A fear of movement, (Kinesiophobia) is a common occurrence in patients with chronic low back pain (cLBP). Sadly, self-restricting one’s physical activity can lead to fatigue and atrophy in muscles. It can lead to more inactivity and muscle fatigue, and consequently low tolerance to regular day-to-day tasks, absenteeism from work, and depression. If the muscles around the lower back or lumbar spine become atrophied and stiff, the likelihood of acute low back pain (LBP) flair-ups increases, which leads to more discomfort and distress.
Reports have indicated that, when comparing the muscles at the front of the lumbar spine (the “flexors”) to those behind the spine (the “extensors”) in individuals with cLBP, the extensors display greater levels of atrophy and weakness. The lumbar multifidus (MF) muscles are essential to the stability of the lumbar spine, while the superficial extender muscles of the erector spinae (ES) are known as “global stabilisers,” which are built to create gross movement and counterbalance while lifting external loads.
Osteopaths typically recommend rehabilitation / exercise programmes for enhancing motor function, muscle strengthening, stretching and aerobic capacity while treating patients with cLBP. One such exercise which might be recommended is to go walking backwards. Studies have shown that walking backwards can lead to better outcomes in terms of cardiovascular health and activation of the MF muscles (which are often weaker in cLBP patients, as mentioned earlier).
In addition, walking backwards works to a greater degree with the lower limb muscles, while reducing stress on the patellofemoral joint (kneecap). This is significant, as knee pain can often co-occur with low back pain, particularly in overweight / obese patients. Walking backwards often stretches the hamstrings which in cLBP patients are mostly short / tight.
Not only can walking backwards help patients who already have back pain, but, adding this kind of movement to the workout routine will also reduce the risk of low back pain!
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