Acute (short term) lower back pain is a common complaint we see at our clinics. We are also regularly asked for advice on the best way to manage an acute bout of back pain. This blog will hopefully help you gain a better understanding and management of the condition.
How serious is acute lower back pain?
The reassuring thing is that acute lower back pain is very common and very rarely relates to serious damage, and is more likely to be a minor sprain or strain. One study showed that only 11 out of 1,172 patients seeking assessment had anything serious to note (0.9%!!!!).
Acute back pain will usually last a short period and you are likely to be 85% recovered in a few weeks and 100% recovered after a few months.
Despite these really low figures of serious injury, up to 30% of short term back pain can develop into to chronic (long term) back pain. This may be due to many things, from poor initial information or a movement pattern that was initially protective becoming provocative.
What should I do in the event of low back pain?
First things first, don’t worry! As the stats above show, there is minimal risk involved when it comes to lower back pain and it’s not likely to be anything serious.Should I get a scan?
It’s most likely best to NOT get a scan. Reports suggest that people in pain want a scan to understand what they have ‘damaged’. However, we are starting to see that the ‘damage’ we see on scans is very poorly linked to lower back pain, and a lot of these ‘damages’ are just NORMAL (see image) changes that we see in people that are pain free. Early scans often result in a poorer outcome.
In a pain free population we may see:
- bulging discs
- degenerated or black discs
- herniated discs
- ‘arthritic’ changes visible.
Unfortunately these changes are often wrongly linked to back pain, which can result in worse pain and disability. An example may be someone having a fall and experiencing a bout of lower back pain – they then get scanned which reveals some degenerative (such as arthritis) changes which are explained to be the cause of the pain. In this instance, degenerative changes will have occurred gradually over time and are extremely unlikely to be the cause of this sudden bout of back pain.
Should I rest?
Resting may be helpful initially. However, prolonged bed rest can lead to higher levels of pain and increased disability. You are better to find a way of keeping active in a pain free manner. This could be something as basic as a brisk walk, cycle or a swim.
How can a physio help?
A physiotherapy appointment can help you to relieve those initial symptoms and can also massively reassure you that everything is ok. You can receive advice on how to best manage initial pain, provocative movements and what are the best types of exercise for you to perform to avoid complete rest.
Also, despite all the positivity around back pain not likely being anything serious, there are small risks of serious pathology and even illness. A physiotherapist will remain vigilant and ensure that these things do not go unmissed.
Why are Synergy different?
At Synergy we believe in complete rehabilitation and we want to make sure you are not one of those 30% that develop long term pain. This involves you returning to your previous level of activity pain free and with reduced risk of recurrence.
One thing that can predict short term back developing to longer term back pain is initial protective, stiff movement patterns lingering round even though pain has reduced. We screen for these things during our initial rehab assessment and will give you corrective exercises to make sure any non-helpful patterns are corrected.
What’s the next step?
Don't let things fester. It's vitally important to seek specialist help to keep your body and mind well maintained.
Click here to book a free online consultation.
Or call one of our clinics now
Woking clinic: 1483 608733.
Egham clinic: 01784 618118.
Has this blog been helpful?
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