, but it can also be a condition from birth or a reaction to a spinal injury. Untreated, spinal stenosis can lead to bowel or bladder problems and sexual dysfunction.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Between each vertebra in the spine is a soft, gel-like disc that is designed to absorb shock and prevent the bones from rubbing against each other when the spine moves. Over time, these can gradually wear down and shrink, which allows the vertebrae to rub against each other, ultimately causing back pain and stiffness. Depending on which area of the spine is impacted, walking may improve or worsen pain, and it may be accompanied by weakness in the legs or feet as well as pain that radiates to the buttocks and thighs.
When disc degeneration progresses, it can lead to ruptures and herniations of the discs, which encroach on the surrounding nerves and cause further pain. Mild disc-related pain can usually be treated with medication, ice and heat, and physical therapy, but as it progresses, disc replacements and spinal fusion surgery may become necessary.
In hyperlordosis, there is an excessive inward curvature of the lower spine that causes the buttocks to become more prominent and the stomach to stick out or protrude. A person who suffers from hyperlordosis may notice a c-shaped curve or large gap in the lower back area when lying flat- this is often referred to as a “swayback.” Prolonged movement, like walking, can cause pain in this area. Spinal injuries can be the cause of hyperlordosis, and they can also result from obesity, osteoporosis, spondylolisthesis, and rickets.
Depending on the person’s age and the severity of the curve, treatment can range from a back brace to physical therapy to corrective surgery.
Preventing Back Pain While Walking
If you notice your lower back hurts when walking, there are a number of steps you can take to try to reduce pain and correct the issue. While treatments like anti-inflammatory medication and ice or heat therapy may reduce symptoms, it is important to focus on steps that address the root cause of your pain to prevent it from recurring in the future.
Adjust Your Walking Posture
Most people associate posture with how we hold our shoulders during sitting and standing. While this is important, posture can also apply to how you hold your lower body and spine when walking. Poor posture during walking can not only cause pain at the moment but contribute to misalignments and poorly distributed weight that causes more pain in the future.
The ideal walking posture is aimed at keeping your spine aligned with the rest of your body so that you prevent the weight from concentrating on a specific area or placing pressure on your extremities. Some general tips to improve your posture when walking are:
- Avoid looking down too much, keeping your head up to reduce strain on your neck.
- Push from your rear leg and take shorter strides, which prevents pressure from being placed unevenly on one foot. The tendons and ligaments in your foot can impact the lower back when they are under too much pressure.
- Try not to slouch, letting your shoulders roll naturally. If needed, shrug occasionally to reduce strain.
- Don’t roll your hips, making sure they are level when you walk. Swaying can put too much weight on one side of your body and cause imbalances.
- Engage your core muscles by pulling in your stomach, which helps you keep your balance and evenly distribute your weight.
- Make sure your feet hit the ground heel-first, rolling through to the ball of the foot and pushing off with your toes. Flat steps or going toe-first can cause damage to the feet.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Because your lower back is responsible for supporting the body’s weight, a higher weight can put more strain on this area of the spine and cause back pain. Extra weight around the stomach pulls your pelvis forward and strains the lower back, which is more pronounced when you walk. Body fat can also impact ligaments and muscles, which now have to work harder to walk and can impact the muscles surrounding your spinal column.
Choose Better Footwear
The structure of our feet can be a major contributor to back pain, especially if you have flat feet or high arches. These conditions can cause misalignments throughout bones, muscles, and ligaments, which ultimately make the lower back stretch and contract more. Orthotics, custom-made molds that are inserted into the shoe, can be a great option to correct your gait and help your back stay neutral during walking. You can also choose shoes that are supportive and made for the amount of walking you are doing.
If walking causes pain, it may feel like you should stop that activity. However, being sedentary can actually worsen the issue over time. The joints and muscles in the lower back can become stiff if they are not used for a long period of time. Choosing gentle, low-impact exercises can help you keep the body moving without exacerbating any issues.
When to See a Doctor
Most people experience minor lower back pain at some point which resolves on its own quickly. However, if the pain is causing you to be unable to walk or perform daily activities, is not resolved quickly, or is connected to a potential injury, you should seek out care from a medical professional.
In addition to some of the preventative measures above, a doctor will first take a conservative approach to back pain. Simple remedies like heat therapy and rest will be recommended and may be combined with chiropractic care and physical therapy to facilitate healing at the root of the issue. If pain is not resolved, they may recommend steroid injections or more invasive procedures such as surgery.
It is common for back pain to worsen over time or even spread to impact other areas of the body. If you are experiencing lower back pain, visit AICA Conyers for a full evaluation to ensure there is no underlying cause that needs to be addressed. Whether you need to see an orthopedic surgeon or to be treated by a chiropractor, our team will be able to meet your needs and help you return to a pain-free life.