Signs & Symptoms
Acute low back pain can present as:
- Sharp catching sensation that limits movements, sometimes feeling like it takes your breath away. This is often most limiting with bending forward or extending fully upright.
- Sometimes acute pain can present as a dull ache that is hard to pin-point.
- It can feel like a grabbing, spasming and overworked muscles.
- Sometimes it can feel like generalised stiffness that takes times to get moving – especially in the morning.
It can be Nerve related – but don’t stress
Low back pain can involve irritation of the nerve tissue which may result in radiating pain into the buttocks or leg, pins and needles, or numbness and altered sensation.
Back pain that has symptoms of nerve involvement is important to get checked by your physio or GP.
However, don’t fear – nerve related pains can settle well with the right advice.
What to do when Acute Low Back Pain strikes?
When acute low back pain strikes, it is tempting to adopt a position of comfort (foetal position on the couch is what we hear a lot of at Physio Action) and hope for the best. However, there are some key steps to take early in the process to help resolve the issue quickly.
Even if it is small gentle movement. Short regular walks or small repetitive stretches can be a lovely way to keep the back moving.
Be wary of the Quick-Fix
It can be tempting to try to stretch the pain away by pushing hard into painful movements. Trying to ‘crack’ the back to ease the tension, or trigger-pointing until you are black-and-blue. This isn’t necessarily the best approach (despite what your trainer / colleague / partner / acquaintance says).
Everyone will respond differently to pain and to treatments.
Exercises with acute low back pain should be regular and smooth, and while not always painless, it should not make your pain worsen or linger.
Use hot or cold packs
These can provide a simple and safe form of pain relief.
At Physio Action we generally recommend hot packs for back and neck pain (unless there is a super acute inflammatory process at play), as the gentle heat has a great effect on calming pain and helping to promote relaxation and movement.
Pain relief medication
Paracetamol or ibuprofen* can be effective first line management to help settle the pain and allow movement. (Note – * always check the contra-indications before taking)
Seek reassurance and advice
Early assessment and reassurance can be incredibly helpful, often the earlier you are managed the quicker things settle down. Here at Physio Action, we formulate an Action Plan during your assessment which helps identify the causes of the problems you are having and make a plan for your course of physio in order to get the best possible outcome in the most efficient way.
Non-compliance of a plan often slows things down, so we like to work with our patients to explain the problem and what we can do to help them but more importantly how we can help them.
We want to get you back to the activities you love, whatever they may be.
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 or speak with your GP for further advice.