Can Trekking Poles Reduce Back Pain?

The Back Pain Epidemic

Can Trekking Poles Reduce Back Pain?


80% of adults at some point in their lifespan will have back pain.

Chronic back pain, which returns and often increases in severity, is a leading cause of obesity, depression, pain killer addictions, and healthy exercise avoidance.

Acute lower back pain develops through added weight, that indirectly comes from general back pain. This leads to a deadly cycle that traps many mid-life and aged members of society.





In a society where obesity is already at epidemic levels, back pain only makes matters worse. Is there any natural way out?

How can back pain be reduced? Can it be eliminated all together?

While there are effective therapies and drugs for treating back pain, a certain form of exercise may hold the key to reversing the effects, and possibly leading millions of adults back into a healthy body-improving lifestyle.


Nordic Walking




Nordic Waking involves brisk walking and hiking, coupled with the use of trekking poles. It is much like cross-country skiing, but involves walking.

While most forms of walking have much health benefits, Nordic Walking adds an additional benefit . . . reduced acute lower back pain.

A recent study by the International Journal of Exercise Science found that "Nordic pole use increases balance and stability, distributes weight through the arms and torso, and decreases loading of the spine and lower limbs."

Lead researchers saw that "Use of Nordic poles has been shown to increase balance and stability while redistributing loading from the lower back and lower limbs during walking". Specifically, the study saw improvements through pain reduction to lumbar spine and lower limbs


What does this all mean?

  • Poles take much of the weight and impact off of your back and spine
  • Walking must actively involve the upper body and arms
  • Walking should be brisk (fast, but not jogging or running)
  • Poles help shock be absorbed by the upper body
  • It also Increases calorie burn
  • Nordic walking is a useful long-term exercise


Another study confirmed showed results that "indicate that Nordic walking was more effective than normal walking in improving upper extremity strength." (Korean Society of Nursing Science)

Nordic walking with trekking poles has special benefits for elderly women, potentially leading not only to joint pain reduction, but to possible bone building in certain skeletal body areas.



While the general cardiovasular and body health benefits of brisk walking with hiking poles are known, including beneficial effects on resting heart rate, blood pressure, exercise capacity, maximal oxygen consumption, and quality of life; bone and back pain research was needed to see its effects in other areas.

And yet, even more, another survey found that "The use of hiking poles has been demonstrated to be successful in reducing forces placed on the lower extremities."

  • Improved spine
  • Improved muscles
  • Improved bones



If you are looking to start, try this:

  • Use adjustable nordic trekking poles (with your arms at a 90 degree angle when standing straight)
  • Wear strong, yet comfortable walking shoes
  • Plan to walk 20-30 minutes minimum, briskly
  • 3-4 times a week
  • Pick varying paths, trails, and parks to keep the weekly regimen interesting
  • Plan for fairly level trails at first, gradually leading to more incline and grades as your back improves

Now we know the clear benefits of reduced back pain, and reduced acute lower back pain, all can come with simply walking briskly with walking sticks. This leads to more people in the outdoors, enjoying an active healthy lifestyle


 - Mike Cutler, Trail blogger, hiking advocate, @ EarthTrek Gear,


Acute effects of walking with Nordic poles in persons with mild to moderate low-back painLANDON P REVORD,1,† KAREN V LOMOND,1,‡ PETER V LOUBERT,2,‡ and ROGER L HAMMER1,‡Int J Exerc Sci. 2016; 9(4): 507–513.Published online 2016 Oct 1.

Effects of nordic walking on body composition, muscle strength, and lipid profile in elderly women.
Asian Nurs Res (Korean Soc Nurs Sci). 2013 Mar;7(1):1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.anr.2012.11.001. Epub 2012 Dec 10.
Song MS1, Yoo YK2, Choi CH3, Kim NC4.

Health benefits of Nordic walking: a systematic review.
Am J Prev Med. 2013 Jan;44(1):76-84. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.09.043.
Tschentscher M1, Niederseer D, Niebauer J.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Jan;39(1):177-83.
Effects of hiking downhill using trekking poles while carrying external loads.
Bohne M1, Abendroth-Smith J.




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