Throwing out your back


What Does It Mean to ‘Throw Out Your Back’?

Take anti-inflammatories. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) should provide some relief. If your pain is severe and doesn’t subside, talk to your doctor about prescription pain relief.

Ice it. Apply ice to your sore back for the first 24 hours to 48 hours. “Once you get over the acute stage, you can switch to heat,” Wilmarth says. Radiating back pain can come from swelling, and ice can help reduce swelling.

Get a massage. There’s some evidence that a soothing massage may help to relieve acute back pain. A review study published in The Cochrane Library in 2015 found that massage may ease lower back pain in the short term, though more research is needed to know whether it’s an effective long-term treatment.

Strengthen and stretch. Once your pain has subsided, you should begin to strengthen and stretch your back muscles. Stretching exercises can restore motion and relieve pain. Pain from overstretching or injuring the muscles or ligaments in your lower back should subside within a few days. If it does not, consult your doctor.

Back Pain Management: What Else You Can Do

Following a healthy lifestyle can help you take care of your back and even prevent further back injury. Start with these tips:

Maintain a healthy weight. Carrying extra weight, especially around the stomach, can put strain on your back.

Get regular exercise. Being a couch potato can put you at risk for back injuries. But if you’ve suffered a back injury, opt for low-impact activities until you’re fully recovered. Walking is an excellent low-impact activity that doesn’t place undo stress on your back, Wilmarth says.

Warm up before exercising. Before you go for a run or play tennis, warm your muscles with stretching. Ten to 15 minutes of walking or gentle movements is ideal. Stretch your muscles slowly. Don’t bounce and don’t hold your breath while stretching. Inhale deeply as you stretch and exhale as you relax.

Avoid high heels. Heels can cause back problems. If you do wear high heels, limit how much time you spend in them. Try this: Wear supportive flats as you travel to your destination and change into heels at the event.

Lift with your knees. Bend down with your knees, not over with your back, to lift objects — heavy or light. Twist your back when you lift, and you’re risking injury.

Do not smoke. Smoking can restrict blood flow. When blood flow is impaired, your spinal tissues can be deprived of oxygen and other nutrients.

Stand tall. Sit erect and stand straight. Hunching over will strain your back and put you at risk for further injury.

Thrown Out Back – What Do You Do?

Krista Bugden Human Kinetics & Rehab Exercise Expert

You’ve thrown out your back. It’s painful. It’s limiting what you can do. Great. Now what?

Lifting heavy boxes or simply twisting the wrong way can cause sudden, sharp, and intense pain in the lower back. And this pain may last for weeks or even months at a time. It’s the number one reason that individuals miss work.

If you’ve thrown out your back – whether it’s a mild or a more intense pain – you may be after an easy route to pain relief. While pain relief is entirely attainable, it may come down to the cause of your back pain as to what exactly fully relieves your back pain dilemma. Back pain can happen due to a variety of reasons, which we’ll explore in more detail below. If the pain is severe, we recommend seeking out the advice of your healthcare provider. They may be able to offer treatment more specific to your unique situation, as they know you and your health history the best,.


  • Why Do I Have Back Pain?
  • Cause #1: You pulled a muscle
  • Cause #2: You have a ruptured or herniated disc
  • Cause #3: You Might Have Osteoarthritis
  • Prevention
  • What Else Should You Do?
  • Start Your Road Toward Recovery Today!

Why Do I Have Back Pain?

The back and spine is a complicated structure with 33 vertebrae and 23 intervertebral discs, as well as multiple attachment points for muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Damage or problems with any of these structures may lead to lower back pain. So, what’s likely the cause of your back pain? Let’s take a look!

Cause #1: You pulled a muscle

If your back pain began when lifting a heavy object, you might have pulled a muscle. As mentioned, there are many muscles and tissues that you can accidentally pull in the back. There’s the back extensors, which are a common muscle group to pull. Usually, this muscle group helps you extend your back. Yet, if you lack flexibility, it can be an easy one to strain. The obliques or quadratus lumbar muscles in the sides and bottom of your low back are other muscles that are easy to pull – especially if they are weak.

A pulled muscle, also known as a strain, happens when the tissue is pulled past its limits. This can occur in the ligament and tendon tissue as well. Other than lifting heavy objects, a strain may arise from repetitive movements or a direct blow. Maybe you spent the day moving heavy boxes from a neighbours garage. The next day, you notice a twinge in your low back. Or perhaps you overworked it at the gym. You raised your weights or something didn’t feel quite right when you were performing that deadlift.

What should you do?

  • If you have intense pain that radiates down the legs, or the pain is a result from a direct blow or a fall, book an appointment with your doctor.

  • Rest for 24-48 hours. This doesn’t mean you should just lie in bed. Instead, avoid movements that may aggravate your back. Move, but do so lightly and cautiously.

  • If it helps, apply ice for 15-20 minutes at a time. Make sure you place a cloth between the ice pack and your skin. Wait about 45 minutes between ice applications. Aim to ice the affected area about 3-4 times over the first couple of days. If preferred, you may use heat for pain relief instead. This often comes down to an individual preference.

  • Consider over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, or aspirin. Follow the directions on the label, and limit your usage after 10 days. Long-term use of these medications may cause gastrointestinal issues and other adverse health effects.

