Dr. Troy Vander Molen, PT, DPT

back painAs a lower back pain specialist who has worked with thousands of people suffering with lower back pain, it is clear that one of the most common problems people deal with when experiencing lower back pain is difficulty walking. Have you ever wondered why that is the case?

Here are the 5 most common root causes of back pain while walking:



  • Poor Hip Mobility. With every step you take, your hip and pelvis move in three planes of motion. If you lack hip motion in any of those directions, your lower back will likely compensate by moving more than it is designed to move. Over time, this increased motion can create inflammation and compression of the nerves that exit the spine, which can lead to sciatica and lower back pain.


  • Decreased Hip Strength. It is very common to see people walking with a slight lean to one side when the foot lands on the ground. This is an indicator that the lateral muscles of the hip are weak. When this happens, the body compensates by leaning to that side, which increases compressive forces on the nerves on the same side of the spine.


  • Stiff Upper BackStiff Upper Back. With every step you take, your arm swings in the opposite direction. This arm swing causes our upper back to rotate in the opposite direction of your pelvis.  If you have a limited ability to rotate your upper back, which is common in men, your lower back will compensate by increasing its rotation, a motion that this area of the spine is not designed to do. Once again, this can lead to increased compression and irritation to the joints and nerves in your spine.


  • Limited foot and ankle mobilityLimited Foot and Ankle Mobility. Studies have demonstrated that every time your foot hits the ground, your body needs to absorb forces equivalent to 2-3 times your body weight. If your foot is stiff and does not flatten when you walk like it is designed to do, increased forces are transmitted to your spine, which increases compressive forces and can irritate the joints and nerves in the spine.


  • Spine Arthritis and/or Stenosis. Research indicates that if you are over 55 years old, have pain in your lower back with walking or standing, and it goes away when you sit, there is a 97% chance you have arthritis in your spine. You don’t need an expensive diagnostic test to confirm this finding. Arthritis predisposes you to spine pain while walking, but if you fix all of the things mentioned above, then will be able to walk without pain despite the diagnosis of stenosis or arthritis. Don’t let the diagnosis of arthritis be an excuse to do nothing. A mobile spine surrounded by strong muscles will reduce pain in an arthritic spine.

If you would like to learn more about Lower Back Pain and Sciatica and strategies to reduce pain and allow for pain free walking, you should  our office at (866)-588-0230 and schedule a FREE INJURY SCREEN to find out if your back can benefit from the expertise we offer.

We’re offering a FREE back pain screen day event on:

Thursday, June 14 from 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM

    Kinetic Edge in Des Moines– 4516 3rd Street, Suite 100

    Kinetic Edge in Ames – 4700 Mortensen Road, Suite 101

Thursday, June 14 from 12:00 PM – 2:30 PM

     Kinetic Edge in Pella – 604 Liberty Street, Suite 227

The biggest predictor of lower back pain in the future is a past experience with lower back pain. So, even if you’re not experiencing lower back pain currently but have dealt with it in the past, you’d likely benefit from the help of a knowledgeable physical therapist who can find and fix the issues that contribute to the pain. Fixing those root problems will reduce the likelihood that your lower back pain will return.

If you’re ready to fix the root problems of your low back pain, give us a call at 866-588-0230 to schedule a free 20 minute back pain screen today.