What's the best exercise for back pain?
I've been asked that question hundreds of times in my career and people are always surprised at the answer.
If you google "back pain exercises" you will get about 18 million hits with advice from 'authorities' all over the world telling you what you should do and what you shouldn't do. You can quickly get overwhelmed and probably more confused than you were before you looked into the matter.
When someone asks me what the best exercise is, my response is simple.
Usually when I respond with walking as the answer the persons face immediately has a resounding look of ambivalence because they were expecting something more complicated or sophisticated.
Walking for exercise is not the same as walking to the fridge to get a sandwich. Walking for a therapeutic benefit or exercise means a steady paced walk for a certain amount of time.
The benefits of walking are many but mainly its all about getting motion and blood flow to the tissues in the back. Everything from your discs, muscles, core to your mitochondrial function are benefited greatly by walking.
Where do you start?
Lets start with where you want to get to first. The goal is to be able to walk for at least 20 minutes at a sustained pace 3 to 7 times per week. You want to be able to walk at a pace where you can still carry on a conversation but at the same time you have an elevated heart rate and breathing rate.
How to get to the goal...
#1). If you have pain that is currently preventing you from walking for 20 minutes, then obviously that needs to be addressed concurrently so you don't make yourself worse.
#2). Start somewhere. Start anywhere. A 5 minute walk is infineately better than a zero minute walk. Many people will have to build up to the point where a 20 minute walk feels good. Making a daily walk a routine is the most important starting point.
#3). Be consistent. Once a routine of walking is established, plan to make it doable in all types of weather and seasons. (ie. find a place to walk throughout the winter as well.)
Being able to walk for a sustained 20 minutes is the base or foundation for other strengthening or conditioning. Build a strong, solid foundation before attempting more rigorous and strenuous exercises.
Dr. Ross Hanson, DC. - Bridgeview Chiropractic & Laser - DrRossHanson.com