- Back Pain Relief for the Just Injured
- What should I do after I’ve thrown my back out and am in agony?
- Step #1: Don’t be afraid of the back pain
- Step #2: Avoid twisting or bending over
- Step #3: Get weight off of your low back aka “decompress your spine”
- Step #4: Try sliding your feet or shuffling instead of taking steps
- Step #5: Use crutches, a walker or even a rolling office chair when you can’t walk or move without pain
- Step #6: Ask for help from someone you trust
- Step #7: Find out if your doctor does house calls
- Step #8: Avoid stairs if possible til your back feels better
- When should you go to the doctor for back pain?
- Hang in there
- Back pain that is so severe he can’t move and if he tries he falls. What could it be?
Back Pain Relief for the Just Injured
Witnessing someone hurt their back can be a scary experience. That moment of watching someone go from full mobility to practical paralysis can leave you with a lot of questions: Should you be rush them to the ER? Should you apply ice or heat? What position is best for achieving back pain relief? How long will it take to recover? These are all common concerns.
Back Pain Relief: When Is Emergency Care Warranted?
In most cases, there’s no need to rush to the emergency room to achieve back pain relief. “The person doesn’t need emergency care unless they can’t feel their legs or have severe numbness going down their legs,” says Cynthia Gormezano, MPT, owner of Cynergy Physical Therapy in New York City. Another case in which a hospital visit is warranted is if there is stinging nerve pain running down the leg. People with that type pain may need magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to rule out serious injury. In severe cases, a herniated disc that has bulged out of place may be pressing on the spinal cord, requiring emergency surgery. However, says Gormezano, “that is very rare.”
Back Pain Relief: First Steps
Everyone’s pain threshold is different, and some people may feel the need to visit the hospital to get prescription pain medications. But the majority of people can be treated at home with a generous dose of ice and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). The best thing to do immediately after someone throws out their back is to have them lie down on a firm surface and apply ice to the sore area. “Ice is absolutely key,” says Gormezano.
For those who are able to move around without further injuring themselves, it’s okay to do so. But “don’t force it,” says Gormezano, noting that pain can get worse if it is not addressed properly in the initial days after injury. After a couple days of rest and ice, the person should start to feel better. If after three to five days there is still no back pain relief, it’s a good idea to take the person to the doctor.
“When I hurt my back a few years ago, I tried to get back up and moved too fast, too early, which left me with lingering soreness for over six months,” recalls Christine Primavera, a Massachusetts resident who recently re-injured her back while playing golf. “This time, I made sure to rest and ice the injury until I was really ready to return to normal activity. And, after the fifth day, I had full mobility again.”
Back Pain Relief: Initial Exercises
Assuming the person is on the mend, it’s appropriate to begin applying heat instead of ice and to help them start performing some slow pelvic-tilt exercises. Before beginning any exercise regimen, however, Gormezano recommends that the person perform a self-assessment. “First, have them stand up and evaluate their pain.” she says. “They should ask themselves, ‘Does bending forward make me feel better, or does extending backward feel better?’ If the extension feels better, the person should sit down and lean backward for sets of six repetitions. If moving forward brings back pain relief, the person should lie on his back and bring his knees to the chest. This is a great way to start stretching the back.”
In addition to performing these exercises, those recovering from a recent injury can speed their path to recovery by sleeping on a firm surface and using “log rolling” when getting out of bed. Log rolling means moving the body as one unit opposed to bending or twisting. Twisting motions in general should be avoided, and heavy lifting of any kind is discouraged.
The feeling is all-too-familiar to the estimated 31 million Americans who live with back pain: Your back is out. Again.
But what exactly does that mean?
The feeling is hard to describe: For you, it may be a twinge that causes tenderness and discomfort. Or, the pain might be so intense that it hurts to make even the slightest movement. It can be concentrated in a specific area or spread out. You might feel achiness, numbness and tingling in your butt and legs.
You can lower your chances of throwing your back out by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. That means getting regular exercise, losing weight, and reducing stress. And if you smoke, you should quit.
You can also protect your back by not lifting heavy objects. If you can’t avoid it, be sure lift the right way: Bend your knees and keep your back straight. It will keep you from pulling something or hurting your back.