  • Sleep on your side with your pillow between your knees. Many individuals with back pain find this to be the most comfortable. However, don’t force it if it doesn’t feel right.

  • Eventually, start using gentle stretches and core exercises to prevent future back pain incidences.

Typically, a strain fully heals within 4-6 weeks. Yet, this may vary from person to person

Cause #2: You have a ruptured or herniated disc

The spine is made up of 33 vertebrae. The intervertebral discs between the vertebrae make it easy for you to move and flex, extend, or twist your torso. They also act as shock absorbers for the spine.

A healthy and a herniated disk.

However, as you age, these discs naturally lose their hydration. They become worn down. This may result in a ruptured or herniated disc. This ruptured or herniated disc slips out from its place in between the vertebrae. Consequently, it may press on the spinal cord. The spinal cord contains various nerves. When these nerves become compressed, pain may result.

  • Similar to a pulled muscle, apply ice or heat to the affected area – especially during the first 24-48 hours. The same goes for rest. Take it easy the first few days, but don’t limit yourself to your bed. A little bit of movement is better than none. Walk. Try simple stretches.

  • Consult with your doctor or better yet, a physical therapist. Your doctor may even recommend you see a physical therapist to determine strategies to deal with your chronic back pain. Your physical therapist will recommend exercises for you to help relieve the pain, as well as perform certain techniques to help you heal.

Cause #3: You Might Have Osteoarthritis.

Arthritis and disc issues are more common in older individuals. And osteoarthritis is the type of arthritis that typically affects the facet joints in the spine. Unsurprisingly, the spine takes a lot of stress over the course of your lifetime. As a result, the joints and discs become worn down. However, if it is osteoarthritis, pain may arise as a more gradual occurrence as opposed to a sudden event.

Osteoarthritis of the spine

In some cases, spinal stenosis may result from arthritis in the spine. This is a condition where the spinal canal narrows, compressing nerves and causing pain.

  • If you suspect arthritis, it’s a good idea to get a proper diagnosis from your doctor. They may perform various tests and imaging to determine the cause of your back pain.

  • Again, ice and heat may relieve pain, especially if you’ve had a sudden flare-up.

  • Movement is usually encouraged in osteoarthritis patients. But if a flare-up is occurring, limit or avoid movements that aggravate the pain. As aforementioned, being immobile in bed is not recommended.

  • Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist. Your physical therapist will determine an appropriate exercise rehab program for you that will help you alleviate and combat the pain caused by arthritis.

Skeletal irregularities, such as a curved spine, or osteoporosis are other less common causes of back pain. Similar to osteoarthritis, it’s more likely these will have a gradual onset as opposed to a sudden cause. Although, in the case of osteoporosis, a fracture may occur in the lower spine suddenly causing pain.


Some causes of back pain involve a long-term game plan. In these cases and even once you’ve recovered from a single bout of back pain, prevention should be at the top of your list. Were you lifting the object wrong? You may need to learn proper lifting techniques. Was it because of a muscle imbalance? Your physical therapist may prescribe strengthening exercises to correct this dysfunction and weakness.

In terms of exercises, the following movements may be prescribed as part of your back pain rehabilitation program.

How to:

  • Lie on your back and place a towel over the toes of one of your feet.
  • Stretch the leg until it is fully extended.
  • Grabbing the towel on either end, use your arms to pull the towel towards you, so that your foot is pulled towards the opposite shoulder.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and perform 3 repetitions with each leg.

How to:

  • Lie on your hands and knees.
  • Curb your back then slowly sway it the other way.
  • Move slowly so that the full movement takes between 2 and 4 seconds.
  • The entire series represents one repetition.
  • Perform 10 repetitions without pausing.

How to:

  • Lie on your stomach.
  • Lift your upper body up with your arms so your back sways backward.
  • Relax the abdominal and back muscles.
  • Hold the position for 10 seconds and then return to the starting position.
  • Perform 5 repetitions.

How to:

  • Lie on your back with bent knees and your feet placed flat on the floor.
  • Place your hands on your lower back and press it down towards the floor by sucking in your belly and flexing your abdominal muscles.
  • Lift your feet slightly up from the floor and hold the position for 2-4 seconds and then lower them again.
  • Make sure that your hands do not lose contact with your lower back.
  • Perform 5 repetitions.

Other examples of exercises include further strengthening the core or other noted muscle weaknesses. A weak core, in particular, can become problematic by forcing other muscles to compensate. This may result in a strain in the low back.

You may also encounter exercises, such as:

  • Warmup
  • Lying Back Stretch
  • Standing Hamstring Stretch
  • Lying Glute Stretch
  • Stability Exercise on Knees I
  • Seated Body Twist

With any exercise, go slow. Don’t rush it. If pain occurs, stop and adjust. If it continues, stop the exercise altogether. Don’t push through the pain. You could be doing more harm than good. It’s also important to stay properly hydrated throughout any exercise session and to wear comfortable clothing that doesn’t restrict your movement.

What Else Should You Do?

  1. Watch your posture! Bad posture is a sure-fire way to back pain. It causes numerous dysfunctions and imbalances throughout the body. Inevitably, it often results in pain. If you work at a desk all day, consider proper ergonomics. How can you set up your workspace to limit injury or pain and increase efficiency?

