by Adam Brown
updated July 18, 2020
The first time you wake up with low back pain can be distressing. You immediately realize that a pain free back is required to do the simplest things like getting out of bed, putting on your socks or even brushing your teeth. You begin to think “will it always be like this? and Is this my new normal?”
The First Rule of Back Pain – Don’t Panic!
The first thing you should know is that the vast majority of back pain is not an indication that you have a serious problem. For most people, this condition will get better with time and if you commit yourself to treating it properly you are very likely to get better. Anxiety is known to make a person’s perception of pain worse. So, try not to entertain catastrophic and stressful thoughts. Instead remind yourself that this is temporary.
Slowly get moving.
Movement is painful at first but typically improves after a few minutes. There are several exercises that your Physiotherapist can teach you to restore normal pain free mobility of your spine. If you have not seen your Physiotherapist yet, take 15 minutes to get your spine moving with a brisk walk on flat ground. It may hurt a bit at first, but most people will find that after a short time, things begin to improve. This is a strategy you can use throughout your day. Typically, people will find that their back becomes painful and stiff after sitting or standing in one place for longer than 15-20 minutes.
Things to Avoid When Experiencing Back Pain
In the early stages of an episode of back pain things will feel very fragile and unstable. Rest assured that your spine can do more than it seems. If you avoid a few key things it will help to ensure that the activity you are taking on is not making your pain worse.
- Do not stay in bed! Being idle in bed is a sure-fire way to make your back pain last longer and be more intense. So even if it is painful try to get up and get moving.
- Do not lift heavy objects. Give your spine a break from heavy loads. When you need to lift smaller objects, keep them close to your body and lift with your spine straight and both feet firmly planted shoulder width apart on the floor.
- Avoid sitting for longer than 20 min. at a time and choose firm chairs with good support.
Tips to Help Get Through an Episode of Back Pain
Here are a few things you can do to help move through your back pain more quickly and comfortably.
- Gentle movement – I know I already said it, but it bears repeating. The more you remain active with low impact movement the better your back pain will be and the shorter this episode of pain will be.
- Use your arms! When you have to lean over a counter (such as prepping food or brushing your teeth) place your hand on the counter as another point of stability. This will help to reduce the strain on your back.
- Use lumbar support when sitting. When sitting you will find that if your spine is maintained in the same position that it is when you are comfortably standing, you will not stiffen up nearly as much.
- Heat for pain relief. You can apply some mild heat to your back a few times a day to help alleviate some of your pain. Apply heat for 10-15 minutes and allow your skin to return to its normal temperature before reapplying.
Call Your Physiotherapist
A Physiotherapist with experience in back pain is an invaluable resource. While the advice above is safe for any back pain, it is not specific to the type of back pain you have. A qualified Physiotherapist will do an assessment to determine what type of back pain you are experiencing, develop a treatment plan to solve the problem faster, and reduce the likelihood of recurrence. Our staff at Cornerstone Physiotherapy in Toronto, North York and Burlington have specific post-graduate training to expertly treat spinal conditions including low back pain. Call us today, we can help!
Adam Brown MClScPT
Adam is an advanced practice physiotherapist with specific training to assess and provide treatment recommendation for complex spinal disorders. He helped pilot the ISAEC spinal assessment program providing appropriate direction to patients with low back dysfunction.
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