A fascinating study was just conducted on walking and risk for back pain.
Researchers in South Korea collected survey data from tens of thousands of people. This offered insights into lifestyle behaviors such as how often they walk, and for how long.
Dr. Gary Rothbard writing for Clinical Pain Advisor wrote the following about the study:
Although evidence suggests that physical activity may be beneficial in individuals with low back pain, the association between walking duration and low back pain has not been examined. In this cross-sectional study, data from the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys V and VI collected between 2010 and 2015 were analyzed. A total of 48,482 people were asked to complete questionnaires regarding low back pain, daily walking activity (ie, walking >30 min/day and >1 hour/day; walking frequency <3, 3 to 4, and ≥5 days per week), and comorbidities (0, 1, or ≥2).
A negative association was established between walking >1 hour at a time for ≥5 days/week and having low back pain in the unadjusted (OR, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.57-0.68; P <.001) and fully adjusted (OR, 0.76; 95% CI, 0.69-0.85; P <.001) models. In all instances, P-values were <.001, with the risk for having low back pain linearly decreasing as walking frequency and duration increased.
The article goes on to point out that this is a cross-sectional study, so they were not able to determine whether more walking was the cause of lower risk of back pain. But the results are nonetheless in line with what health professionals have known anecdotally for a long time: regular, gentle activity is a good way to prevent certain forms of chronic back pain.
From the actual study (published in Spine Journal):
Our study showed that longer walking duration was associated with a lower risk of LBP using a cross-sectional health survey in the Korean general population. Regular walking with a longer duration for more than 3 days/week is significantly associated with a lower risk of LBP in the general population aged over 50 years.
The results are promising, as they point the way toward simple solutions to preventing back pain. But a word of caution: you should always consult with a doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen.
Doing too much activity too quickly – even just walking – can end up causing back pain. And with walking in particular it's important to be mindful of your footwear. From OrthoFeet:
When you walk, you put the force of as much as five times your body weight on each foot. If the foot doesn't absorb that shock or redistribute it properly, you can develop problems elsewhere. Often this occurs in people who have ” flat feet,” because the arch appears to be flattened and closer to the ground.
Your best bet is to consult with an orthopedist or physical therapist. You might want to invest in custom orthotics, which are going to be superior to anything you buy over the counter.
But if that's not feasible, we recommend at least taking the time to do your research and find a good shoe for your body. Running stores often have employees who are knowledgeable and might even help analyze your gait.