It’s hard to know if or when your back will go out. It could happen while you’re moving furniture or shoveling snow. But even something as simple as sneezing or bending over to tie your shoe could trigger back spasms.
When it happens, there are some simple things you can do to relieve your pain.
What should I do after I’ve thrown my back out and am in agony?
If you experience one of those oh-my-lord moments when your back gives out on you, know the first line of action: Grab the ice. Applying ice for 20 minutes at a time is going to lower the inflammation that’s occurring from the strain. After you remove the ice, the blood flow increases in a way that relieves injured tissues away yet doesn’t promote inflammation. Use ice for the first 24 to 48 hours, then switch to heat, which will help promote blood flow to speed healing (be it though pads, sauna, wraps, heating pads, fire-breathing dragons). By the way, when you use ice, your back will feel better afterward as it works to warm itself up. When you use heat, it feels better during the heat treatment itself, and then tends to stiffen up when you stop using it as the area cools down. Only use heat for 20 minutes at a time, or else you can overheat the muscles.
Of course, you can also use anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation, and docs may prescribe a muscle relaxant or shoot local anesthetic into the muscle (trigger point injections) to keep the darn things from spasming and feeling tighter than a cyclist’s shorts. For a natural alternative, willow bark, the herb from which aspirin was derived, is often as effective as ibuprofen, and does not carry the risk of irritating your stomach if you rub it on.
You can also try certain stretches and exercises to alleviate back pain.
In Part 1 of this 2 part series, I went over some basic home remedies to help relieve lower back pain immediately after hurting your back. But medical websites say that if your pain is really severe, you should see a doctor to make sure nothing more serious is going on. But how are you supposed to do that when your lower back pain is so bad that that you can barely walk, stand or sit up?
You might not even be able to walk to the front door to let in someone who can drive you to the hospital. Perhaps sharp pains shoot down your leg, or your back spasms.
So I wanted to share 8 tips that had helped me relieve my low back pain and start moving again. (As always, please remember that I’m not a healthcare professional. So this shouldn’t be treated as medical advice. It’s info based on my personal experience dealing with severe lower back pain).
Step #1: Don’t be afraid of the back pain
OK, maybe seeing this makes you want to stop reading, but hear me out. Pain is your body’s feedback to tell you what positions are okay and which are not. If you feel pain, you know what what not to do. When I got hurt, I was only able to figure out what positions I could be comfortable in through some painful trial and error. You’ll need to feel some pain to figure out what works. I know it’s easier said than done. Don’t let the fear overwhelm you.
Step #2: Avoid twisting or bending over
Try to keep your face, chest, crotch, knees and toes all facing in the same direction. And you want your back “straight” in a neutral spine position, whether you’re lying down, sitting up or standing. (Basically, a neutral spine is the spine’s “natural shape” with 3 curves in proper form). This can be a huge challenge if you are lying in bed and trying to get up. Or even when you stand, you might be hunched over despite your best efforts to get upright. But if your back pain is due to sciatica – i.e. a pinched sciatic nerve in your lower spine – twisting or bending over can put more pressure on the nerve and cause a dull ache or even shooting pain.
Side Note: Even after you recover, keeping a neutral spine while doing normal, everyday activities is one of the most important ways to prevent low back pain from recurring. By “everyday activities”, I mean everything from shoveling to vacuuming to doing the dishes,
Step #3: Get weight off of your low back aka “decompress your spine”
Try using your arms to support your body weight. The idea is to relieve your lower back from bearing the weight of your body because your weight is compressing the bones, discs and muscles in your back and putting pressure against the sciatic nerve. This is also known as “spinal decompression”.
For example, if you are trying to sit upright in bed, try pushing your hands on the bed directly beneath you so that your arms are bearing your bodyweight instead of your back. Or if you can get into a chair with armrests, use your hands to push down on the armrests to lift your butt off the seat and get weight off your tailbone. If you are standing, hold onto a kitchen counter or furniture to support yourself.
Personally, I like to decompress my spine by hanging from a pull-up bar, but there are other decompression exercises you can do easily from home, too.
