Acute lower back injury is an umbrella term for a range of different injuries pertaining to the lower back, although all back injuries are usually quite painful. This type of injury is a common and quite debilitating injury. Injuring your back can be scary because, historically, we have been led to believe that our spines are fragile, vulnerable structures and that a back injury is a life sentence. This is NOT the case.
Most acute back pain can be managed very simply, which may come as a surprise to you. Rehabilitation does not need to be complicated; pain management is paramount, and so is a timely return to normality. So, what should you do if you hurt your back? How do you get acute lower back pain relief?
Depending on the severity of your issue, it is always advisable to see a physiotherapist who can help to develop a management plan.
Is physiotherapy good for lower back pain? Definitely! Physiotherapists have the capacity to assess your injury and identify any cause for concern. Your physiotherapist will test your strength and sensation in your legs, your reflexes, and a bunch of what are called “special tests” to gauge and understand the nature of your pain. Usually, these tests are all negative and suggest that your back pain is self-limiting and easily overcome with pain management strategies, movement and return to normal activity. Even so, acute low back pain that radiates into the legs is usually not of great concern, but should it not resolve in a timely manner, a referral to a specialist might be considered.
You most likely will not require imaging
Unless your physiotherapist is concerned about significant injury, which they will screen for (which, again, is VERY unlikely), you do not need to get a scan. A scan will not change your management plan. Evidence shows that many findings on diagnostic scans do not correlate with clinical findings, so if you are looking for an accurate representation of “what’s going on,” don’t expect to find one.
Activity modification is key!
Most of the time, when we hurt our backs, we are told or intuitively believe that rest is best. This is NOT the case! Movement is an excellent form of pain relief and is integral for recovery. Rest is advised in the way of activity modification, not complete rest. Modifications to activity should allow you to participate in your daily activities to the best of your ability whilst facilitating your recovery.
Too much rest can lead to unnecessary deconditioning and delay the return to normal activity. This is where physiotherapy exercises for lower back pain come in. You can talk to your physiotherapist about what modifications you can make to your activity and participation.
Short-term symptom relief can lessen the burden of acute pain, though it is not going to “fix” it. However, short-term pain management strategies can assist you in getting moving and returning to normality. Although not essential, a desire for short-term relief is understandable, and your physiotherapist and general practitioner can work together to help you. Analgesia, exercises, massage, bracing, heat, and water therapy are some short-term symptom relief modalities that may be suitable to incorporate into your management plan.
If your experience of pain concerns you, it is beneficial to find a physiotherapist who can educate you about pain science, injury mechanisms, and tissue healing. Find an expert on physiotherapy for lower back pain, someone who can reassure you that you have the self-efficacy and confidence to manage your acute experience of pain. Catastrophic thinking, rumination, fear avoidance and maladaptive coping strategies may hinder your recovery, so finding a physiotherapist you trust who can guide and empower you in your recovery makes all the difference!
Expect a full recovery!
Most people believe that it will never be the same once they injure their back! This is not the case and can quite often be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The low back is a robust, adaptive, and strong structure with a great capacity for recovery, just like every other structure in our body. Pain is complicated, and sometimes individuals do go on to develop persistent pain, though this very rarely has anything to do with the integrity of the spine. Injury can be overwhelming, but you should expect to make a full recovery after an acute bout of low back pain.
I hope this article has been insightful for you. This basic guide is intended to manage acute benign low back pain and provide essential information on the best treatment for acute lower back pain.
Please discuss the most suitable way to manage your back pain with your health practitioners. Just know that most of the time, it is nothing to fret over!
Blog by Brittany Romas – Physiotherapist, PhysioChoice Frankston Victoria.
Link to her online bio: https://www.physiochoice.com.au/practice/frankston
Brittany holds a Bachelor of Applied Science and a Master of Physiotherapy from La Trobe University. She is currently studying for her Masters of Sports and Exercise Physiotherapy at La Trobe University. She is an avid powerlifter and has a strong interest in strength conditioning, acute sports injuries, and occupational-related conditions. Brittany has spent time in South East Asia working with paediatric patients with a large range of neurological disorders; she has developed a keen interest in providing disability support in conjunction with the NDIS. Brittany believes in a holistic approach to her client’s rehabilitation and treatments, including Hydrotherapy, Dry Needling and Clinical Pilates.