Walking Away from Back Pain

It was sometime around 2007 when TTM’s Masaki Shiotani found himself in a fog. The sushi chef, turned bus driver just wasn’t feeling himself.

“I started having this horrible back pain,” Shiotani said. “It wasn’t just in my back, it affected me overall including my attitude.”

Shiotani was 10 years into his new career as a driver for the Campus Area Bus Service after switching careers in 1997.

“The sitting didn’t help my back and I wasn’t much into exercise,” Shiotani said. Every day it accumulated and after several years it just blew up.”

Every so often, Shiotani would have major flare ups. Once he recalls bending over to pick something up and suddenly feeling shooting pain in his lower back that didn’t subside for two weeks. Another time he had to miss work because his back pain was too much to handle.

“I went to the doctor and he recommended a chiropractor and acupuncture. I tried them, but they didn’t really work. So then, the doctor said, Masaki you’re sitting there all day, you need more body movement. You need to try and walk.”  

In desperate need of relief, Shiotani took the doctor’s advice. Immediately, he implemented walking into his daily routine. What started as short strides around his neighborhood every morning and evening, became a daily routine at work.

Shiotani had recently become a break driver with CABS, which meant he would spend much of his day at the Ohio Union, relieving drivers who might stop in to get lunch before continuing their routes. Instead of getting a ride to the Union each morning, Shiotani began walking from the bus barn at the Service Building Annex on Kenny Road all the way to the Ohio Union. It’s a walk that takes him 35 minutes, and one he’s done at the beginning and end of almost every work day for the last 10 years.

“It’s a way to get the exercise in. I wanted to commit, I try to do it every day,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what the temperature is, raining, snowing - the only time I don’t walk is when it is very windy and extremely cold.”

No more than 10 days a year does Shiotani skip his walk because of weather. He learned the hard way once when he tried to face mother nature head on.

“I walked once when it was below zero. I got frostbite on my toe. It was a little extreme and I regret that,” Shiotani said while laughing.

Call the commitment crazy, but it has yielded results. Shiotani is fit, and his back pain is behind him.

“My pain is almost completely gone and you can tell the difference in my body. I’ve lost nearly 25 pounds. I’m not doing any extreme diet, I just walk. I have to be very committed.”

Not only are Shiotani’s walks a form of exercise, but they provide him peace of mind.

“Whenever I walk, I try to have a clear mind. I don’t think about anything, I don’t listen to any music, period. I’m just walking without thinking and that makes me relax. It helps me with everyday stress.”

The mind, body and spirit are all improved these days thanks to Shiotani’s walks. It’s a routine that will continue on down the road.

“I feel so much better,” he said. “It’s nice because walking is a lifetime exercise. I’m not going to go running or do extreme exercise. I just need the walking and the meditation to get my exercise and clear my mind.”