Low back pain is a very common health issue, and it tends to be something that people deal with for long stretches of time, sometimes for years or even decades. The conversation around low back pain often sounds mechanical, as if certain body parts are malfunctioning. However, the low back is part of a system of movement, and walking correctly can help correct dysfunction and reduce pain.
In order to treat low back pain, the hips need to rotate when we walk. To do this, make sure your feet and knees are pointing straight ahead, and your legs are swinging straight with each step, not out to the side. A way to practice is to walk on a flat curb, or with your feet on either side of a line painted on the road. Rotating the hips engages the muscles of the low back with each step, and allows the muscles of the hip to release periodically instead of always staying tight. This improves the body mechanics of our entire spine and back, our pelvis, and our core musculature.
When the low back is engaged while walking, it does two things. First, it builds strength and stability in the soft tissue, which then supports and stabilizes the spine. A more supported lumbar spine is less likely to become compressed, pinch nerves, or go out of alignment. Low back engagement while walking also helps to release tension in those muscles. It brings in blood flow and oxygen, stretching and moving the muscle fibers so that they are less likely to grow rigid or go into spasm.
Part of being able to walk correctly requires building body awareness, which is a skill that many people have not been taught how to have. Bodywork and Somatics classes both help the brain learn how to better sense where the body is in space and how it is moving. Once we can sense that, we can begin to adjust our movement patterns in order to better support our health.
Learning to walk correctly can effectively treat back pain because our bodies are made to move. When we move with correct alignment and muscle engagement, we free up our natural ability to function and heal. This in turn reduces pain and works to create health.