Managing Acute Back Pain

If acute back pain has occurred recently (within the past 2 weeks), the following are tips to minimize and hopefully abolish this pain:

When Symptoms are Felt Below the Spine

Sometimes when one’s back is injured, symptoms may include numbness, tingling, or pain running down to the buttocks, thigh, or even all the way to the foot and toes. Such symptoms may be temporary, or they may be persistent. These cases tend to be more serious since a nerve running from the spine down the leg may be irritated. Pain radiating farther down the leg over time can be a sign that the condition is worsening. If this happens, one should avoid activities which cause this. Most of the time these aggravating activities involve flexed positions, twisting, and bending forward. The goal should be to have the area where the pain is felt farthest down the leg move up toward the spine, or centralize, over time. If leg symptoms are severe, persistent, and radiating farther down the leg, it is best to consult with a McKinley provider for the appropriate course of action.

Exercises

If the injury is aggravated by bending forward, prolonged sitting, or lifting, then the following exercises or positions may be helpful. If pain increases after performing these exercises, then stop and consult your health care provider.

Figure lying flat on stomach with hands next to shoulders, palms on flat on the floor, then pressing up through arms while keeping pelvis down.

Press-Up

Start by lying flat on your stomach. Press up through your arms while keeping your pelvis down. Perform 10-20 reps at a time periodically during the day. If this helps to decrease pain, this can be done up to every 2 hours during the day. Stop if pain increases or moves toward the buttocks or down the leg(s).

Student seated at desk in an office chair with lumbar support. She is sitting with her back against the lumbar support of the chair close enought so that her elbows are close to her body and bent at roughly 90 degrees.The top of the monitor is at her eye level.

Proper Posture

Keep the low back supported by the chair or a lumbar pillow, move close to the desk so that your elbows are close to your body and at roughly 90 degrees, keep the feet on the floor or if necessary on a small support. The top of the monitor should be at approximately eye level.


Student staning with both feet together with each hand on the back of each hip. Back is arched so the hips are slightly forward of the feet and the sholders are slightly behind the feet. The head is rotated back so the face is looking up and behind.

Standing Back Extension

While supporting your hands on hips, bend backwards 5-10 times, holding it for 2-3 seconds each time. This exercise may be especially beneficial after prolonged sitting.


References

"Low Back Pain: Treatment and Prevention." Harvard Men’s Health Watch. Dec 2006: 4-6.
Brennan, G., et al. "Lower Back Pain in Physically Demanding College Academic Programs: A Questionnaire Based Study." BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 8 (2007): 67.
Kofotolis, N. and Sambanis, M. "The influence of exercise on musculoskeletal disorders of the lumbar spine." Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 45.1 (2005): 84-92.
Becker, M., et al. "Postural changes while sitting may trigger back pain." BioMechanics 10.8 (2003): 52-54.
Devroey, C., et al.  "Evaluation of the effect of backpack load and position during standing and walking using biomechanical, physiological and subjective measures." Ergonomics 50.5 (2007): 728 – 742.