Multi-Gym Pro: #1 rated pull-up bar according to
The New York Times/ Wirecutter.com
Step #4: Try sliding your feet or shuffling instead of taking steps
When you have such severe low back pain that you can barely walk, you might have difficulty standing. In fact, just putting weight on your legs could trigger the shooting pain.
But you probably have some strength in one leg and little to none in the other. So what worked for me was having something to support myself against (like furniture or a crutch) and shuffling/sliding my feet across the ground rather than taking steps.
Step #5: Use crutches, a walker or even a rolling office chair when you can’t walk or move without pain
This is an extension of the last two tips. Again, the idea is to get your body weight off of your spine and use your arms to provide support. If these tools are available to you, I would highly recommend taking advantage of them.
When my significant other hurt her lower back, we got her crutches and a walker. These helped her get moving til she built up enough strength to walk independently.
“Amazon’s Choice” for crutches “Amazon’s Choice” for walker
When I suffered back spasms, what helped me move around my place was getting myself into a rolling office chair. Not only did the office chair spare me from having to stand on my legs, but I could also use the arms of the chair to push my body off of the seat and relieve pressure from my tailbone. If you can barely walk from back pain, why not roll? 🙂
“Amazon’s Choice” for office chair
Step #6: Ask for help from someone you trust
Obviously, this assumes someone can get access to you if you can’t let them in. But if that is possible, they can assist with simple tasks that have become painful and exhausting, like getting food and water or helping you get to the bathroom. Asking for help can be difficult because it means you are vulnerable. You’re showing weakness or even facing the possibility of rejection. But setting aside your pride can make a big difference. (It did for me). If you aren’t living with a partner, family member, or roommate, consider asking a friend, neighbor, or someone else trustworthy.
Step #7: Find out if your doctor does house calls
If you can manage to get to the door and let someone in, you should ask if your doctor makes house calls. That could spare you from getting out of the house and maybe save you some money because having an ambulance bring you to the emergency room can be very expensive. Keep in mind though that some doctors do not make house calls or will only do it for patients above a certain age. But it won’t hurt to ask.
Step #8: Avoid stairs if possible til your back feels better
This is probably a no brainer, but going up and down stairs can be fatiguing. And if you accidentally fall, that can make your current situation tougher. If possible, try to avoid using stairs til you’ve figured out how to stand and walk in a way that doesn’t cause pain and have someone to help.
When should you go to the doctor for back pain?
Now, by the time you start feeling strong enough to move around, you might be tempted to skip seeing the doctor. But more serious issues might actually be happening. The Mayo Clinic recommends getting medical attention if you have:
- Shooting pain down either leg
- New bowel or bladder problems
- Back pain due to a fall, blow to the back or trauma
- Weakness, numbness or tingling in either leg
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pain that is getting worse or continues over time
Hang in there
Finally, I’d like to wrap up this article by acknowledging that back pain can be scary, especially if it’s your first time hurting your back and you can’t walk or move. But my doctor gave me some advice that really encouraged me, so I wanted to pass it on to you:
Trust your back. Your back is strong.
Though it might not seem like it, your back is fighting to heal itself. So try to take heart, talk to your doctor, and I hope you have a speedy and smooth recovery.
When your low back is in so much pain than you can barely walk or move, follow these tips:
- Don’t be afraid of the pain. The pain is scary, but it helps you figure out which positions and movements you can do and which to avoid. Let the pain be your guide.
- Avoid twisting or bending over. Quite possibly, you have sciatica, i.e. a pinched nerve along your spine that runs down your leg. Any twisting or bending could put more pressure on that nerve and trigger pain and/or spasms.
- Get weight off of your low back aka decompress your spine. This helps relieve pressure off of your pinched sciatic nerve. I like to decompress my spine by hanging from a pull-up bar.
- Slide your feet or shuffle instead of taking big steps when you walk.You probably don’t have full strength in both legs to support your full bodyweight without triggering pain.
- Use crutches, a walker or even a rolling office chair to get mobile without exhausting yourself.
- Ask for help from someone you trust because simple tasks are painful.
- Find out if your doctor makes house calls because this back pain freaking hurts!
