How to Take a Painless Walk: Exercising with Pain
Now that the weather is turning better and you are starting to shake off those wintertime pains, a walk might sound pretty good right about now. But before you burst out the door with the dog straining at the leash and your brand new walking shoes looking so sparkly, stop to think about what you are doing first. Even though walking seems so easy, there are a few things that could help your first walk of the season be that much more enjoyable and also less likely to cause a flare-up of pain.
First, let’s talk about that dog straining at the leash. You are likely to lose that tug-o-war battle and end up with worse pains than when you started your walk. You are supposed to be the one walking the dog, not the dog walking you. Take charge of your walk by expecting the dog to be following you, not out in front of you. As someone who has rescued and trained many excitable bird dogs that want nothing more than to chase small critters, I prefer the Higgins Method for walking a dog.
Now that you have your dog under your control as a pack leader, you can now focus on your walk. What could make your walk easier for you? A trekking pole or two might be just what you need for a little extra support for your aging parts. If you have low back pain, foot, ankle, knee or hip pain, some type of walking stick will help immensely by reducing the stress on those parts. Even a walker is worth considering if you really have a hard time walking but still want to get out and enjoy the outdoors.
While you are walking, try focusing on your body mechanics. Are your knees softly absorbing the impact of each step? Is your pelvis doing a waddling motion back and forth or is your pelvis staying level and steady? Are your shoulders back with your chest out? Each and every part of your body needs to be an active participant in your walk and doing their jobs correctly.
If you start to have trouble keeping everything coordinated, shorten up your strides and slow down. Walking is a concerted effort that requires you to be mindful. An absentee walker who is not concentrating on what he/she should be doing ends up looking like a duck, falling like a ton of bricks or as useless the next day as a down blanket on a warm summer day. Sometimes you need to relearn how to walk after experiencing a painful injury. That is when a physical therapy tune-up can be so very helpful.
During that tune-up with a physical therapist, you may discover that you can’t even stand on one leg. Well, if you can’t stand on one leg, how do you expect to walk? The basic building block of walking is standing on one leg while the other leg swings forward. Those who practice Tai Chi have an excellent ability to stand on one leg. By improving your ability to stand on one leg, you will also improve your ability to take a walk with less pain.
With the dog by your side, a walking stick in hand and good mechanics, you are now ready for your walk. Wait! Wait a minute!! What about the sparkly new walking shoes?? You have on some old junkers that have been in your closet for a coon’s age. Come on, you’re worth a little money. Get yourself a good pair of walking shoes; your body will appreciate the added cushioning and support.
OK, now you can go and enjoy your walk with less pain.
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.