So, you recently hurt your back…now what? Whether you hurt it at work, or woke up with it feeling sore, one of the most critical things to do is to not be overly worried.
It has been shown that most people with back pain end up doing quite well. Without even directly addressing the issue, people with acute and persistent back pain will show significant improvements in the first 6 weeks, and even continue to slowly improve afterwards.1
But this does not necessarily mean that we should not do anything to address the issue. Below we will discuss some strategies you can use at home to take back control of your back.
1. Do not be afraid of back pain
This may be a bit shocking to hear at first, but pain does not always mean that something is broken or damaged.2
You can think of pain as more of the body’s warning system for potential danger, like a car alarm. Think of touching something extremely hot like a thief trying to break into your car. Without the alarm, we would not know to pull our hand away, and scare away the thief.
You can think of pain as more of the body’s warning system for potential danger, like a car alarm.
However, sometimes after an injury, our pain alarm can become a bit overly sensitive. Instead of the alarm sounding when someone is trying to break in, the alarm goes off when someone simply walks by. Although there is no real danger, pain signals are still being sent.
Now, a bit of increased sensitivity is normal after an injury as the body is trying to bring more attention to an area that is recovering. But we should remember to try to move as much as tolerable, to lower the sensitivity of our pain alarm.
2. Movement is medicine
This is a common phrase you will hear from many physiotherapists, which holds true for low back pain. Movement is key for the healing process, so we want to avoid extended periods of rest.3
Throughout the day, keep the spine moving as much as possible. An easy way to start is by slowly bending forwards and backwards while sitting. This can be progressed by adding rotations and even easing into ranges that are painful. This may feel a bit uncomfortable at first, but the spine is designed to move, bend, and twist. Therefore, we should be trying to encourage as much mobility as possible throughout the healing process.
Another important aspect of movement is continuing to live your life by participating in your normal activities.3,4
As your back is recovering from an injury, it needs to be reintroduced to the functional demands of your normal, everyday routine. This should be done gradually, using pain as your guide.
For example, if your day usually involves gardening for 45 minutes, try starting with 10 minutes and slowly progress from there. You could even use equipment such as a garden seat to make the task easier early on. In summary, the earlier you begin to move, the faster you will be able to get back to your regular activities.
3. Try low back exercises
Once things start feeling better, it can be a good idea to start training the trunk and muscles around the back to increase the capacity of our spine to tolerate load.3,4
By improving the resiliency of our back, we can reduce pain and improve function. This can be done by going on daily walks, strength training at the gym, doing online workouts, or joining a dance class. There is no special type of exercise that will specifically help with back pain, so do something that you will enjoy and be consistent at.
There is no special type of exercise that will specifically help with back pain, so do something that you will enjoy and be consistent at.
Remember to only participate in activities that are tolerable for you and again, let pain be your guide for how much you can do.
4. See a healthcare professional
If you are still unsure of what to do or are struggling with self-management, it is never a bad idea to see a healthcare professional such as a physical therapist. A professional can help guide you in developing a comprehensive plan to get you back to doing what you enjoy.
At Parkway Physiotherapy & Performance Centre, our team is highly experienced at treating back pain and helping patients overcome their injuries. Get in touch with us today.
- Costa LD, Maher CG, Hancock MJ, McAuley JH, Herbert RD, Costa LO. The prognosis of acute and persistent low-back pain: a meta-analysis. Cmaj. 2012 Aug 7;184(11):E613-24.
- Amaya F, Izumi Y, Matsuda M, Sasaki M. Tissue injury and related mediators of pain exacerbation. Current neuropharmacology. 2013 Dec 1;11(6):592-7.
- Dubois B, Esculier JF. Soft-tissue injuries simply need PEACE and LOVE. British journal of sports medicine. 2020 Jan 1;54(2):72-3.
- George SZ, Fritz JM, Silfies SP, Schneider MJ, Beneciuk JM, Lentz TA, Gilliam JR, Hendren S, Norman KS, Beattie PF, Bishop MD. Interventions for the management of acute and chronic low back pain: revision 2021: clinical practice guidelines linked to the international classification of functioning, disability and health from the academy of orthopaedic physical therapy of the American Physical Therapy Association. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. 2021 Nov;51(11):CPG1-60.