Management of Acute Low Back Pain

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Episodes of lower back pain can affect you during both your daily routine and favorite activities. You’re not alone! Almost everyone experiences back pain (approximately 80% of adults) at some point during their lives. Symptoms associated with back pain can vary for each individual and are dependent on many factors. Your physical therapist can perform a thorough assessment and provide practical recommendations in order to help you return toward your baseline. Avoidance of complete rest and prioritizing continuation of work and activity (to tolerance) are important.


Is My Back Pain Serious?

There is a plethora of research on the topic of both acute (sudden onset) and chronic (persistent) low back pain. Regarding acute back pain, less than 1 percent of patients demonstrate serious underlying conditions like fracture, infection, or cancer. Additionally, the overwhelming majority of new exacerbations of low back pain improve or resolve within 6 weeks following its onset. It’s important to remember following the onset of pain that “hurt” does not always mean “harm.” A higher pain intensity today compared to yesterday does not mean that there is new/increased tissue injury, pain is a compex result of many different contributing factors.


How Do I Manage My Back Pain?

Our first instinct with back pain is to lay down, rest, and “take it easy”. We recommend not following this urge. We recommend avoiding bed rest and to keep performing all daily activities to the best of your ability. This includes your usual exercise routine, with modifications made as needed. For those that experience persistent low back pain, exercise may have a preventive effect in terms of the frequency of back pain episodes. We have included some of our go-to movements for patients with acute low back pain, performed to tolerance, in order to begin to dissociate pain with movement.


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1. Cat/Camels (think of lengthening your spine as you round and shortening your spine as you arch, as demonstrated by Miles)
2. Open Books
3. Press-ups to elbows (easier)
4. Press-ups to hands (harder)
5. Bridges
6. Squats front view (can sit down to chair at the bottom of motion if needed)
7. Squats side view
These exercises are geared towards helping us continue move instead of stopping all movement (which is typically our first instinct when in pain). Try 2 sets of 10 repetitions, to the best of your ability, to start.

Our Braintree and Norwell locations are currently still open as we continue to safely practice, keeping both our patients and staff protected.  We will work with you to discuss your options and provide you with the best exercises that can alleviate back pain. Our physical therapists can customize treatment plans to get you back to doing what you love most. Call us today.

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