  2. Limit sedentary behavior, especially sitting in a single position for long durations. And working a desk job is no excuse. Find time every couple of hours to stretch, stand up, and walk around. Trust us – your body needs it.

  3. Be cautious with movements at first. Perform any movement involving twisting or bending your torso and spine slowly. Don’t rush it. Trying to do it quickly may cause injury and further back pain problems.

  4. Learn to lift heavy objects properly. Position your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down. Lift using your lower body and not your back. This means as you come into standing keep your back straight and push up through your heels.

  5. When exercising, gradually increase your intensity, frequency, duration, or resistance. Too much too soon is a common cause of injuries, including back issues.

  6. Maintaining a healthy weight may further prevent back pain. Excess weight places additional stress on the joints, bones, and muscles of the body. It’s also associated with numerous diseases. Exercise regularly and consume a healthy and balanced diet.

  7. Build core strength, including the often neglected transverse abdominis muscle. While many people strive for those 6-pack abs, it’s also beneficial to focus on the deep and lower abdominal muscles. The transverse abdominis muscle, in particular, acts as a corset around the low back and pelvis. Strengthening this tiny but frequently ignored muscle can go a long way when it comes to preventing back pain.

  8. Quit smoking. Smoking restricts the blood vessels in the body. Consequently, the discs in the spine may not get enough nutrients or blood flow. This may result in problems, such as a herniated or ruptured disc, that lead to back pain.

  9. Wear comfortable shoes appropriate to your activity. High heels are not recommended if you’ve suffered injuries or back pain in the past. Find comfortable shoes that support your feet and body.

  10. Avoid carrying bags on one side of your body. For example, a heavy purse or backpack may pull on certain muscles and joints. Again, this may have a chain-like effect and may end up impacting your back, producing pain.

Start Your Road Toward Recovery Today!

If your pain is severe, don’t hesitate to seek out a consultation with your healthcare provider. The sooner you get help, the sooner you’ll be on your way toward fixing your back pain once and for all.

And if you’re on the hunt for exercises specific to your condition, Injurymap can help you along the way. The app provides personalized training programs so you can get better, faster. Treat your aches and pains before they get worse. Lead the life you want. Get back to those activities you know and love, such as your favorite sport or spending quality time with your loved ones. That way, you can do what you want when you want, without pain holding you back.

About the author

Krista Bugden has worked as a Rehab Exercise Expert at a physiotherapist clinic in Ottawa, Canada for the past 4 years. She has an Honours Bachelor Degree in Human Kinetics from the University of Ottawa. She uses her extensive knowledge in this area to educate others through well-researched and informative articles. Her passions include helping others and inspiring each person she meets to get the most out of their life.

The seriousness of a back injury depends on the cause of the injury and what damage is done.

You can injure your back doing sport, working around the house or in the garden, from a sudden jolt in a car accident, or from a sudden movement, bump, knock or fall.

Most injuries happen in the lower back. Common injuries include sprains and strains, herniated disks or fractured vertebrae. The injuries vary in seriousness depending on the cause of the injury and what damage is done.

Symptoms of serious back injury

Seek medical assistance immediately by calling an ambulance on triple zero (000). Do not move the person unless they are in danger and advise the person to not move their back. Support their head, neck and spine and prevent twisting or bending movements.

Severe back injuries include fractures (a break in a bone),wounds, extensive bruising and damage to your spinal cord and internal organs.

Any of the following symptoms could indicate a severe back injury:

  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • numbness or pins and needles to the arms, legs, hands or feet
  • paralysis
  • blood in the urine

Signs of a back injury

Signs you may have injured your back include:

  • pain or tenderness (sore to touch)
  • pain that worsens with movement, coughing, sneezing or laughing
  • stiffness or difficulty moving
  • difficulty standing up straight
  • muscles in spasm on either side of the spine
  • bruising
  • swelling
  • pain that radiates down one or both legs

However, back pain has many causes. It could be caused by a disease such as osteoarthritis or osteoporosis, your age, physical fitness, smoking, being overweight, or the type of work you do.

It’s important to find out the cause of your symptoms so they can be treated properly.

Back pain treatment

Your doctor will examine you to check whether the nerves from your back are working properly. Make sure you tell them if you have any problems with going to the toilet.

Most minor back injuries get better by themselves within 6 weeks. Usually you won’t need any other tests or treatment. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists recommends that an x-ray for low back pain is only needed if you have other significant symptoms such as problems with bladder and bowel control, severe pain or weakness or numbness in one or both legs. For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

The most important thing you can do is to continue to stay active. Try not to stay in bed for too long. Simple painkillers may help, like paracetamol or anti-inflammatories. You can talk to your doctor or pharmacist, or call healthdirect for advice on 1800 022 222.

You can help ease injuries to your back by:

  • using cold compresses (such as covered ice packs) for 20 minutes at a time every 3 to 4 hours for the first day — these will ease pain and swelling
  • using warmth after the first day — showers, baths or hot moist towels can help ease pain and help recovery
  • avoiding activities bending, lifting and twisting until you feel better

Depending on your job, you may need time off work to allow your back to heal.

