Read all about it!

The latest Shawe Physio news & Healthcare science

Acute Low Back Pain

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | April 28th, 2017

More than likely, you have heard someone say that they “threw their back out” at some point. Maybe it was when they went to bend down to pick something up, when they were twisting in an awkward way, or it might have just happened while they were sitting down without moving at all. If the pain came on less than 3 months ago and is located in the lower back, it is known as acute low back pain.

The sudden onset of symptoms can severely impact your life by immediately causing feelings of discomfort, fear and frustration as it suddenly becomes difficult to do almost anything you would normally do in your life. So when this happens, what are you supposed to do about it?

In this article we will discuss some possible causes of acute low back pain and the most important steps you can take to alleviate your symptoms as soon as possible.


What causes acute low back pain?

Generally, the symptoms of acute low back pain are related to bending, twisting or lifting type of activity. These symptoms might take you by surprise in the moment and it might feel like you can’t move your back at all.

Unfortunately, there is not always a clear answer as to why this happens. It is most likely a small sprain of one of the ligaments in the back and although the sprain may be small, it can be very painful. It is important to remember that this type of low back pain does not indicate something severe 98% of the time. There is very likely nothing to worry about or to protect here.

However, 2% of low back pain cases may be a sign of a more severe problem. If any of these apply to you, you should see a health care professional:


– Constant pain that does not increase or decrease based on movement or changing positions;

Back pain which started after a severe traumatic accident (like falling off a building or a bad car accident);

– Bruises on your back in the area of pain;

– Loss of bladder or bowel control;

– Saddle area numbness;

– Numbness, weakness affecting one or both legs which is progressively worsening over time

 If none of these apply to you, feel assured that your back is overall healthy – it has sustained a small injury and just like a sprained ankle, it will heal and gradually get better.


Examples of healthy movements for your low back

The low back is one of the strongest areas in the body and can withstand many forces and movements on a day-to-day basis and is not made to be still or braced. The best advice for acute low back pain is to keep it moving. In the incidence of acute lower back pain try to do these exercises daily:



Lower trunk rotation: allow knees to gently fall side to side slowly, reaching the point of low back discomfort before switching directions. This is a gentle continuous movement side to side.

10-20 times each session

2-3 sessions per day                                                    



Cat/Camel: arch your back while you look at your knees until you feel a stretch or reach your point of discomfort in your back, then gently reverse the curve of your spine while you look in front of you again, until you feel a stretch or discomfort. 

10-20 times each session

2-3 sessions per day



Lumbar Sidebending: keep your hips above your knees and shoulders above wrists. Rotate your upper back/shoulders as if you are looking at one of your hips, then turn and look at your other hip. This is a gently continuous movement in each direction.

10-20 times each direction per session

 2-3 sessions per day



Seated Pelvic Tilts: Use your pelvis to change the arch angle of your spine (while keeping shoulders and upper back upright and still). Tuck your tail bone then point your tail bone behind you.

10-20 times each session

3-5 times per day (easy to do at your desk or in the car)



Other Strategies to Decrease Pain

– Go about your normal routine: Avoiding movement and your normal routine can cause increased stiffness and more pain.

– Try not to worry or stress about your pain: The brain acts like an amplifier of pain, so if you worry or think about your pain the worse it can get.

– Have a healthy lifestyle: sleeping 6+ hours per night, eating healthy and balanced foods and avoiding smoking can help your back pain.


Should I see a physiotherapist?

If you have tried the above suggestions for about a week and your pain has remained the same or worsened, you will likely benefit from an assessment by a qualified physiotherapist. On the other hand, if you feel your circumstances are different and aren’t sure if these exercises apply to you, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with a physio to determine the best course of action that is specific to you.