- Avoid stairs when possible to avoid slips and falls that might make things worse.
P.S. – In case you missed it, I’d recommend reviewing these simple home remedies for relieving lower back pain. It’s info compiled from Harvard Health, Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic:
Back pain that is so severe he can’t move and if he tries he falls. What could it be?
Yesterday my husband bent over to get a sock out of the dryer. When he stood back up he felt a twinge and had to sit down. He then could hardly get his shoes on. He went ahead and went to work. He works on the install of heating/cooling in new homes. There is not a lot of heaving lifting or overly strenuous work. They stopped at the first house and install some duct, got back in the van and went to the next house. He got out of the van and then the pain escalated. I went and picked him up. He struggled to get in the car and then screamed randomly in pains all the way home. He used the heated seat and was able to ease out of the car once home. I went in to put somethings down and he was slowly making his way in. When I came back out to help he was on the ground. He couldn’t get up and screamed if we moved him. It took 3 of us to get him up and into a van to get to the hospital. The doctor at the hospital came in after about an hour and his pain had eased from being in the same position. She asked some questions but did no testing. She said this was common for adults to expierence. I’ve never seen anyone expierence this. They gave him 3 shots. An anxiety med, a pain shot, & I can’t remember the other. He was also given a script for a muscle relaxer, ibuprofen and oxycodone. Last night and this morning he was able to walk a small amount with a cane. This afternoon and on he can’t walk, or sit up even with the meds and cane. I have to bring him something to urinate in. This is not my husband. He does not complain or show pain. The pain is in the lower center of his back. It does not radiate anywhere. He complains about his hips a little when the pain is really bad. I think he might be straining on them. He is using the heating pad and it doesn’t seem to help either. As long as he doesn’t move he is okay. His feet have also swelled up this evening. He has never had back issues, pain, injuries or surgeries. He is 34 years old. He was a smoker for 16 years but recently quit. What could this be? Should we go to another doctor?
No one wants to spend six hours staring at the backside of their toilet. Have you ever looked at the backside of your toilet? Some bathrooms are laid out so you can’t even see the bowl’s grimy underbits unless you lie down and contort under a cabinet. You know the stuff that accumulates in the corner of your shower? That Death’s-armpit combination of unknowable funk and toe jam? That’s what lives on the rear of your toilet base.
Naturally, when I threw out my back, at the ripe old age of 35, I fell next to the toilet. When I tried to pull myself to a standing position—my legs and lower back were uselessly cramped—I collapsed even closer to the toilet. Somehow wedged myself against the wall, close enough to that funk to kiss it. Muscles on fire, my body unable to move or even be dragged out, for the better part of a day.
Upside: I now recognize the importance of religiously cleaning your toilet.
Downside: I threw my damn back out.
To a certain extent, this is typical. Back pain happens when and where you least expect it. If the pain is great enough, you fall, and you stay there for a while, frozen as you fell, because it hurts too much to move. You feel like the biggest moron on earth, because exercise almost certainly would have prevented the problem.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 80 percent of adults will experience lower back pain at some point in their lifetimes. A large percentage of those people will experience something called a back spasm—a painful situation where it feels like your body is trying to eat itself.
“Generally speaking, a spasm is a violent onset of your back muscles,” says Stuart McGill, Ph.D., professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and the author of Back Mechanic: The Secrets to a Healthy Spine Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You. “It’s an activation to a level that splints the spine into a certain position. If you move out of that position, the muscles burst on again to stop any movement.”
Back spasms have several different causes, McGill says, but for most people, the root lies in your back’s discs. What follows might be a bit much if you’re easily made queasy.
“In layman’s terms,” he says, “the disc is a general oval shape between two vertebrae. The middle of the disc is filled with jelly, like a jelly-filled donut. If you bend the ‘donut’ and squeeze it a certain way, you’ll force the jelly out a certain way.” Only your disc isn’t made of dough, obviously, it’s made of collagen fibers. “And those fibers delaminate, or get soft, if they get moved too many times,” McGill says. “There’s a ground substance that holds the fibers together. With motion, they slowly get a bit loose or weaken the bonds with one another, and delaminate and separate. The jelly slowly works its way through the softened fibers until they create a bulge.”
