Why does it hurt to walk?

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By Dr. Virginia Nsitem

Walking is an activity that provides many health benefits including strengthening your heart, lowering your blood sugar and blood pressure, improving your mood, and managing your weight. Walking can also be an important part of a rehabilitation program. Walking can be performed indoors and outdoors and does not require any special equipment – except for a good pair of shoes. When walking is limited due to pain, it is important to address the issue early so that you can get back to “stepping”.

Shoulder Pain

The shoulders play a key role in maintaining a proper posture while walking. Tight or achy shoulders can add stress to the neck and upper back and affect the mechanics of walking.  Sore and achy shoulders may prevent you from gently swinging your arms back and forth with every step. Shoulder injuries can include rotator cuff muscle tendonitis and tears, frozen shoulder, and bursitis.

Hip Pain

The hip joints are important for rotating, bending, and extending our legs when walking. If you experience hip pain when you walk, you are not alone as it is a common problem. Hip joint arthritis, bursitis at the hip, and injuries to the muscles and tendons at the hip can all cause hip pain, tenderness, pain lying on the injured hip, and difficulty walking, running, and getting up from a seated position.

Knee Pain

Conditions such as osteoarthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, and muscle and ligament injuries can cause pain in the knees. Other symptoms of knee injury include swelling, limited mobility, and difficulty performing activities such as walking, running, jumping, climbing up and down stairs, and kneeling. The knee joints are important for walking as they act as shock absorbers with every step, support the weight of the body, and help with the forward and twisting movements of our legs.

Foot Pain

Our feet serve as shock absorbers when we stand and when we walk. The feet are extensions of our legs and help us walk and run. Conditions such as plantar fasciitis (arch pain), tendonitis, arthritis, and sprains and strains at the ankles can lead to pain, swelling, and limited movement in the feet. These injuries can have a negative impact on our ability to walk.

 Spine Pain

Injuries to the muscles, joints, discs, and nerves in the spine can cause pain while walking. Some commons spine injuries that affect our ability to walk freely include sciatica, back muscle strains, and arthritis. These type of injuries can cause loss of mobility in the spine, swelling, and pain in the back, buttock, and legs. These injuries limit the ability of the spine to bend, twist, and support our body while walking.

Walking pain-free

Chiropractors specialize in diagnosing, treating, and rehabilitating injuries of the muscles, joints and nerves.  The first step to relieving your pain is understanding the cause of the problem. Your chiropractor or health care provider may diagnose your problem after conducting an examination, and reviewing possible ultrasound studies, x-rays, CT scans, or MRI studies. This is also important to rule out more serious conditions that may be causing your pain. Your rehabilitation program may vary, depending on your diagnosis and the severity of the injury.

  1. Chiropractic techniques: Manual therapies are used to improve tightness of the muscles and ligaments and restore proper movement of the joints of the body. Therapeutic Laser therapy is a useful device that works to reduce inflammation and pain and allow the patient to start the exercise portion of the rehabilitation. Cold therapy (ice) can be helpful in the initial stages of inflammation to reduce the pain and swelling.
  2. Massage therapy and Acupuncture: Studies have shown that these techniques are helpful for providing a pain-relieving effect throughout the body, an anti-inflammatory effect, and a general sense of improved well-being.
  3. Proper footwear: Invest in proper footwear, especially if you walk long distances. You can always change shoes to more stylish footwear once you reach your destination.
  4. Modifying your walking: Try to walk on soft surfaces, like grassy paths, instead of hard asphalt. Take shorter strides to reduce the stress on the joints.


Dr. Virginia Nsitem is a chiropractor specializing in laser therapy for muscle, joint, and nerve injuries, and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Chiropractic Sports Sciences in Canada. She may be reached at (905) 275-4993, or by email at totalhealth@bellnet.ca

Stop the Pain … Before the Pain Stops You!