Lower Back Pain When Walking: Treatment and Prevention Tips

Apr 15, 2024 | 7 min read

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Lower back pain when walking is a common issue affecting millions worldwide, significantly impacting daily activities and quality of life. It's caused by factors like muscle strain, degenerative disk issues, and poor posture. Recognizing symptoms early and implementing suitable treatment options is crucial. With the right approach, including physical therapy, lifestyle modifications, and sometimes medical treatment, it's possible to alleviate this pain and improve mobility. 

lower back pain when walking

Understanding Lower Back Pain When Walking

What Causes Lower Back Pain During Walking?

According to the Health Policy Institute data, nearly 65 million Americans report experiencing back pain recently, with 16 million adults suffering from persistent or chronic back pain that severely limits their daily activities. This discomfort can be attributed to various factors, each requiring specific strategies for management and prevention. 
Lower back pain when walking can significantly hinder daily activities and overall quality of life. This discomfort can be attributed to various factors, each requiring specific strategies for management and prevention.

Muscle or Ligament Strain

Repeated heavy lifting or a sudden awkward movement can strain back muscles and spinal ligaments. The chronic strain on these muscles can cause painful muscle spasms if you are in poor physical condition. Continuous stress on your back can cause chronic pain, particularly if you don't engage in regular exercise, which strengthens the core muscles that support your lower back.

Disk Problems

Issues with the disks, such as herniation or degeneration, are common causes of lower back pain. Disks act as cushions between the bones (vertebrae) in your spine. Herniated or bulging disks can put pressure on a nerve, leading to pain that radiates down the leg, known as sciatica, which can worsen while walking.


Osteoarthritis can affect the lower back. In some cases, arthritis in the spine can lead to a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord, a condition called spinal stenosis. This can cause lower back pain during walking as the space within your spine is reduced, putting pressure on the nerves and spinal cord.


Your spine's vertebrae can develop painful fractures if your bones become porous and brittle due to osteoporosis. This condition doesn't necessarily cause pain directly from walking, but the resulting fractures can lead to significant back pain during physical activities.

Poor Posture

Poor posture can contribute significantly to lower back pain when walking. Slouching or maintaining an incorrect posture while walking or standing can put undue stress on the lower back. Over time, this can lead to structural changes in the spine and surrounding muscles, exacerbating discomfort during routine activities.


This condition involves pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which extends from the lower back down through the hips and buttocks and along each leg. Sciatica is typically caused by a herniated disk or a bone spur on the spine that compresses part of the nerve.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis occurs when the space within your spine is narrowed, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine. This condition is commonly seen in individuals over the age of 50 and can cause significant pain when walking or even during rest.

Understanding these causes is crucial for effectively managing and preventing lower back pain during walking. Implementing lifestyle changes, engaging in targeted exercises, and occasionally seeking professional help can mitigate these issues significantly.

Symptoms to Watch For

Symptoms Associated with Lower Back Pain from Walking

Identifying the symptoms associated with lower back pain when walking can help in diagnosing the issue early and managing it effectively. Here are some key symptoms to watch for:

  • Numbness or Tingling: Feeling a lack of sensation or a tingling effect in the lower back, buttocks, or legs while walking.
  • Increased Pain During Specific Activities: Experiencing a sharp increase in pain during activities like walking uphill, climbing stairs, or walking on uneven surfaces.
  • Stiffness: Feeling unusually stiff in the lower back after walking or standing for prolonged periods.

Additionally, you might notice the following

  • Decreased flexibility in the lower back, making it difficult to bend or twist.
  • Muscle spasms that can occur either during or after the completion of physical activity.

If you're experiencing these symptoms, it may be helpful to use Symptom Checker to better understand your condition. Remember, while online tools are useful for gaining insights, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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Professional Diagnosis and When to See a Doctor

Seeking Professional Help: Diagnosis and Doctor Visits

Experiencing lower back pain when walking is not only uncomfortable but can also be a sign of more severe underlying conditions. Professional diagnosis is crucial to understand the root cause of your pain and to receive the most effective treatment.

What to Expect During a Doctor’s Visit

When you visit a doctor for lower back pain, you can expect the following steps:

  • Medical History Review: Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, their duration, and any actions that either aggravate or alleviate your pain.
  • Physical Examination: This may include testing your range of motion, checking for areas of tenderness, and assessing any nerve function abnormalities.
  • Diagnostic Tests: Depending on your symptoms, your doctor might order X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans to get a detailed view of your spinal structures.

