The best solution to non-specific lower back pain may not be a top-of-the-line ergonomic office chair, or regular visits to the physio to use special equipment.

A randomized controlled trial in Australia has found a highly effective way to recover from aching pain in the lower back that can't be attributed to a diagnosed illness or injury, and it can be accessed anytime, anywhere for no price at all.

It involves nothing more than a good ol' fashioned walk.

Turns out, getting your daily steps in can not only improve your metabolism, cardiovascular system, and mood, contributing to a longer and healthier life, it can also impact your musculoskeletal system, keeping back pain at bay.

"We don't know exactly why walking is so good for preventing back pain," admits physiotherapist Mark Hancock from Macquarie University, "but it is likely to include the combination of the gentle oscillatory movements, loading and strengthening the spinal structures and muscles, relaxation and stress relief, and release of 'feel-good' endorphins."

Low back pain is one of those physical ailments that can be frustratingly hard to shake once it sets in. Roughly 70 percent of people who recover from an episode of low back pain experience a recurrence within the following year.

Past studies have found that exercise can reduce the risk of low back pain returning, but these trials have typically involved group-based exercise programs, requiring close supervision and use of expensive equipment.

When an international team of researchers, led by scientists at Macquarie University in Australia, combed through the literature in 2019, they found not a single randomized controlled trial that had considered if simply walking worked to relieve back pain in the same way.

Their study is the first to suggest this is the case. Their trial included 701 participants, more than 80 percent of whom were female, who had recently experienced an episode of undetermined pain somewhere between their 12th rib and buttock crease that lasted for at least a day.

For a year or more, half the group received no treatment for their back pain. Meanwhile, the other half partook in a walking and education intervention that involved six education sessions with a registered physiotherapist, who coached participants through the science of pain and an at-home walking program.

The goal was for participants to find the time and energy to walk five times per week for at least 30 minutes by the six-month mark. If their low back pain recurred, and it was bad enough to limit their physical activity, participants were to let researchers know in an email.

After completion of the three-year-long study, researchers found that the walking intervention group had fewer recurrences of debilitating back pain than the control group.

Those who walked regularly for exercise went a median of 208 days before experiencing their first recurrence of low back pain, compared to 112 days for the control group.

"It not only improved people's quality of life," says lead author and health scientist Natasha Pocovi, "but it reduced their need both to seek health care support and the amount of time taken off work by approximately half."

By some estimates, as many as 843 million people may live with lower back pain by 2050. Currently, it's the leading cause of disability worldwide, likely due to modern sedentary lifestyles.

Walking is a low-risk exercise that is widely accessible for old and young, rich and poor. It is also one of the easier physical activities to incorporate into a busy lifestyle.

Given the numerous potential benefits, going for a brisk stroll is a preventative treatment for back pain that should no longer be neglected.

The study was published in The Lancet.