To Prevent Lower-Back Pain, Learn a New Way to Walk

Most people don't make a connection between walking and lower-back pain, and don't realize that the way they walk could be part of the reason they are in pain. Or, they don't think that the way they walk could prevent their healing.

But when we are in pain—acute or chronic—every movement counts. And we walk a lot. Even the most sedentary person is taking 3,000 steps a day. If those steps were well executed, it would be a lot easier to heal.

Yet, when people get injured, they are often steered towards physical therapy or exercise class. Instead of walking around in search of different doctors and therapies, I think you should use walking to heal your pain.

Walking and lower-back pain is an issue for more people than I ever imagined when I began this work. People get lower-back pain and hip pain for many reasons. but here are a few that walking correctly can help:

  • A tight psoas muscle. The psoas major is a mysterious muscle deep in the core that is the main muscle of walking and the main muscle of back pain. A tight psoas major can cause a lot of problems with our movement patterns, including inhibiting the freedom of the hip joint and causing a compression of the lower spine.
  • A tight, or misaligned, piriformis muscle. The piriformas, psoas, and gluteus maximus muscles are the only muscles connecting the legs to the spine. A tight piriformis pulls the legs into chronic external rotation and can press on the sciatic nerve, creating the condition known as piriformis syndrome, a deep pain in the buttock area. Anyone who walks with their feet turned out and suffers pain would be well served to change their walking patterns.
  • Poor muscle tone. Every step is designed to be both a spinal twist and a core exercise. Poor muscle tone throughout the body creates an environment ripe for pain. Balanced muscle tone supports the alignment of the bones.
  • Sciatica. When the sciatic nerve is impinged by something in the area of the lower back, sciatica can result. There are many different factors that can lead to sciatica, including degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, or stenosis. Aligning your bones for walking and standing creates the best possible environment for the sciatic nerve.
  • Plantar fasciitis. This condition causes severe heel pain, especially first thing in the morning. When you are walking around today, feel your heel when it strikes the ground and, if it hits hard, you will likely find that changing the way you walk provides relief.

Most people have never learned how to walk. You stand up somewhere around one year old, start walking, and you are essentially on your own. Fortunately, it isn't hard to learn a new way to walk. Changing your patterns requires something of a commitment, but the payoff can be extreme. And down the road, when the inevitable injury happens, especially if you are living the active lifestyle that you desire, you will heal more quickly.

Find out about Jonathan Fitzgordon's program on CoreWalking at Kripalu.

This article was originally published on Jonathan's website.

Jonathan Fitzgordon has been practicing yoga since 1995 and teaching since 2000, after studying with some of the yoga community’s leading teachers.

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