Friday, May 6, 2011

Step 5: Walk More!

The Desk Warriors Guide to Building a Healthy Back! 5/10

My biggest pet peeve is seeing people spend minutes searching for a close parking spot; driving up and down the rows of cars when they could have easily parked a hundred yards away and walked. Not only are these rats wasting time, they are wasting a fossil fuels, contributing to global warming, wasting money, wasting energy, stressing out about their parking spot and greatly increasing their risk of being in a car accident. O yea, and they are spending more time SITTING when they could have gotten off their lazy asses and gotten a small dose of some exercise medicine.

While some may find walking to be a chore or laborious exercise, others get great relief from walking. Walking speed may have something to do with the above dichotomy. Strolling, or walking slowly reduces spine motion and statically loads the spine. This contributes to the same overloading of tissues that we’ve discussed earlier, and thus pain in the associated tissues. I feel this pain as I aimlessly meander after my girlfriend while she bounces between various female clothing stores while shopping at the mall.

Faster, more purposeful walking results in greater more cyclic spinal movement. This cyclic movement migrates the forces to more tissues. This is hypothesized to be part of the reason why a quicker walking pace is more restorative to the spine. Also, arm swinging (from the shoulder, not the elbow) as in the faster walking clips has been shown in studies to reduce spinal compression by up to 10%. (Callaghan, Patla, McGill, 1999) All other factors being the same, arm swinging from the shoulder, not elbow results in lower lumbar spine torques, muscular activity, and loading.

Get outside and walk people!

Walking is often a first step in various rehabilitations. Studies show walking to be a positive cofactor in prevention of LBP (low-back pain), and more successful recovery from LBP (Nutter, 1988). Besides reducing compressive forces, torques and muscular activity, the light reciprocal muscular activation is hypothesized to not only migrate tissue load but to increase circulation and bloodflow to the area. Tissues heal in correlation with the amount of bloodflow or nutrients they recieve. Think of walking as nutrition to your lumbar spine and the rest of your body for that matter.

Some may find relief simply from changing their morning routine. When we sleep, fluids accumulate in and around the discs. (we are often up to 1cm taller in the mornings) This intradiscal fluid build-up increases pressure in the back, manifesting as a stiff lower back. (ever notice how much more difficult it is too tie your shoes first thing in the morning?) Putting on and tying the shoes in the morning is always harder than at night for this exact reason. Snook and colleagues (1998) found that avoiding forward bending postures upon awakening is very effective in reducing symptoms in a group of back-troubled individuals. This would mean avoiding sitting or performing work where you frequently bend over or forward in the morning is prudent for those with LBP. Forward-bending stresses on the ligaments and discs are higher in the first two hours after rising, requiring less loading or degree of bending to induce injury. (McGill, 2007.) Again, take the dog for a walk, take yourself for a walk, cook and eat standing up. Avoid flexion while your discs are fully juiced.

Desk Warriors, I urge you to pace around in between bouts of sitting. Stand and walk as you take cell-phone calls. (I personally feel more in charge and clear headed when I stand or pace while on the phone) Purposefully walk between tasks. Park farther away from work rather than wasting time and mental energy fighting for the closer spots. Take a brisk walk first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. You will burn fat efficiently and allow for the release of intradiscal fluid pressure. Good luck!

Callaghan, J.P, Patla A.E., and McGill, S.M., (2001) Low back joint loading and kinematics during standing and unsupported sitting. Ergonomics, 44 (4): 373-381

McGill, (2007) Low Back Disorders. Human Kinetics, Champaign Illinios. P. 155.

Nutter, P. (1988) Aerobic exercise in the treatment and prevention of low back pain. State of the Art Review of Occupational Medicine, 3: 137.

Snook, S.H., Webster, B.S., McGarry R.W., Fogleman, M.T., and McCann, K.B. (1998) The reduction of chronic nonspecific low back pain through the control of early morning lumbar flexion: A randomized controlled trial. Spine 23 (23): 2601-2607.

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