While walking backwards conjures up images of moonwalking, studies suggest it may also be an effective way to manage back pain. Also referred to as retro walking, the concept of walking backwards for therapeutic purposes goes back to ancient China. More recently, it has been popular in parts of Asia and Europe. Here, Los Angeles spine surgeons discuss how walking backward can relieve back pain.
In addition to increasing flexibility in the hips and knees, there’s research suggesting backwards walking may open spinal discs. Doing so can reduce the risk of experiencing back pain that results from nerve compression or reduced disc height.
The motions associated with backwards walking reduce range of motion and help strengthen core muscles from a different angle. These motions can strengthen core muscles and allow patients who may have knee pain in addition to back pain to exercise without placing added stress on their knees.
Retro walking reduces stress on spinal discs and other supporting muscles and joints while still allowing for some degree of conditioning. For patients who have flat back syndrome, where the back loses its natural curve and becomes flat, throwing off alignment, walking backwards may restore curvature of the spine and ease stress on discs.
Since most people don’t walk backwards on a regular basis, the movements associated with doing so work muscles differently. If you’re already doing a regular fitness routine, backwards walking can compliment other exercises and further strengthen muscles that support your back.
While running backwards requires about 30 percent more energy than running forwards, it may reduce stress on your back. It also reverses stress placed on muscles and offers added protection to your knees.
If you’re going to include backwards walking or running as part of your routine, check with a board-certified back doctor first and run in a flat, open area to minimize risk or have a buddy with you. Hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, calves, and other muscles supporting your spine indirectly can also benefit. The general recommendation is 10-15 minutes of backwards walking four days a week for a month.
For more information about spine pain and treatment options, call The Spine Institute Center at (310) 828-7757. Medical Director Dr. Hyun Bae specializes in mobi-c disc replacement, non-fusion spine surgery, and other safe and effective treatments that can help minimize or reduce your back pain.