In my last article I presented a bit of history on the importance of exercise to health (going back to 400 B.C. and Hippocrates) and working up to the present day. In that article I mentioned that today, walking is being prescribed just like a medicine, for patients with heart issues, diabetes and depression. Since then I have become aware of a local doctor who is regularly prescribing “walking” as a cure for his patients. This local doctor is Robert Mauss, a family physician who treats a lot of patients with Lyme disease. Very interestingly to me, when I asked him what illness he prescribes walking for the most, his very quick reply was “pain relief.” Wow. I have read a lot about the health benefits of walking and those listed above along with preventing some cancers and strengthening bones are almost always what is discussed. I have never before read about walking to reduce pain. But, I certainly believe it as I have experienced it myself.
Dr. Mauss explained a bit about the mechanics of how walking helps. I have to admit it was a bit technical for me, but basically he said that the swinging motion of the arms and legs involved in walking cause your shoulders and your hips to rotate which cause gentle movement in every part of your spine from the sacrum at the bottom to the cervical spine at the top. He described walking as a very gentle stretch for the back. He also mentioned that some of his patients resist his walking prescriptions because they have so much pain that it hurts to walk, the old chicken and the egg. His answer to this is to not take the highest dose on day one. That is, to start with walking for five minutes a day for the first several days. When that can be done comfortably, then build to six minutes for a few days. Then gradually add time walking to get to 10, 15 and eventually the goal of 30 minutes per day. He has prescribed walking as a cure for pain to a lot of his patients with Lyme disease. He reports that his patients who complain of stiffness in their necks or backs or sore joints have found walking to be very helpful in reducing the pain.