Picture this bulge like a bulge in a bicycle tire—something akin to when a tire breaks one of its inner belts, and the surface of the carcass expands. In your back, that bulge either touches a nerve root and causes a muscle spasm, or, McGill says, it will extrude a tiny bit, which fires off a massive inflammatory response that triggers the spasm.
“Most people attribute that to pulling a muscle in their back, but more often, it’s the disc underneath that causes the muscle spasm on top,” McGill says.
Either way, the end result is the same: Your back muscles hold your body together, so a back spasm makes you feel like you’re coming apart. Imagine a black hole in the center of your torso, then imagine that its gravity is trying to compress and fold your innards into a hole close to your lower intestine. Then put so much tension on those muscles that they don’t want to do anything else—move, stretch, whatever. Movement makes you scream, literally.
This is what happened to me. And as my doctor later told me, it’s all because I don’t exercise for beans.
Let’s walk through what happened: I’m 36 years old, but I was 35 at the time. Five-foot ten, 180 pounds, naturally skinny but a tiny lump in the middle if I don’t suck in my gut. (If I am awake, I am sucking in my gut.) With the exception of eating right and being naturally rail-shaped, I don’t take care of myself. I was fit once, in college. I rowed crew for two seasons, one hour a day, five days a week. It was nice. I looked nice. Then I stopped, and I didn’t.
None of this mattered a whit until last December, when my family went to the Cascade mountains for New Year’s Eve. Rented a cottage, with my wife and family, up above the snow line. My dad’s car blew its starter motor the day before we left to drive home; that night, the region got eight inches of snow.
Perhaps you see where this is going.
We had to push-start the car. In order to do this, I had to shovel a path in the snow, to make room. I may have been in a hurry, and I may have shoveled too vigorously. My back was a bit sore after. At the end of the day, it was more sore than that, but nothing serious—just a general ache. Like what you get from the mattress in a cheap hotel.
The next morning, I woke with a slight headache. I had the day off from work, and my wife was out with the kids. I walked into the bathroom, searching for the ibuprofen. After strolling through the door, I twisted my torso to the right, reaching for the light switch.
A second later, I sneezed, and the world came apart. I yelled something like “ARGHHHFUUUUHHH” and toppled like a tree. It was a long, wooden fall. My body was frozen solid in cramp. I landed like a lump of lead, a dead, smacky thud that jarred into my bones.
I began to laugh from the pain, but that hurt in itself, so I literally bit my tongue, hard, in order to stop. My mouth filled with blood. No one else was home, so I didn’t bother yelling for help. I had set my phone on the bathroom counter before I fell, so I couldn’t call my wife or parents. I spent 45 minutes clawing my fingers across our bathroom cabinets, trying to lift my whole body with just my fingertips, to reach the phone. It was fruitless.
Final detail: I had planned to get into the shower a moment later, so I was naked. In winter, in a bathroom that doesn’t heat that well, on bare tile. Cold, miserable, blood-covered teeth.
My wife, Adrienne, showed up 90 minutes later. She spent five minutes laughing at me, and then helped me put on underwear. I still couldn’t stand. Adrienne then called my dad, who tried to drag me out of the bathroom and onto the bed, only I couldn’t bend my torso around the door jamb. I got stuck between our bedroom and the bathroom, bent like an L, half in and half out, too cramped to get back into the bathroom or fully into the bedroom. And that’s where I sat, for the next seven hours, until the spasm released enough to let me crawl into bed. Which also hurt, but that should have been obvious. Even lying down was painful.
My daughter, then 3 years old, walked into the room and asked me why I was on the floor. She looked at my like my dog looks at the vacuum cleaner—kind of afraid, kind of not. She said I was funny. Then she walked over to my bed and started singing love songs to the pillows, because she was 3.
It was kind of funny. But also not.
The standard remedy for this sort of thing is time, plus alternating heat and ice. The heat relaxes your muscles, and the ice reduces the swelling. Some doctors prescribe painkillers. (I was given a muscle relaxer whose name I’ve since forgotten. It helped, but it also made me have long, one-sided conversations with lamps. Your mileage may vary.)
