Are you experiencing low back tightness or discomfort? Try going for a stroll, suggests Gopal T. Raghunath, PT MS, DPT, CSCS, owner/clinic director of Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, P.C.

According to Dr. Raghunath, studies show walking to be a safe and effective way to prevent, alleviate and treat low-back pain, a condition that according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) affects 80 percent of U.S. citizens during their lifetime.

“The human body craves movement and exercise,” Dr. Raghunath said. “Walking provides a host of benefits for individuals who experience
chronic low-back pain and stiffness, ranging from weight reduction and increasing bone mineral density to helping to combat osteoporosis,
to improving cardiorespiratory fitness and reducing hypertension particularly for individuals struggling with diabetes or other metabolic

With increased daylight, and spring around the corner, organized events such as the annual “Take a Walk in the Park Day,” held each year on
March 30, are sure to help motivate people to hit the outdoors.

“Walking is perhaps the simplest, easiest, and most cost effective way to get fit and stay fit,” said Dr. Raghunath. “No expensive equipment or gym memberships required. Just appropriate attire, well-fitting shoes, and motivation to get moving.”

According to Dr. Raghunath, a regular walking regimen results in:

Increased Muscle Strength: Stronger feet, legs, hips, and core muscles lead to increased spinal stability and better balance.

Increased Bone Mineral Density: The weight-bearing effects of walking impart safe/sustained loads to the musculoskeletal system to help optimize bone density, in efforts fight osteoporosis and minimize falls and fractures.

Healthier Spine: Walking improves general circulation throughout the body to help nourish the spine’s soft tissues.

Improved Flexibility & Posture: In addition to regular stretching, walking facilitates improved range of motion representative of whole body movement patterns to help promote better functional mobility and prevent injuries.

According to a study published in The Spine Journal, walking stimulates the brain to release serotonin and endorphins, neurotransmitter
chemicals that boost your physical and mental well-being. With the “stop and smell the roses” effects provided by nature’s surroundings
during a walk in the park, the study discovered a 10 to 50 percent reduction in low-back pain after just a single walk.

“However, if your back pain is so severe, rendering you incapable of standing and walking for sustained periods, this could be a sign of injury,” said Dr. Raghunath. “Consulting a physical therapist for a thorough assessment to determine the source of your pain, and put you on a path toward healing, would be appropriate.”