You should see your doctor if:

  • you have a fever
  • you have numbness or pain in your buttock, leg or foot
  • you lose control of your bladder or bowels
  • your problems have not improved at all within a few days
  • your problems have not improved completely within 6 weeks

Your doctor may be able to help you manage any pain and may refer you for physiotherapy or other investigations.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your back injury, check your symptoms with healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Why Does My Lower Back Hurt When I Cough?

There are many reasons why you might have lower back pain when you cough. Some are easy to fix, while others might need medical attention. Here are some common causes of back pain and tips for finding relief:

Replace your mattress

If your mattress is over 5 to 7 years old, it maybe be time to replace it. Try a firmer or softer mattress, whichever your back prefers. A sign of an old mattress is sagging in the middle or where you sleep.

Stress relief

Stress, whether physical or emotional, often causes bodily stress. If the stress is caused by the coughing itself, try to relax instead of trying to fight the cough. For emotional stress, you can reduce your stress levels with breathing exercises, journaling, and other forms of self-care.

Use support while sitting

Many jobs require sitting for long periods of time. When you sit, you may find yourself slightly hunched toward your computer screen or other point of reference. Ideally, before your back feels sore, get up and move around. Even standing can help, as well as having an ergonomic chair and work setup.

When you sit, keep your back against your chair. Your arms should be at a 75- to 90-degree angle when you’re sitting at a desk. Your feet should be flat on the floor. Use a foot rest if your feet can’t reach the floor.

Wear supportive shoes

Your feet support your legs, which support your back. Wearing uncomfortable shoes can put a strain on your back. When you look for shoes, choose ones that have proper arches and support, and make sure they fit properly. Walk around the store to see how they feel. Check the soles for cushion.

Exercise properly

Overuse injuries can happen when you exercise too much too quickly, or if you exercise improperly. To avoid overuse, ramp up your physical activity slowly and make sure to use proper techniques and gear.

Improve your posture

When you walk, look straight ahead and keep your head balanced above your spine. Don’t droop your shoulders. Step from heel to toe. Certain exercises may help you improve your posture as well.

Warm up and hydrate before exercise

Before you do any physical activity, be sure to warm up and stretch. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid exercising in extra hot temperatures. Otherwise, you may experience a muscle spasm that could cause your back to hurt when moving later on, including when coughing.

Get properly trained to avoid occupational injury

Some jobs require a lot of lifting, bending, pulling, and pushing. If this is true for you, make sure you get properly trained on how to perform these functions in a way that supports your body. Also consider if you can adjust your workstation to ease or avoid strain on your back.

Manage previous back injury

If you’ve experienced a back injury in the past, you may be more likely to get another injury. Work with your doctor to keep your back extra healthy. This may include special exercises and knowledge of warning signs.

Other treatments

Other treatments for back pain when coughing include transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation therapy, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, prescription medications, and back braces and belts.

What is throwing out your back? Perhaps you’ve experienced this intense, sharp pain that we call “throwing out your back.” Of course, that is a figure of speech. Your back is not actually thrown anywhere. But the pain is real! It can feel like parts of your back have moved, or that something needs to be put back in place to heal. This acute back pain can be very unpleasant, and can keep you sidelined from your activities.

Common Signs You’ve Thrown Out Your Back

Throwing out your back is characterized by a sudden, severe pain in your back. This usually occurs in the lower back, and happens during physical activity. It can be caused by a muscle spasm, arthritis, a slipped or ruptured disc, or the cause can remain a mystery. The most common cause is muscle strain or spasm. It can happen to you even if you don’t have a history of back pain or problems.

Herniated Discs and Back Pain

Due to the degree of their pain, many people assume that they have a herniated disc. A herniated or slipped disc occurs when a disc ruptures or bulges. Our spines are made up of vertebrae, and in between them are discs filled with a jelly-like center encased in a tough exterior. When a disc is herniated, the jelly-like center leaks out. This can cause pain and pressure on the spinal nerves.

More often than not, however, a disc is not the cause for the acute back pain of throwing out your back. Causes vary from person to person, and the pain may go away on its own. Here are some tips for treating your acute back pain:

  • Rest – Stop what you are doing and rest. Try to lie down in a back-neutral position. This means your spine will be aligned. Lay on your back with your head supported by a pillow and your knees bent.
  • Ice it – Apply ice packs to the affected area of your back for 20 minutes. This will help with inflammation.
  • Anti-inflammatories – Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Heat it up – After the first 24-48 hours, you can switch from ice to heat. Apply a heating pad or other forms of heat for 20 minutes.

If you are still in agony after two days, it’s time to contact a physician. If you are experiencing leg numbness or shooting pains down your leg, it’s also important to get in touch with a physician.

If you’ve thrown out your back or if you’re experiencing back pain, contact us. Or call our dedicated Medical Concierge at 800-890-1964 to set up an appointment to learn more.

Lower Back Strain Video

Video Transcript

Lower back strain is acute pain caused by damage to the muscles and ligaments of the back. It is often referred to as a pulled muscle. The back is supported by a large, complex group of muscles that hold up the spine, including the extensor, flexor, and oblique muscles. The soft tissues surrounding the spine enable bending forward, lifting, arching, and twisting movements.

Lumbar muscle strain occurs when a back muscle is over-stretched or torn, which damages the muscle fibers. When one of the ligaments in the back tears, it is referred to as a sprain.

