The short answer is “Yes, but it depends”.
It is generally accepted that movement, contrary to long bed rest, improves the condition with sciatica.
But, should YOU walk? When to walk? When not to walk? How much to walk?
For some people, walking can aggravate their pain. Keeping poor form while walking too much can irritate your sciatic nerve.
My fellow says,
Since you’re actively moving your legs when you walk, it’s a good way to stay in shape and reduce your risk of deep vein thrombophlebitis and blood clots.
Therefore, you should consult your doctor or chiropractor to come up with a plan that is appropriate for your situation.
How Should you Walk with Lower Back Pain?
With sciatica, walking is considered a convenient and safe activity since it doesn’t involve twisting the spine. When walking, keep these three things in mind:
- Foot contact
- Stride length
- Speed of walking
Here are some walking tips to improve your form:
1. Short Stride
Longer strides can pinch your sciatic nerve due to excessive and continuous stress. Therefore, prefer shorter strides.
Secondly, instead of landing on your toes, reach your midfoot and heel, and then roll onto your toes for the next step.
After the pain subsides, you can walk with longer strides.
Similarly, slow walking is more effective with sciatica. Overdoing it can aggravate sciatic pain.
Stick to your daily walk of five minutes if that suits you. Increase your walking distance once your back is strong enough to handle it.
You can also hold a conversation to maintain a slower pace.
2. Walk with Proper Posture
Proper posture is vital to alleviate sciatica pain in sitting, sleeping, walking, or exercising. The correct posture while walking is when the core abdominal and back muscles work in sync with hip, thigh, and leg muscles.
If you walk with an incorrect posture for a long time, the abdominal muscles will get stressed and tired.
The best ways to use abdominal muscles are:
- Stand tall with your head and shoulders level to the ground, your chin level to the ground, and your eyes focused on a distant point.
- Try to walk — for a shorter duration — with your stomach tucked in; while maintaining a comfortable pace.
- While walking, focus on your breathing — rhythmic breathing helps the mind focus and be attentive.
3. Select Proper Shoes
The type of footwear you wear affects your sciatic nerve. If you choose shoes with bad arch support, your body will shift towards your hips, which will result in greater stress on your sciatic nerve and muscles. Find yourself good shoes with sciatic support before you hit the road.
4. Use of Support
Consider walking aids if you have trouble getting up and moving. Many people find this idea problematic, but it is better to move with assistance than not move at all.
Where to Walk?
For walking, choose flat terrain as sudden bumps can put stress on your sciatic nerve. Avoid sandy beaches, forest tracks, or loose gravel – the surface should be level.
Rather than skipping a walk in bad weather, consider using a treadmill. A treadmill has a pace control system, a timer, a flat surface, and also handrails.
What are the Bad Walking Practices with Sciatica
Walking patterns can affect your sciatic nerve. These are the walking patterns that may increase the stress on your lower spine:
- By squeezing your abdomen, you can cause stress on the spinal facet joints when walking with a lordotic posture that encourages the curve in your lower back. As a result of this posture, the hip and buttock muscles become weak, resulting in the overactivation of the thigh muscles.
- Walking with kyphosis postures — exaggerated forward rounding of the upper spine. This posture bends your chest, putting more stress on your abdominal and core muscles.
- Walking with a swayback posture — tipping the pelvis in front while the upper back is shifted backward — makes your lower back muscles hyperactive, resulting in fatigue.
These walking patterns can exacerbate sciatica by irritating the sciatic nerve root. It is recommended to avoid these walking patterns.
You should understand your pain; if it is at 7 out of 10, call it a day — Red light. If your pain ranges from 4-6 out of 10, walk for a shorter duration — Yellow light. The green light is when pain is a 0 to 3 out of 10; you can do activities with fewer restrictions.
Other Pain Relief Remedies
Some remedies for sciatica pain relief are as follows:
- Physical Therapy
Managing sciatica pain sometimes seems complicated, but the following measures can help to subsidize pain:
- Heat or Cold therapy
- Over-the-counter Medications
- Gentle Stretches, Massage, or Yoga
- Water Exercises
- Lower Back Bracing
When to See a Doctor?
It is better to talk to your doctor as soon as possible when you have sciatica. It will give you an accurate, timely diagnosis of sciatica. The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disk.
You can ask your doctor while looking into your condition if is it walking good for sciatica. You can go for physical therapy or other treatment plans.
Unlike the old view that rest is better for sciatica pain, physicians are suggesting moderate walking — it may keep you in better condition if you are not feeling pain.