Lower back pain can catch you off guard, disrupt your life and leave you feeling stuck (figuratively and literally)! Lower back pain will affect about 85% of us at some point in our lives, but good news is, most cases can be successfully self-managed with movement, education and exercise programs.
The main aim initially is to re-gain normal movement and return to normal routine as soon as possible, including work and exercise.
What To Do In The First 7 Days Of Lower Back Pain:
- Try to get out for a 20-30 minute walk every day
- Avoid bed rest
- Try the following exercises
- Extensions in standing (or lying on stomach)
- Double leg bridges
- Side plank
- Bird dog
Sleep is very important to allow the body to recover. Lower back pain can often limit or disturb your usual sleeping pattern and there is a lot of concern over which position is “safest” to sleep. The answer is that the safest position is normally the one that is most comfortable. It may help to use pillows, either under your knees if lying on your back, or under your ribs if you’re lying on your side.
Anti-inflammatories may be encouraged to use for a brief period to soften pain levels depending on the severity, if your body tolerates them.
Other questions you might have at this stage could be:
“Do I Need A Scan?”
Simple answer: probably not. Signs that you should seek advice from a physiotherapist or doctor which may warrant further investigation include:
- Experiencing pins and needles or numbness in both legs at the same time
- Bladder dysfunction
- History of cancer
- Unrelenting night pain (constant pain)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Major trauma – e.g. motor vehicle accident/fall from a height
“Do I Need To Rest?”
Guidelines promote getting back to normal daily activities as you’re able to, and to avoid bed rest. You may need to modify your movements for a while but resting in bed won’t do you any good.
“Will I Be In Pain Forever?”
Absolutely not! Pain management in the first 1-2 weeks will always include general movement. However, depending on pain levels, we might suggest applying heat or the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories drugs for short periods if needed. Lower back pain is normal and gets better!
“What Do I Need To Avoid?”
Avoid heavy lifting for now – focus on regaining basic range of movement first and build a solid foundation before we begin strength work.
Avoid bed rest.
Depending on the severity of lower back pain, there maybe be postures to temporarily avoid such as sitting in low couches, crossing your legs or slouching in a car seat.
It is also important to be aware of psychosocial factors such as stress, anxiety or depression are strongly linked with lower back pain. If you have noticed changes in your mental health, or maybe stresses at work or in your personal life have increased, making an effort to address these factors as part of your rehab will increase the likelihood of success.