This is the simplest of all back pain exercises, and for many people the best, form of exercise. It need not be very demanding. As little as 20 minutes fairly brisk walk three or four times a week is enough to provide a worthwhile degree of fitness. There is no need to buy special clothing, and walking can simply mean going to the shops or to work on foot. Walk whenever possible instead of driving. There are, however, one or two things to look out for if you suffer with back pain.
Precautions: Avoid carrying even a light load such as a camera or field-glasses round your neck, which can strain it. Use a belt so that the weight is carried by your pelvis. Walking a dog may seem a good way to encourage you to go out even when the weather is not inviting, but the pull of a large dog on a lead can cause a surprising amount of back pain. So, make sure that your dog is trained to walk on its lead without pulling. Grandparents who take charge of a toddler for a week or two may find the hand tugging they get, or pushing a pushchair, sets off an attack of back pain.
As with any form of unaccustomed exercise, you should start off gradually, walking perhaps for 10 minutes a day initially and increasing the distance as fitness improves. If walking brings on back pain you should consult a physiotherapist or osteopath; it could also be worth seeing a podiatrist if you suspect your footwear is to blame.
Running And Jogging
There is no agreed definition of jogging; it really seems to be the same as running rather slowly. Running is more demanding than walking so produces the same amount of fitness in a shorter time, but it is not suitable for everyone, either because of age or health problems or simply because it is not enjoyable. It is certainly possible to achieve the some effects just by walking if you are prepared to invest the time.
If you do take up running it is worth investing in a pair of good running shoes. If in doubt, seek advice from one of the specialist shops that sell equipment for runners. Also, pay attention to your posture when running; many people carry their arms too high, which imposes a strain on their upper back and neck. If you find that you suffer from neck ache or back ache after running this is a sign that something is wrong with your technique; running clubs will offer expert advice.
This is often recommended to back sufferers – and with good reason. Swimming uses arm and leg movements that are sometimes recommended for back pain, and because the body and limbs are supported by the water there is less strain on the joints and ligaments than in walking or running. However, because it is weight-bearing exercise that tends to counteract osteoporosis, swimming does not help, nor does it have much effect in reducing body fat.
The choice of stroke is important for back sufferers. The front crawl is good provided you breathe on both sides instead of one, but not everyone is able to use this stroke effectively. The breast stroke is also good provided you can do it properly. This means keeping your body in more or less a straight line, which requires breathing out while your mouth is under water and only raising your head to inhale as you sweep your arms round and back. If you swim with your head out of the water all the time this will impose an undesirable strain on your neck and back muscles. An alternative to the breast stroke is the back stroke, which may indeed be the best position as far as your back is concerned.
Even if you cannot swim at all, this does not mean that the pool has nothing to offer you. You may derive benefit simply from splashing about vigorously against the resistance of the water in the shallow end.