Help! My Back “Went Out” Now What?!


            80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives. For some this pain can be so debilitating and excruciating to the point that they will have a hard time getting up from laying down or sitting. This pain is all too real and I’ve had many patients say things like:

“My back went out and I could barely move without excruciating pain”……

 “All I did was plug my charger in and the next thing I knew I was on the floor because my back pain was so bad”…….

 “I sneezed and next thing I knew I could no longer move without severe back pain”.

 We’ve all heard of a close friend or family member’s “back going out” but until we experience it then it’s hard to really tell how terrible it feels. Just imagine not being able to get out of bed, get up from a chair, or even do simple things like dress yourself without severe back pain. 

 If you ever find yourself in this unfortunate predicament there are a few vital steps you should and shouldn’t take. Depending on what you do may prolong the amount of time you’re in pain or may actually accelerate the healing process.


Don’t panic!

            The worst fears always pop up in our heads when we have low back pain.  “Will I need surgery?” “How will I be able to live like this?” “What if something is seriously wrong with my low back”? It is a concerning time but you should know that MOST cases of low back pain do resolve with the proper guidance and care. Research has shown that <3% of low back pain cases are caused by something serious (i.e cancer).  When you are in high amounts of pain it is VERY hard to be calm but I always recommend some deep breathing to those who are dealing with a sudden lower back pain episode. It can be hard to see even a week in advance or let alone even a few days but just know that this back problem will resolve if taken the right approach.


Avoid movements that cause the pain

    This might seem obvious but you would be surprised how many patients I’ve seen that were “stretching into the pain” or “working painful muscles” only to aggravate them more. Many times simple movements like getting up and down from the chair or getting in and out of bed can be really painful. To make getting out of a chair easier scoot to the edge and really focus on using your legs more to stand yourself up. It helps to “hinge” at the hips so that your lower back doesn’t bend. The same goes for sitting down in the chair. Focus on using your hips and legs to control lowering yourself down. Avoid excessive twisting when getting in and out of the car.


Forget everything you’ve been told about posture

      I see so many people come into my office who focus on the “perfect posture”. I’m sorry to say that perfect posture is a MYTH. The best posture is one that is variable and changing. For instance instead of worrying about sitting upright like a perfect soldier try and just sit relaxed for a little (dare I say even a little slouched). Everybody responds differently to different adjustments in posture. Don’t be afraid to try sitting slumped or slouched to see if that helps. In some cases that can be helpful and in other cases you may need to sit upright for the most relief. The point is don’t get married to a particular posture just because that was the one posture you “were told to sit in”.


You will get better!

       Just know that your back pain WILL subside. Yes it may be very painful right now but it will get better if you take a sound approach. Back pain attacks can be likened to the common cold. When you get a cold it can last 2-3 days or maybe even a week but it does get better. The same can be true for back pain IF the correct steps are taken to take care of it. It’s really hard to see 2-3 weeks in the future but know that most cases of acute flare ups in the low back resolve within a 6-10 week period. You should see gradual improvements each way if you are taking the right precautions and seeking competent help.

     An acute back pain attack can be scary but it doesn’t need to ruin our lives. While it can be a major inconvenience it’s the steps you take after you experience the flare up that will help determine your success in recovery. Seek help from a competent medical provider that is familiar with acute lower back pain flare ups. A physical therapist can help you determine what caused the problem, help you alleviate the pain, and show you ways to prevent it from coming back. If you want to learn more than you can up a call with a back pain specialist physical therapist to help you determine what you should do next.