Movements that put stress on the back can result in pulled muscles. For example, lifting a heavy object, twisting while lifting, falling, or some sports could cause lumbar muscle strain.

Symptoms of lumbar muscle strain include sudden onset of pain, localized pain that does not radiate into the leg, and tenderness in the lower back.

Muscle strain can by accompanied by muscle spasms, as the body tries to stabilize the injury.

Acute pain from a lower back strain can resolve in a short amount of time, but low levels of pain or flare-ups can continue for weeks or months after the initial injury. After two weeks, back muscles can atrophy from lack of use and cause more pain.

There are many treatment options for lower back muscle strain, including exercise, which will prevent atrophy.

One wrong move followed by that dreaded pop and you know it: You’ve thrown out your back.

“Most of the time the culprit is the lumbar spine,” says Liz Owen, a Boston-based yoga teacher and coauthor of Yoga for a Healthy Lower Back. “That’s the five vertebrae that people usually point to when they complain about lower back pain.”

This area of the spine bears the bulk of your body weight and is responsible for most of the movements your back is capable of. That’s a big job for a small area. All that pressure makes the surrounding muscles, ligaments, and spinal discs vulnerable to injuries. According to Owen, the sacroiliac joints just beneath your spine that connect to the sacrum are similarly vulnerable, along with your wing-like hip bones.

Hopefully if you find yourself incapacitated, you have a doctor, chiropractor, or massage therapist on speed dial, who can help fix issues you weren’t even aware of. But if you’ve hurt yourself while going about your day, you probably can’t make it to the massage table right away.

Follow these simple steps immediately following an injury to protect yourself from exacerbating the problem and give your body a chance to start healing.

1. Straighten Yourself Out

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If you’ve just hurt yourself, the first thing you should do is to get upright and into a posture that will keep you from doing further damage. You want your spine to be in a neutral position, advises Owen.

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If you’ve hurt yourself while bending over: “Gently bend your knees, and place your hands on your thighs. Keeping your knees bent, exhale and drop your tailbone slightly toward the floor. Now slowly lift your trunk and gently straighten your legs, keeping your tailbone long. You’ll know you have a neutral spine when your shoulders are over your hips — as if you’re standing against a wall — and your lower back feels long, rather than overarched.”

Once you’re standing up, gently engage your core muscles. If tightening a muscle seems like a dangerous idea when you’re already in pain, consider this: One of your abdominal core’s main functions is to stabilize your lower back, so engaging your core will create a steadying effect.

Owen advises bending your knees, resting your hands on your thighs, and imagining a string drawing your navel back toward your spine. Slowly straighten your legs, maintaining your core muscle engagement. “You should feel your core muscles hugging back toward your lower back so it doesn’t overarch,” she says.

2. Don’t Bend, Lift, or Twist

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“Once you are upright and stabilized, do whatever you can to stay that way so your injury doesn’t worsen,” says Keith Puri, a chiropractor based in Arlington, Massachusetts. That means avoiding what’s known as BLT — bending, lifting, and twisting — while you’re hurt.

If you need to pick something up off the floor, keep your spine straight and your core engaged, and drop your tailbone toward the floor in a squat. “Looking up to the ceiling can help keep your spine straight,” says Puri, which will help prevent you from leaning forward and putting stress on your back.

When you need to lean forward to brush your teeth or wash dishes, try a hip hinge: Maintain a straight, neutral spine while bending forward from your hips.

To avoid twisting your spinal muscles, think about turning rather than rotating, Puri says. That means turning your whole body to face whatever you need to be reaching for, rather than leaning to the side or reaching around yourself. Puri explains that stability should be a higher priority than convenience, even if that means a multistep process for things like getting into and out of your car. “It is definitely less efficient, but the benefits significantly outweigh the time lost,” he says.

3. Try These OTC Remedies

Mitch Mandel

Puri also recommends keeping a tube of pain relief gel like arnica gel in your purse, gym bag, or briefcase. When injury strikes, it can give the the injured area a mild cooling sensation and bring down inflammation and swelling to help blood flow to the area.

Over-the-counter ibuprofen tablets can also be taken immediately for their anti-inflammatory properties. But remember that medication may mask your symptoms, so continue to treat yourself as if you have an injury.

And don’t skimp on water. If you hurt yourself while exercising, you may already be dehydrated from the sweating process.Puri warns that chronic dehydration can also affect the strength and quality of your spinal muscles, making injuries more common and long-lasting. Aim for nine or more glasses per day, especially when you’re nursing an injury.

4. Do These Safe Self-Care Treatments

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Once you get to a place where you can rest, Puri advises trying some basic self-care practices to maintain the stability. Try lying on your back on a firm sofa or bed with pillows under your knees. Your goal here is to encourage the entire lower back to rest against a solid surface, allowing the muscles to release.

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Owen adds that lying on the floor on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor — or even standing against a wall if you can’t lie down — can help back muscles come out of a spasm. When you’re ready, try hugging one knee into your chest while gently stretching your other leg straight onto the floor. As you inhale and exhale, move the bent leg slightly away from and then closer to your chest. Repeat this with the other leg.

5. Above All, Be Patient

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If your situation doesn’t significantly improve or even resolve in a day or two, it is probably time to consult a physician, chiropractor, or certified massage therapist. But worrying that you’ve done permanent damage to your back is not only emotionally draining; it could actually cause you to further tighten your already-hurting body.