For almost a week, I was unable to leave the house without help. Stairs were an impossibility. Car seats were torture. So I embarked on what my general practitioner suggested: rest.
“Truth be known,” McGill says, “there’s not a hell of a lot that you can do when that is fresh and hot. Just let it simmer down, don’t do anything strenuous, and keep trying to move.” If it’s a posterior disc bulge—a disc that has expanded backward from its normal position, as many do, McGill says that simply laying on your stomach and breathing, letting your back relax into the floor as you exhale, can help.
The key is to not get ahead of yourself, or strain too much too early. At one point, two days into healing, feeling ambitious, I cantilevered myself into the bathtub for a hot soak. After which I was unable to get enough leverage to lift myself out. I just sat there, the water drained, naked and freezing, in a clammy ceramic hellpit.
Two weeks later, my doctor told me that preventative exercise, once or twice a week, would have kept this from happening. McGill echoes that. “The snow shoveling was no doubt a culminating event. You kept bending forward over and over, squeezing your spine with muscle activation that it wasn’t used to.” When I asked if the zero-prevention approach—ignoring your back altogether until something goes wrong—was common, he was emphatic.
“Flat-out yes,” he says. “Most people don’t take care of their backs.” In other words, sitting improperly, poor posture, and incorrect exercise are doing harm. Which you probably knew, but most people don’t do anything about it. And even fit guys can have back problems, because body health and spine health are tied, but not the same thing.
The key is to do something. To not put it off. McGill recommends this specific workout for preventing back pain. I realize that this story exists on MensHealth.com. If you are here, you may already know the importance of paying attention to your entire body, in which case I say, good for you, have a nice life. But if you don’t, consider this a warning: Remember my moment. Remember that your thirties creep up on you, and that one day, your body stops serving you unquestionably. It begins demanding sacrifice. You have to walk up to the altar of exercise and prostrate before it. Or it will prostrate you.
Sam Smith Sam Smith is R&T’s Editor-at-Large.
What to do if you get ‘stuck’ and experience severe back pain.
The week had started well. Clear blue skies, a fresh layer of fluffy snow and relatively short queues at the lifts. We eyed the fresh snow off piste, snowboards dangling as we climbed the mountains on precarious machines hovering 20ft up. As with many injuries it was hard to establish the clear cause. Was it the 3 months leading up to the trip of repetitive flexion mucking out stables. Was it the 2 long days of overload on muscles that were not used to 5 hours snowboarding per day? Or perhaps the triple flip that occurred off piste as we got ourselves into trouble on an area so steep we couldn’t stop. I am unsure why I felt no pain on the day of the accident. I remember feeling like it should have hurt. Particularly as I flew over a rock uncontrollably, taking out my friend who luckily was cushioned by the soft snow. Perhaps it was the adrenaline. Perhaps the ice cold snow that lay in my salopettes numbed any pain. The following day I woke up, pain free and made breakfast. When pulling on my thermals I felt a twinge. Taking a deep breath I willed my brain to relax the muscle. As I raised my leg again to put the thermals on I felt searing pain in my lower back and then the rapid contraction of my muscles. Spasm. So this was it. I was stuck. This phenomenon is not new to me. As a physio I have heard it describe often. However I had never experienced it first hand. I knew I must not get on the floor as would be unable to get up. But I really couldn’t move. Everything tiny movement sent unbelievable pain through my back and gluts. I managed to lower to all four near to the bed but was unable to put weight through my left knee. My right arm began to shake under the weight, but I was fixed. My fiancé looked on in shock asking what he could do but I knew the answer was absolutely nothing. “Can you get me some pain relief?” I requested. From this crouched position he helped me take some paracetamol (all we had). I knew I had to move. I tried to shift my weight from left to right with small side flexions through my lower back. Each created searing pain and my shirt was soaking. Feeling faint and sweating is a common sign of intense pain and so I asked my fiancé to help me remove my shirt. Every movement exacerbated the pain and we manage to remove it. I was very close to demanding he cut it off with scissors.
I would like to talk through what to do if this happens to you.
