(What does the Evidence say……..

1: Is walking the best way to get rid of your low back pain?
Is it really that simple? (Sounds too good to be true)
2: How often should you walk?
3: how long should I walk for each time?
4: What pace should I walk at?
5: Is walking the only form of exercise I should do for my back?

Or maybe you have a friend who said they started walking 10,000 steps each day and their chronic low back pain magically disappeared. While walking more sounds like a reasonable enough option to try out if you have low back pain, you might be thinking it sounds too good to be true.

To answer these questions and figure out if it really is too good to be true, let’s explore what the research tells us about walking for treating lower back pain.

1: Does Walking Work for Low Back Pain?
A study in 2017 examined an entire Korean population and found that individuals who walked greater than 10 minutes per day were less likely to have low back pain. These findings were further supported by a study that discovered that lower back pain was significantly reduced after 10 minutes of walking at a self-selected speed on a treadmill.

2: How long should you walk for?
The research simply does not have a solid answer on this one.
As mentioned previously, many studies have found that people’s pain levels were reduced with as little as ten minutes of walking. However, other studies suggest at least 30-60 minutes of walking is the dose needed to get rid of your low back pain.

So where does this leave you when it comes to deciding how long your walk should be?
As more research is completed in the years to come, we may be able to give you more specific guidance.
But what I would suggest is seeing how your back feels after 10 minutes of walking and doing more if it seems to be doing the trick for your low back pain.

3: How often should you walk?
This is yet another instance where unfortunately the research isn’t perfectly clear, but the consensus is 5-7 times a week.
-> In the studies where participants only walked for 10 minutes, this amount of walking was performed daily.
-> But in the studies focused on long walks, the frequency was 5 times per week.

Basically, if your walks are going to be shorter, aim for walking every day. If your walks are at least 30 minutes long, then you could get away with taking a couple of days off each week.

4: What pace should I walk at?
If you’re like me, you might be thinking to yourself, “Great-I can take a nice leisurely walk and finally get rid of my lower back pain!”

Well, not quite. In all of the research, the participants had to walk at least at what was considered a “moderate pace”. Even in the self-selected pace study, participants were told that they should be slightly short of breath when walking.
So while you are more than welcome to take a leisurely walk for enjoyment, if you want to reduce your low back pain, you will want to increase the speed to a pace that you would consider at least moderately challenging.

A good way to think about this is by using what is called the rate of perceived exertion scale. On this scale, 1 means the activity you’re doing takes little to no effort and a 10 means you couldn’t keep doing the activity for a moment longer because it’s so difficult. When you’re walking, aim to be at around a 5 and you should be working at an adequate intensity to decrease your low back pain.

5: Is walking the only form of exercise I should do for my back?
(As there are so many other ways of exercising, with many of them claiming that they are the best way to relieve low back pain)
While the research shows that walking is a great option for finding relief from your low back pain, it’s important to remember the studies showed that it was just as good as other forms of exercise targeting the lower back. A review of lots of research papers found that walking worked just as well as other back-specific forms of exercise for reducing pain and disability in people who had ongoing low back pain.

On the one hand, walking is accessible to everyone as you don’t need to learn how to do it. Many people find walking boring, so they can always learn from an instructor, how to do something more fun such as do funky pilates exercises or lift weights.

Do what works for you. At the end of the day, the real key to keeping your lower back pain from returning is being consistent with a form of exercise. And you are far more likely to stay consistent if you like the exercise you are doing. So just because the research says one thing, it’s important to consider your personal interests and motivations as well.

But if you get a real kick out of walking, then the evidence works in your favour. Start getting those steps in each day and you may just find that you can “walk off” your lower back pain!

Hendrick, P., Te Wake, A.M., Tikkisetty, A.S. (2010). The effectiveness of walking as an intervention for low back pain: a systematic review. European Spine Journal, 19, 1613–1620, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00586-010-1412-z.
Link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00586-010-1412-z
Kim, H., Min, T. J., Kang, S. H., Kim, D. K., Seo, K. M., & Lee, S. Y. (2017). Association Between Walking and Low Back Pain in the Korean Population: A Cross-Sectional Study. Annals of rehabilitation medicine, 41(5), 786–792. https://doi.org/10.5535/arm.2017.41.5.786
Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5698665/

Shnayderman I, Katz-Leurer M. (2013). An aerobic walking programme versus muscle strengthening programme for chronic low back pain: a randomized controlled trial. Clinical Rehabilitation, 27(3), 207-214. doi:10.1177/0269215512453353.
Link: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0269215512453353
Suh, J. H., Kim, H., Jung, G. P., Ko, J. Y., & Ryu, J. S. (2019). The effect of lumbar stabilization and walking exercises on chronic low back pain: A randomized controlled trial. Medicine, 98(26), e16173. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000016173
Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6616307/
Taylor, N.F., Evans, O.M., Goldie, P.A. 2003. The effect of walking faster on people with acute low back pain. European Spine Journal, 12, 166–172. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00586-002-0498-3
Link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00586-002-0498-3#citeas
Vanti, C., Andreatta, S., Borghi, S., Guccione, A., Pillastrini, P., Bertozzi, L. (2019) The effectiveness of walking versus exercise on pain and function in chronic low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials, Disability and Rehabilitation, 41:6, 622-632, DOI: 10.1080/09638288.2017.1410730
Link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09638288.2017.1410730