Acute lower back pain is a largely common condition that comes with distressing symptoms, particularly if the back pain comes on with no major incident or injury. Whether you're dealing with out of the blue discomfort or looking to prevent it, this blog post aims to provide you with valuable insights into understanding, managing, and preventing acute lower back pain.
Understanding Acute Lower Back Pain
Acute lower back pain refers to sudden, sharp pain that typically lasts for a few days to a few weeks. It often arises due to overload of the muscles, ligaments, or other soft tissues in the lower back. However, is never in isolation. It commonly coincides with changes in day to day activities, poor sleep, periods of higher stress, under-fuelling and overworking. While the pain can be debilitating in the beginning, the good news is that majority of cases of acute lower back pain improve with proper care, graded exposure back to activity and self-management.
Managing Acute Lower Back Pain:
Avoiding Prolonged Postures
Trying to consistently move and change positions throughout the day will help minimise the associated stiffness and sharp pain you can develop when shifting between sitting and standing after long periods.
Over-the-counter pain relief like Nurofen, Voltaren gel or Panadol may help manage pain and inflammation in the short-term. You should always speak to your pharmacist, follow the recommended dosage and consult a healthcare professional if you have any underlying health conditions prior to taking though.
Applying heat (hot water bottle, wheat pack, hot shower) to the affected area can help alleviate pain, reduce inflammation and relax muscles. Sauna use and movement in warm pool’s can also be effective in improving pain, stiffness and tightness. Additionally, cold can be used for pain relief, however can sometimes increase the feeling of stiffness. Heat and cold is therefore often a personal preference.
Gentle Exercises and Activity Modification
While resting may be helpful for some people during the initial stages of acute back pain, it's important not to stay immobile for extended periods. Gradually introducing gentle movements and stretches that feel comfortable as soon as possible is important. This can help improve mobility, strengthen muscles, promote healing and decrease pain. Often you may have a intolerance towards either back extension or back flexion, therefore we encourage movement that feels good and modifying activities that aggravate the pain in the beginning. Then slowly re-introducing the aggravating activities as pain becomes more manageable
Here Sarah (and Sunny!) shows Flexion (bending forward) exercises for Lower back pain:
Following from previous Flexion videos, here is Sarah and Sunny showing controlled range extension (bending backward) exercises for Lower Back Pain.
Pain Traffic Light System:
Lower back pain in these cases can be debilitating and unbearable however, high pain levels don’t always mean there is structural damage or that the pain means the injury is worsening. In the clinic we like to use a traffic light system to help guide whether pain during activity is okay, needs to be monitored or is too much and activity should be ceased.
(Canva image with traffic light for visual affect?)
Pain scale out of 10 =
0-4 = Green & Go
5-7 = Yellow & Proceed with Caution or Modify
8-10 = Red & Stop
Preventing Acute Lower Back Pain:
Engaging in regular physical activity helps maintain strong muscles and a healthy spine. Consistent progressive loading is important, with pain more likely to occur with low or high spikes in training loads. You should incorporate a large variety of trunk and pelvic exercises that focus on different movement patterns so our body is prepared for all types of positions. Avoiding certain movements completely decreases our bodies overall capacity and increases susceptibility of hurting ourselves when challenged in those positions day to day.
Whether at home or work, ensure that your environment supports good posture. Invest in ergonomic furniture and accessories to reduce strain on your lower back.
In addition to recovery, managing stress levels is also important. Chronic stress can contribute to muscle tension and exacerbate back pain. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and relaxation exercises such as yoga and stretching into your routine.
Incorporating a holistic approach to back pain is important as it rarely occurs in just tissue damage isolation. Well-balanced eating, getting enough sleep and drinking enough water is essential for recovery and helps to maintain our body so it can cope with our day to day demands.
Here Sarah shows us 90/90 Breathing and Pelvic Tilt techniques.
In conclusion, Acute lower back pain can be a temporary setback, but with the right approach, you can effectively manage the pain, promote healing, and prevent future episodes. Where necessary, seeking allied health professional guidance to help identify the causes, create a management plan, and adopt healthy habits, will help ensure that your lower back remains strong, flexible, and pain-free.
Remember, self-care, consistent exercise and a proactive approach are key to a healthy back and overall well-being.
Team Motus x