I Just Felt Sharp Back Pain and Now I Can't Stand up Straight. What Should I Do?
Let's paint a picture of the all too common scenario: You have just finished a long day at work and you are at home. You notice a small piece of trash on the ground at home and you go to pick it up. BOOM. You feel a sharp twinge in your back and now it feels like you cannot stand up straight all the way. Surprisingly, this is a very common scenario and often there is a simple set of steps you can take to help the pain immediately. Many times the pain is very sharp and is felt in the lower back region and sometimes radiates down into the buttocks.
Note: If you are experiencing any tingling/numbness/loss of sensation to your private area or experiencing a sudden change in your bowel/bladder function, you should NOT perform these exercises but instead go to your local emergency department for immediate evaluation.
STEP 1: Back First Aid
Find somewhere to lie flat on your stomach, and use a pillow under your abdomen if you need to.
While you are in this position, it is essential that you try to relax the muscles in your back, buttocks, and abdomen. This will help to ease muscle spasm and start to release the tension in your back. Try taking some deep breaths through your abdomen to assist the relaxation of the back muscles.
Note: If you are feeling pain/tingling/numbness into your leg/foot this exercise may not be appropriate for you. It is best to consult with your physiotherapist if you are unsure.
STEP 2: Regain Movement
If after a few minutes have passed and your back pain is starting to ease from the exercise in step 1, attempt to perform this exercise:
You may hold this position for 30 seconds or so. It should feel more like an uncomfortable pressure/tightness sensation rather than painful. If this is the case, repeat this motion for a total of 5 times.
STEP 3: Move!
It sounds counter-intuitive but resting your back after you have hurt it can actually make the pain worse and prolong your recovery. The spine is designed to move, and it is good practice to try to regain some movement back as soon as you able to.
Good choices at this stage would be gentle walking or other low impact activities such as swimming or the elliptical trainer.
STEP 4: Repeat
This sequence should help you get moving again, but its best to repeat the sequence several times during the day for optimal results. Many people will get the ideal results repeating this sequence every hour until the pain is resolved. In addition, following these basic first aid exercises, there are other additional exercises that can help.
What about other stretches? What about my core?
There are a number of risk factors for this type of low back pain including poor posture, poor muscle strength, muscle imbalances, previous low back pain, tightness in the hip joints, and many others.
To prevent recurrent episodes, it is best to get on a mobility and strengthening program. Come in for a visit and I can show you some stretches/strengthening exercises to get started with.
Who are Physiotherapists?
Physiotherapists are university trained medical professionals qualified to assess and treat the conditions that are affecting the body’s movement system and function, and prescribe therapeutic exercise to sustain improved mobility. They are experts in treating back and neck conditions, among other muscle, joint, and nerve problems.
Nadir Mawji is a Registered Physiotherapist at The Clinic. You can learn more about him here.