“When a lower back episode occurs, it’s natural to feel scared that your back will never get better,” says Owen. “As much as your back may be challenged at the moment, remember that your muscles are simply overworking, doing a temporary job of trying to support your spine. Listen to your pain, take care of your back, and as the injury subsides, your muscles will relax, and they will most likely return to normal in a short period of time.”

Holly Lebowitz Rossi is the coauthor of Yoga for a Healthy Lower Back: A Practical Guide to Developing Strength and Relieving Pain and a freelance writer.

Can You Really Throw Out Your Back? Tips to Prevent Sudden Back Pain

When someone says they “threw out their back,” what does that actually mean? Can you throw out your back and do permanent damage?

Luckily, throwing out your back is usually a temporary situation. For someone experiencing acute onset low back pain, there are ways to speed up recovery and prevent this. Here’s what you need to know about throwing out your back — and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again:

Can anyone throw out their back? How do I know if I’m at risk?
Anyone can throw out their back or experience acute back pain, but these incidents become more common as you age. People who have jobs that are physically demanding, like ones that involve a lot of lifting or bending, are more prone to throwing out their back. However, office workers who sit for extended periods of time can also experience low back pain, especially if they don’t have adequate back support while performing their jobs.

Lack of exercise or poor physical fitness is another risk factor for throwing out your back. A person who is sedentary during the week, then goes out on the weekend and participates in sports or other high-impact activities, could also be at risk for throwing out their back.

What causes this intense lower back pain?
Usually, throwing your back out is presumably due to a muscle strain, which is likely caused by lifting a heavy item or bending the wrong way. These muscles can tighten up or go into a spasm, which is what causes the pain. This type of pain can vary, but usually occurs in the lumbar spine, the low back area right above your buttocks.

While uncommon, acute lower back pain can be caused by a more serious medical issue, such as an infection, a broken vertebra or even cancer. These health problems are more likely to occur in people over the age of 50, those who’ve already had cancer, people who are taking steroids long-term, heavy drug users, or adults who have pre-existing medical conditions.

Along with low back pain, seek medical attention immediately if you’re experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain, weakness or loss of feeling in the legs
  • Pain so severe that it limits your ability to do simple things
  • Bladder control or bowel movement issues
  • Weight loss that can’t be explained
  • Fever or other symptoms of illness

Will the back pain go away on its own?
In most cases, yes. The pain caused by throwing out your back will go away on its own and you don’t need to consult a medical professional. Here are some at-home remedies to help with the pain:

  • In the first 72 hours after throwing out your back, apply ice to ease the pain
  • After the third day, you can use heating pads to relieve the pain
  • Pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen could also help, but check with your doctor about which medications you should or should not take

These methods won’t “cure” or “fix” your pain, but they might make you feel better.

Should I rest after throwing out my back, or try to move?
In the first few days after you throw your back out, you should try to move around some. Staying moderately active has been proven to help with recovery. Moving around can stimulate blood flow, increase flexibility and prevent spasms.

While in recovery, stay away from doing any high-impact sports or activities. Especially avoid “BLT” — bending, lifting or twisting while you’re still recovering.

I’ve thrown my back out before. How do I prevent this?
There are multiple ways to prevent acute onset lower back pain caused by lifting or bending. To keep your back healthy, it’s all about maintaining good posture and learning the proper way to bend, lift, push, pull and carry large or heavy objects.

Getting regular physical activity is also important. You want to make sure you’re strengthening your core and your legs, and also keeping your quadriceps strong. These are the muscles you use when lifting. Flexibility is also key, as certain muscle groups get tighter as you age.

You can’t always know when and if you’ll throw your back out, but you can take steps to reduce your risk of acute onset lower back pain.

Visit our providers at OrthoONE if you experience more serious issues.

5 Best Back Pain Stretches for Immediate Back Pain Relief

  • Because back pain can be so debilitating, many people seek out serious interventions (like surgery or heavy-duty pain killers) in order to alleviate their pain — but it turns out, all you might need is a simple stretching routine
  • Most back pain can be resolved by keeping your spine strong and flexible through regular stretching
  • Incorporating a daily stretching routine to strengthen the spine, loosen muscles, and increase flexibility offers serious relief from back pain

You want to maximize your performance and feel your best — but if you’ve got debilitating back pain, it can be hard to focus on anything else. The good news is, back pain relief is often just a few simple back stretches and exercises away.

There are a few back pain causes (like spasms, muscle strains, or disk issues), but the end result is the same — chronic pain that keeps you from living your best life.

Because back pain can be so debilitating, a lot of people turn to more serious interventions, like surgery or painkillers — but turns out, all you really need is a good stretch. “Most back pain can be resolved by doing regular exercises to keep muscles that support your spine strong and flexible,” says Fei Jiang, PT, DPT, OCS, at Providence Saint John’s Health Center’s Performance Therapy in Santa Monica, California. In fact, a recent study on back pain found that participants who followed a 12-week stretching regimen reported better back functioning, less pain, and a reduced need for pain medication.

Clearly, stretching works as an effective back pain treatment (and offers a more natural pain relief solution than other common pain interventions, like prescription painkillers or surgery). But why is stretching so effective? Which back pain stretches should you be doing to maximize results? And what are the best ways to incorporate back pain exercises into your daily routine to strengthen your core and keep pain at bay?