When to Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Certain symptoms associated with lower back pain require urgent care. If you experience any of the following, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Fever along with back pain
  • Significant leg weakness
  • Sudden, severe pain unrelated to movement or injury

Emergency Symptoms

  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Intense, sudden back pain

These symptoms can be signs of serious conditions like cauda equina syndrome or spinal infection. Do not wait to see if they go away on their own. Contact a healthcare professional immediately.

Treatment Options

Lower back pain when walking can be managed and treated using a variety of strategies depending on the underlying cause. It’s important to discuss with your doctor the best approach tailored to your specific needs.

Home Remedies

  • Ice/Heat Therapy: Applying ice packs can reduce inflammation and numb the area to dull the pain. After a few days, switch to heat to relax and soothe tight muscles and enhance blood flow.
  • Over-the-counter Pain Relievers: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can reduce inflammation and alleviate pain temporarily.

Physical Therapies

  • Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can teach exercises to strengthen back and core muscles, improve posture, and increase flexibility.
  • Chiropractic Care: Manual adjustment of the spine can sometimes provide relief from lower back pain.

Medical Treatments

  • Corticosteroid Injections: For severe cases, your doctor might recommend steroid injections to reduce inflammation and nerve irritation.
  • Surgery: In cases where pain is due to structural problems like herniated disks or severe spinal stenosis, surgical interventions may be necessary to relieve pressure on spinal nerves.

Each treatment option has its considerations and potential outcomes, making it essential to discuss these with a healthcare professional. Integrating lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity and improving ergonomic setups at work, can also play a significant role in managing and preventing lower back pain.

By understanding the variety of treatment options available, you can make informed decisions about your health and effectively manage lower back pain to improve your quality of life. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new treatment regimen.

Exercises and Prevention

Incorporating specific exercises into your routine can significantly enhance the strength and flexibility of your back muscles, thereby reducing the risk of lower back pain when walking. Below are some effective exercises designed to strengthen your back, improve posture, and prevent future pain. Always consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any new exercise regimen.

Pelvic Tilts

This exercise helps strengthen your abdominal muscles and stabilize your lower back.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles and press your lower back into the floor.
  • Hold for 5 seconds, then relax.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Bird-Dog Stretch

Improve balance and lower back stability with this exercise.

  • Start on your hands and knees, with your wrists aligned under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  • Extend one leg behind you while reaching the opposite arm forward.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position.
  • Alternate sides and repeat 10 times each.

Bridge Exercise

This strengthens your lower back and gluteus muscles.

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the ground, arms by your sides.
  • Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line.
  • Hold your bridged position for a few seconds before easing back down.
  • Repeat 8 to 12 times.

Knee-to-Chest Stretches

A great way to alleviate tension in your lower back.

  • Lie on your back and pull one knee towards your chest, while keeping the other foot flat on the floor.
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, making sure to keep your lower back pressed into the floor.
  • Repeat with the other leg.

Lifestyle Adjustments

Making certain lifestyle changes can dramatically reduce the incidence of lower back pain. Here are some key adjustments that can help maintain a healthy back:

Ergonomics at Work

Ensure your workstation is set up to support a comfortable working posture.

  • Adjust your chair height so that your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are in line with your hips.
  • Keep your computer monitor at eye level to avoid neck strain.
  • Take regular breaks to walk around and stretch.

Suitable Footwear

Wearing the right shoes is crucial, especially if you spend a lot of time standing or walking.

  • Choose shoes with good arch support and cushioning.
  • Avoid high heels and overly flat shoes, as they can exacerbate back pain.

Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight can significantly reduce the burden on your spine.

  • Engage in regular physical activity.
  • Follow a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Wrapping up our comprehensive guide on managing and preventing lower back pain when walking, here are the key takeaways to help you maintain a healthy back and enhance your quality of life:

  • Understand the Causes: Recognize that factors like muscle or ligament strain, disk problems, arthritis, and osteoporosis can lead to lower back pain when walking. Knowing the cause is crucial to addressing the pain effectively.
  • Identify Symptoms Early: Pay attention to symptoms such as numbness, tingling, increased pain during specific activities, and stiffness. Early identification can lead to more effective management.
  • Seek Professional Diagnosis: Don’t hesitate to consult a healthcare provider if you experience persistent back pain or any emergency symptoms like loss of bladder control or severe abdominal pain.
  • Explore Treatment Options: Treatment can range from simple home remedies like ice/heat therapy to more involved medical interventions such as physical therapy or surgery. Choose the treatment that best suits your specific condition.
  • Incorporate Preventative Exercises: Regularly perform exercises like pelvic tilts, bird-dog stretches, bridges, and knee-to-chest stretches to strengthen the back and improve flexibility.
  • Make Lifestyle Adjustments: Enhance your work and living environments with proper ergonomics, wear suitable footwear, and manage your weight to prevent unnecessary strain on your back.
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