If, like me, there has been no clear trauma (which may have caused fracture) for example falling off a horse, being hit by a car, falling from height and you have become ‘stuck’ from a fairly innocuous activity such as leaning forward then the pain is likely due to muscle spasm (very painful but not dangerous to you). If you have pins and needles or numbness in your leg this may be a disc protrusion- also not normally dangerous but may take longer to recover. Unless you experience bowel/bladder dysfunction, pins and needles or numbness in both legs or numbness In the groin region although very painful it is unlikely to be anything serious (ie cause equina, spinal infection, large disc protrusion) so ask someone to call 111 for further advice.
- Remove clothing to cool down if you become excessively sweaty from a pain response.
- Try to avoid drafts in the room as muscles don’t like drafts either!
- Try not to go to the floor. Try to go into 4 point kneeling- near to something you can lean onto to support your weight (the muscles are painful because you are contracting them!). A bed or low sofa can be good.
- Try to move in the least painful way. For example for me pelvic tilts were very painful so I tried to wiggle from side to side. It was very painful. But each time I gained slightly more range. Remember. Increased ROM is still a win even if pain stays the same.
- Get pain relief on board immediately if you can. Remember to eat a biscuit if you have not eaten recently to protect stomach.
- Don’t rush and accept that the back is in spasm, although it’s painful it’s not dangerous ( I repeat this because if you’ve felt this type of pain you’ll understand if feels so painful it’s hard to imagine it could only be muscle spasm and not something serious)!
- Try to put weight gently through your knee in four point kneeling. This will be painful at first but this is the first step to being able to crawl to the bed/ sofa.
- Allow your body to relax over the bed/sofa. You may have to wiggle forward slowly. Ask someone with you to place pillow under your hips if you get pain when you arch your back.
- Call 111 or a professional to get advice on what to do next. Doctors can prescribe diazepam and other muscle relaxants if necessary.
- If, Like me, you want to avoid high level pain meds take maximum dose paracetamol and Ibruprofen as described on packet.
Getting in and out of bed. This was the hardest thing for me. I would sit on the edge on the bed rocking from left to right buttock to try and loosen back. Knowing the shooting pain was coming I had to try hard not to brace. In the initial stages I had to use my hands to help me up but as soon as the pain starts to ease avoid this. I was unable to get down the stairs day 1 and spent it walking, weight transference exercises in standing and applying firm pressure with combined side flexion to the left glut and quadratic lumborum. Although very painful this helped increase ROM. Please note that in the first few days my objective was to increase ROM. It was still very painful but the progress was that I could move even just a few degrees further before the pain. I also had to coach my set to push gentle into pain to ensure each day I was improving. Contrary to popular belief – massage day 1 is not a good idea. The area is very sensitive and you are better to keep moving, take pain relief regularly and change position regularly.
Again you may start to panic because you are still very debilitated day 2. I managed to painfully negotiate the stairs and attempt a shower. The heat really helped and I attempted some gently stretches into flexion but concentrated mostly on side flexions. You need to remain dedicated to your rehab, change position regularly, and complete exercises- even if painful. I bullied myself to get out of bed regularly and each time my back loosened.
This is the time to try and see a professional to get the right advice and get a clearer diagnosis and treatment If at any time you experience any of the following you must seek immediate medical attention
- Pins and needles or numbness in BOTH legs
- Numbness in the saddle area
- Fever when combined with back pain
- Gross weakness of your legs
Things to remember
- The damage does not necessarily correlate with the level of pain you are feeling- muscle spasm will resolve relatively quickly but is very painful!
- Move regularly.
- Avoid aggravating activities ie sitting/prolonged positions
- Take pain relief regularly. You can ask for stronger tablets such as muscle relaxants from your GP if you are unable to cope.
- Heat can be helpful in MUSCLE problems. Use a hot water bottle wrapped in a tea towel and apply for 20mins!
- Keep motivated with the exercises even if they are painful. Consult with your physio to ensure you are not doing any exercises that may agg symptoms.
If you need any further expert advice on backs or if you or a loved one have become stuck please call 0117 290 0242. This number can be used for any of the sites across the Southwest as will forward to Nicole’s mobile.