I “TWEAKED” My Low Back...What Do I Do?!
First: Stop, Do Not Panic, and Keep Your Back Moving!
You can see a Physiotherapist at Shift Physiotherapy in Edmonton without referral.
Most pain in the lower back tends to fall underneath the category of “non-specific mechanical low back pain” and WILL get better on its own.
It can be hard to believe that the electric zing up your spine when you bend forward isn’t a bulged disc or damaged tissue... This is the amazing adaptive nature of the body. The pain you feel is most likely not due to tissue damage, but rather a protective alarm meant to dissuade you from moving through movements perceived to be dangerous. There was a time (of injury) when in the moment, you placed stress on the back that it wasn’t prepared for and now your body wants to keep you safe from those stressors.
This pain alarm is helpful, but can become maladaptive. Our body’s natural healing processes can become convoluted by limiting beliefs about pain and stifled by lack of movement. Under these circumstances, an acute low back injury can become chronic/complex. We see a cycle of pain and immobility beginning with fear of movement. (Check out this blog on Complex pain!)
Therefore, my first piece of advice is…
Don’t stop moving or doing the things that you like to do!
...INSTEAD MODIFY them (doing less, less intensely, slower…)
Work gently into the sore ranges of motion:
Windshield Wipers: Let knees fall gently side to side
Forward Fold: Inhale deeply, then exhale as your fold forward
Prone Ly: Spend 5-10 minutes here with your low back in extension
Manage your pain short-term using coping strategies that have worked for you before:
Manage “stressors” on the back (things that make it sore or irritated). Ex: long car rides, heavy lifting at work, awkward sitting or lying positions.
Return to “painful” activities using graded exposure.
Ask yourself: What do I believe about my pain? Is fear holding me back?
The Worst Thing You Can Do for a Mechanical Low Back Injury is to Stop Moving Completely!
Followed closely by ignoring the injury and pushing through everything.
Aim to land between these two: A space where you respect the pain and meet your back where it is at while knowing it IS safe to move.
Working Within Pain Looks Like:
Easing back when something elicits sharp pain, or pain more than 3-4 on a scale of 10
Ease back by reducing weight, sets or reps, or the range through which you are loading the affected joint, time spent doing exercise, or choosing a new exercise
Being mindful of how the body responds to an activity or exercise, we want to return to baseline symptoms by 24hrs later
Avoid performing a movement or activity with the expectation of pain, ease into it slowly and wait to see how your body responds
There ARE a Few Instances When One Should Look Further into Their Low Back Pain
Low back pain resulting from trauma
Unexplained weight loss
History of Cancer
Low back pain associated with fever, chills
Progressive or severe pain
Unchanging, unrelenting pain not related to body position
Neurological symptoms: numbness and tingling, weakness, poor control of the legs
Changes in bowel or bladder habits
Visit your doctor if you identify with a CLUSTER of these symptoms, rather than just one.
A physiotherapist at Shift Physiotherapy in Edmonton can also screen you for any potential red flags, and then help you navigate your return to the activities that are meaningful to you!
Book your orthopedic physiotherapy treatment today!