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We often get asked, “Is walking bad for lower back injury? Shouldn’t I be resting in bed and recovering after injuring my back?”
Interestingly enough, this is one of the most common misconceptions. Resting can actually slow down your recovery time. On the other hand, moving around will accelerate muscle and joint recovery and help restore you to full mobility faster.
I want to take the time to answer the question, “Is walking bad for lower back injury?” and look at why you should try to walk as much as possible immediately following a back strain.
Just a few hours of low-intensity, slow-pace walking every day can be an absolute game-changer for your lower back recovery and rehabilitation!
Is Walking Bad for Lower Back Injury?
Let’s get one thing clear: if you are in a lot of pain and walking around hurts a great deal, you should spend some time resting in bed. Rest is a crucial part of the recovery process. Your body needs both rest and sleep in order to repair the damaged muscle or joint tissue. If you feel you need to sleep or just want to spend a bit more time lying flat on your back to ease the pain, do what helps your back feel better.
But you should try as much as possible to walk around in the hours and days immediately following a back injury—pain-permitting, of course.
You see, immediately after a lower back injury, your body’s inflammatory response kicks in and triggers swelling around the injured area. This is done to reinforce the damaged muscle, bone, or tissue to stop it from being damaged further. Your body knows that one small “crack” in your internal support system (the musculoskeletal system) can open the door to further damage, so it tries to shore up your supports using inflammation. Swelling up the muscle and tissue around the damaged area stops you from moving the damaged part, which is why you feel stiff.
Unfortunately, the swelling is often the cause of the pain you feel in your lower back. The damage to your bone, muscle, or joint may be minor, but the inflammation it causes can lead to the stiffness, discomfort, and pain sensations around your lower back. When everything is swollen and stiff, repairs go much more slowly, so it takes longer for your body to recover.
This is why it’s recommended you take an anti-inflammatory and/or use ice: both treatments halt or reduce swelling in your lower back. By halting the swelling, you ensure that your body can send maximum nutrients and oxygen to the damaged area to effect repairs more quickly.
And, once the swelling has been halted, you’ll find that walking is one of the best ways to accelerate the repair process. You see, walking increases circulation throughout your entire body—including, of course, the damaged lower back area. It ensures that more oxygenated, nutrient-laden blood can reach your lower back, which in turn provides all the critical cellular components needed to make the repairs.
Walking can also combat inflammation and reduce swelling. You’ll find that going for a short walk immediately after a lower back injury can do wonders to keep the injured area limber and supple, reduce pain, and counteract stiffness. It will also flush out any toxins that are produced when your muscles spasm or contract.
When walking after a back injury, you want to keep your pace fairly steady, and try to stick on level ground as much as possible. That way, you can avoid straining your back, but still get enough of a workout to get your blood flowing.
Ideally, you should try to walk around for 30 to 60 minutes after a lower back injury, depending on your pain level. You can’t “walk away the pain”, but you can walk until the pain diminishes and you feel the warmth of heightened blood flow moving through your lower back. You will also feel your muscles moving more easily and the stiffness will likely decrease as a result of your walk.
Then, once you’ve walked as much as you can, head home and immediately apply ice and heat to your lower back. The walking helped to counteract the stiffness, but your body’s inflammatory response is still active and can still swell up around the injured area. Using the cold/hot treatment (starting with ice, and alternating with heat every 10-15 minutes) will help to stop swelling and accelerate blood flow even more. It can speed up the healing process and get you back on your feet and moving around much more quickly.
Of course, pay attention to how your back feels as you’re walking and for the rest of the day. Try to sit up and move around a lot, or rest as you feel is needed. Make it a point to walk for 1-2 hours a day in the week immediately following a lower back injury. More walking can accelerate recovery and help you to activate the muscles in your lower back and core, but will be a safe, low-impact exercise that won’t increase injury risk!
Learn the Truth and Get Your Life Back on Track!
If you’re experiencing regular back pain, you may be one of the many who are affected by a dangerous yet often ignored syndrome that is more widespread than people realize. We talk all about this syndrome in our Back on Track program, and teach you a highly effective Irish breathing technique that will revolutionize your back health. All the information we share will help you to protect and strengthen your back, and you’ll find that your regular back pain may very well be a thing of the past because of it!
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