Related: Natural Pain Relief: 5 Ways to Relieve Pain Without Ibuprofen

Why stretching works on back pain

Before we dive into the best back pain stretches, let’s talk about why stretching is such an effective treatment for back pain relief.

“Regular movement and stretching can help alleviate back pain by relaxing tight muscles and improving circulation to help nourish the spine,” says Jiang.

Not only will regular stretching help loosen the muscles and get rid of existing back pain, but it can also strengthen the back — and lower your chances of dealing with back pain in the future.

“Stretching of the back and legs can help maintain or improve movement for everyday functions. For example, being limber will help you lift objects off the floor or put on shoes without increased stress to the back,” says Jiang. “Additionally, physical activity can help increase back resilience, so that one can perform more activities without increased pain.”

Stretching is a one-two punch for treating back pain; if you’re currently dealing with back pain, it will get you back to tip-top shape in no time. And by incorporating regular stretching into your fitness routine, you’ll strengthen your back — making it less likely you’ll have to deal with an injury or chronic pain in the future.

When it comes to back pain, regular stretching is a win-win.

Related: 4 Minutes to Perfect Posture and Less Back Pain

Best back pain stretches

So, now that you know why stretching is so effective for alleviating (and preventing) back pain, let’s talk about the how — a proven stretching routine that’s going to deliver real results for back pain.

Here are five stretches to incorporate into your daily routine to alleviate back pain and maximize performance:

Trunk rotation stretch

Stretch: Begin lying on the mat with knees bent. While maintaining upper back flat on the ground, rotate legs towards the floor until a stretch is felt. Repeat the stretch on the opposite side. Hold each stretch for 5 seconds, repeat 10 times.

Why it works: “This stretch helps improve mobility of the spine while relaxing the muscles on the sides of the trunk,” says Jiang.

Child’s pose

Stretch: Begin on all fours. Sit your hips back while reaching out your arms forward until a mild stretch is felt in the back. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, repeat 5 times.

Why it works: “This stretch helps improve mobility of the spine while relaxing the muscles of the lower back,” says Jiang.

Cat-camel back stretch

Stretch: Begin on all fours. Arch your back towards the ceiling and hold. Then arch your back towards the ground and hold. Hold each stretch for 5 seconds, repeat 10 times.

Why it works: “This stretch helps maintain mobility of the spine while strengthening the back and abdominal muscles,” says Jiang.

Hamstring stretch

Stretch: Begin sitting on the floor with one leg straight, and the other bent. While maintaining a flat back, lean forward by hinging from the hip until a stretch is felt behind the thigh. Repeat on the other leg. Hold each stretch for 10 seconds, repeat 5 times.

Why it works: “, the back of the legs gets tight. This would cause pulling of the back when bending forward. Having flexible hamstrings allows for decreased stress in the back with bending and lifting activities,” says Jiang.

Hip flexor stretch

Stretch: Begin by kneeling on a mat. Lean forward towards the bent front knee until a stretch in front of the opposite thigh is felt. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, repeat 5 times.

Why it works: “, the front of the hips get tight. This would cause the hip muscles to pull the lower back forward in standing, thereby increasing stress in the lower back. Increased flexibility in hip flexors will help with decreased back pain in upright activities,” says Jiang.

For back pain relief, make stretching a daily routine

Stretching is one of the most effective ways to relieve back pain — if you’re consistent with your stretching routine. In order for stretching to work — and for you to get the most pain-busting benefits from your stretching routine — you need to stretch every day.

If you want to maximize the benefit of your back pain stretches, the key is to transform stretching into a “once-in-awhile” (or not at all!) practice into a non-negotiable part of your daily routine.

Here are some tips to incorporate stretching into your day-to-day routine (and kick back pain to the curb in the process):

Stretch when your eyes open in the morning…

If you want to make stretching a habit, make it the first thing you do in the morning — before anything else (like, you know…life) gets in the way.

Not only will stretching first thing in the AM make it easier to get into a regular stretching habit, but it will also increase blood flow to your muscles — which will deliver the boost of energy you need to get your day started.

…and before your head hits the pillow at night

Stretching right when you wake up is great — and so is stretching right before you go to sleep. Getting in a good stretch before your head hits the pillow will help alleviate any tension from the day, which will help relax your body and make it easier to drift off to sleep.

Bookend your day with stretching — morning and evening — to maximize the benefit.

Set reminders throughout the day

You’ll want to go through a full stretching routine in the AM and PM — but if you really want to maximize the pain-relieving benefits of stretching, you should also plan to take small stretch breaks throughout the day.

Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to get up and stretch every two hours or download an app like StretchClock that will send you alerts when it’s time to get up and stretch.

Back pain is a real drag — and it can keep you from feeling your best or performing at your highest level. But with the right stretches, you can build strength, alleviate back pain, and maximize your performance. So what are you waiting for? Get stretching!

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Getting the Right Massage for Low Back Pain

Massage therapy can provide substantial healing and pain relief for many lower back problems. Specifically, for pain caused by a back strain, when the correct muscle is targeted, the pain can be controlled at its source—for quicker and lasting relief.


