As a Doctor of Physical Therapy, I have spent and continue to spend YEARS and TONS OF MONEY learning the newest and best applied exercises to eliminate lower back pain from your life. There are so many different avenues to dig deeper into…
Focus on flexibility with yoga-like stretches?
Straight core strengthening with pilates?
Functional movements with resistance bands?
Neurological re-education with manual guidance?
Weightlifting using compound motions?
There is no shortage of great exercises out there that will help you, and don’t get me wrong, these are all excellent paths to go down for long-term pain relief. This is one of the reasons some people have great responses to one physical therapist, while others prefer a different therapist. One of my favorite sayings when it comes to physical therapy is that “It is all ice cream”- meaning, you may prefer vanilla, rocky road, or cherry garcia. If you’re looking for back pain relief, there are many different “flavors” and you have to learn what’s best for you- but at the end of the day, it’s all ice cream!
So we can justify that there isn’t just one exercise to help everyone. Research points to only moderate benefit for most of the schools of thought mentioned above, but why is this the case? After centuries of studying the human body, are we no closer to understanding how it works? How it hurts? How it heals? Why can’t we find the silver bullet and eliminate back pain and spine surgery? Variability is why! We are all different and have small differences in how our body looks and behaves.What’s good for the goose may be a waste of time for the gander.
How then, can I be so sure of how I titled this article, “The Best Exercise for Your Lower Back Pain and Sciatica”? Well, there is one exercise that has shown to be effective through and through. The research backs it without equivocation. Patients sing it praises. Therapists… well unfortunately too many therapists ignore its benefits. What is it and why are PTs not utilizing it?
Walking! No fanfare, no confetti, no $30 resistance bands, no fancy terminology hiding what it actually is- Just walking! Why are PTs not pushing a daily general exercise program to their patients enough? My theory: We spend YEARS and TONS OF MONEY learning the newest and best applied exercises to eliminate lower back pain from your life, how can we justify all that by saying- start walking? Yes, in a clinic, you may warm up on a treadmill for some amount of time- but that is used primarily as a warmup (or, surprise, a way to keep you busy while we’re seeing other patients or typing notes). It is not the once in a while treadmilling that will do the trick, but the consistent walking every day that makes the difference.
The benefits of walking for the treatment of lower back pain are numerous
it is a natural way to improve the reaction time of your stabilizing muscles of the core,
It is a low energy activity that can be done for a prolonged time,
It can help you to lose weight thus decreasing the load that your spine has to carry,
Releases natural pain-blocking endorphins to make you feel good!
Need more reasons to start walking?
Lowers your blood pressure,
Decreases your risk of heart disease,
Helps manage blood sugar,
Reduces risk of osteoporosis
Strengthens muscles throughout the body
Improves balance and coordination
Walking is the greatest thing you can do for your body! If you are currently without back pain, you need to start thinking about prevention of future flare ups of pain. If you are reading this and have lower back pain, your goal should be, “What can I do to get myself walking as quickly as possible!” It is at this point that all those continuing education courses your PT has taken comes into use. Go seek out physical therapy, get flexible enough, get strong enough, and then get walking as soon as you can!
Want to learn more about your lower back pain and how to live life without it? Check out this book my wife and I wrote called, “That Helpful Book About Back Pain”. It has great insight into how our spines function and how we can get them to function even better!
Interested in starting a walking program to improve your spinal health? Click here for a free screen call and get your guide.
Dr. Daniel Davids PT