Low back pain is one of the leading reasons for Physiotherapy visits in the UK.
Low back pain can present as:
Acute Back Pain – usually a sudden onset and generally settling over 1 day – 6 weeks.
Chronic Back Pain – lasting longer than 6 weeks, or longer than expected for acute injury recovery. Some people experience Acute – on – Chronic Back Pain – recurrent episodes of same pain over a long period of time.
Acute Low Back Pain
Acute low back pain can be brought on by anything from exercise (you name it, we’ve seen it), repetitive lifting (gardening, moving house), prolonged sitting (desk-based are notorious for it), and even innocuous things like sneezing or bending to tie your shoelaces!
The psycho-social aspects of pain are often even worse. It can make people anxious about returning to exercise, work or even activities they love, alienate people from their friends and often makes them reticent to talk about it for fear of being boring.
It is therefore key to understand what is happening!
Causes of Acute Low Back Pain
In many of the cases of acute low back pain that we see at Physio Action there is no evidence of a new or acute injury, or damage in the back. Most cases of low back pain that we see in the clinic result from protective pains and muscle spasm, and even movement inhibition – all of which serve as a very effective alarm systems for when our body senses tell us that we need a warning.
The pain is very real, and the spasm is very real, but thankfully this doesn’t always align with the injury or with long-term prognosis.
This protective response can result from over-stretching our bodies in unfamiliar or unexpected ways (that first yoga class is always a shock to the system); doing more repetitive movements than our body feels is safe or necessary (too much gardening, paving or carpet laying): and sometimes just for getting out of bed the wrong way.
Often these seemingly innocuous causes of acute low back pain have a common link.
These may be:
- Increased time spent sitting at work over several weeks, AKA the Covid curve, starving our back and nerve tissue of movement which is what keeps it happy and healthy.
- The text neck or gaming posture – which has also increased over the lockdown periods as we strive to keep in contact with friends and family.
- Stress – comes in all shapes and sizes
- Illness – aside from the Covid-19 virus even things like the common cold can ‘wind-up’ our protective pain system leaving us achy, stiff and sore.
- Lack of quality sleep!
Understanding these other precursors is important, as it helps us to rationalise our pain experience.
We want to get back to the activities we love without fear and we want to do what we can to prevent future flare-ups.
Where to go with your acute low back pain?
This blog is for general advice. If you are having severe or persistent pain, please come and see us at Physio Action (call 0113 268 7578 to make an appointment) or speak with your GP.