Does your back ache after working from home, hunched over your kitchen counter or slouched in bed all day? If so, you’re not alone. According to the American Chiropractic Association, up to 80 percent of the American population will have to deal with back pain at some point in their lives. But even though millions of people suffer from brutal back pain every single day, far too few of us actually seek out treatment for it. We tend to ignore discomfort until it becomes unbearable and debilitating—and by that point, no homeopathic or over-the-counter remedies can provide relief. The good news is there’s a surprisingly simple way to get rid of back pain.
And the even better news? It’s free, it doesn’t require a trip to the doctor, and it will take up less than an hour of your day. So what exactly is this magical mystery cure that eases lower back pain? It’s walking!
Believe it or not, the simple act of walking activates the abdominal and back muscles—so the more you walk, the less intense your back pain is. Crazy as it sounds, many studies have shown a correlation between walking programs and improvements in back pain. A 2012 study published in the journal Clinical Rehabilitation, for instance, found that walking two to three times a week for 20 to 40 minutes was as effective as the costly back pain treatments administered in clinics. And an earlier 2004 study published in The Spine Journal found that just a single walking session improves back pain by 10 to 50 percent.
If you have chronic back pain that you want to walk off, but you’re new to physical activity, start with some casual strolls at a slow pace and gradually work your way up to walks that really activate your muscles. At first, you might feel some discomfort in your back while you walk, but that’s completely normal. Experts recommend walking through the pain, so long as it doesn’t become incapacitating.
“In terms of duration of exercise, go about 10 percent beyond your ‘pain barrier,'” Steven George, PhD, explained to Men’s Health. In other words, if after 20 minutes of walking in the park you start to experience some pangs of discomfort, keep walking for another two minutes or so and then wrap it up.
Though you should always consult a doctor if you think your affliction could be something serious, adding a few brisk walks into your schedule is the perfect place to start if you want to get rid of back pain. And for more simple workouts, check out the 23 Easy Exercises You Can Do at Home During Quarantine.