A skilled massage therapist can provide substantial back pain healing. Read Massage Therapy for Lower Back Pain

Two major muscles–the quadratus lumborum1 and the gluteus medius 2– play an important role in stabilizing and supporting your lower back and hips. When there is a change in the biomechanics of these muscles due to strain or fatigue, several problems, such as lower back pain, stiffness, and/or decreased mobility can occur.

See Back Muscles and Low Back Pain


Quadratus lumborum muscle massage

The quadratus lumborum muscle extends throughout your lower back and consists of several layers. This muscle is an extensor of the spine, allowing you to bend backward. The muscle also helps you bend your torso sideways.1

The quadratus lumborum muscle can become fatigued, stiff, strained, and/or painful when you perform certain daily activities, such as:

  • Lifting that requires leaning over something, for example, getting groceries out of the trunk of your car
  • Leaning over a sink while doing dishes
  • Sitting slumped in a chair
  • Running on uneven pavement

A sharp, stabbing, urgent pain in your low back may indicate a hypertonic (tight) quadratus lumborum. Sometimes, you may feel a dull, constant ache with some degree of stiffness.

The quadratus lumborum muscle may also develop painful trigger point nodules, cause entrapment of nerves within its fibers, or be subject to direct trauma, causing lower back pain.1

The muscle must be stretched and massaged simultaneously by your therapist in order to reduce lower back pain.

See Non-Surgical Treatments for Lower Back Pain

Gluteus medius muscle massage

The gluteus medius is a posterior hip (or buttocks) muscle. This muscle is a hip abductor,3,4 allowing you to lift your thigh and leg sideways, such as while getting out of a car. It is also responsible for keeping your hips leveled while standing on one leg (which is an integral part of your gait cycle as you’re walking). The biomechanics of the hip and spine are interconnected; a problem in your hip muscles can cause pain in your lower back.2

The gluteus medius muscle can become painful due to imbalance and/or weakness2 from several causes, such as5:

  • Repetitive trauma to the muscle form running on soft surfaces
  • Overuse of exercise equipment that requires hip abduction
  • Sudden, strenuous physical activity
  • Previous injury to the muscle
  • Blunt trauma from hitting

Gluteus medius muscle pain mainly affects your lower back and buttocks. The pain may also be referred into the back of your thigh. Stiffness and fatigue are also commonly present, limiting the movement of your lower back and/or walking capacity.5


Ask your therapist to focus on the quadratus lumborum and gluteus medius muscles when you decide to have massage therapy for lower back pain. The muscles of the lower back and hip are interconnected for proper functioning. Unless a specific muscle is injured from direct trauma, it is more likely that the entire set of muscles are affected by fatigue, stress, and altered function.1

Most likely, your massage therapist is well-versed in the muscles that cause back pain. But, don’t hesitate to speak up and specifically request this type of massage if you suspect your pain is due to muscle dysfunction.

Learn more:

Neuromuscular Massage Therapy

Massage Chairs for Pain Relief

Physio Works – Physiotherapy Brisbane

Back Strain Causes

We do know that some people are vulnerable to repeated lower back sprains and strains. While it is easier to understand that lifting a heavy load in an awkward position can cause back back, it’s harder to comprehend how a simple movement can hurt your back. Yes, it can happen by simply leaning forwards to pick up your tea cup or when bending to brush your teeth!

Basically the reason is poor local joint control. The main reason for this is poor or non-existent muscle activation of the deep core stability muscles. These muscles are small but are right next to the joint to control excessive slides and glides. When they don’t work properly, the joint can slide too far and strain it’s supportive ligaments. Ouch! That hurts.

The good news is poor core stability can be easily corrected to prevent back pain. Please contact your physio for more information or to have your core activation accurately assessed.

High risk factors of back pain include:

  • sudden forceful movement
  • lifting a heavy object
  • twisting the back
  • coughing or sneezing
  • prolonged sitting with poor posture

More information about Back Pain

More information about Deep Core Stability

Common Lower Back Pain & Injury Causes

  • Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Back Muscle Pain
  • Bulging Disc
  • Core Stability Deficiency
  • Cramps
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
  • Facet Joint Pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Lumbar Stress Fractures (Cricket Fast Bowlers)
  • Muscle Strain
  • Osteitis Pubis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Overuse Injuries
  • Pinched Nerve
  • Piriformis Syndrome
  • Pregnancy Back Pain
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Sacroiliac Joint Pain
  • Scheuermann’s Disease
  • Sciatica
  • Scoliosis
  • Side Strain (Abdominal)
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spondylolysis (Back Stress Fracture)
  • Spondylosis (Spine Arthritis)
  • Stress Fracture
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    FAQs about Lower Back Pain

  • Common Physiotherapy Treatment Techniques
  • What Causes Back Pain?
  • What is Pain?
  • Physiotherapy & Exercise
  • Massage Styles and their Benefits
  • What Causes Post-Exercise Muscular Pain?
  • What are the Best Core Exercises?
  • Can Kinesiology Taping Reduce Your Swelling and Bruising?
  • Chest Pain: Is it a Heart Attack or Your Spine?
  • Does Smoking or Diabetes Cause Lower Back Pain?
  • Heat Packs. Why Does Heat Feel So Good?
  • How Do You Prevent Back Pain?
  • How Does an Exercise Ball Help Back Pain?
  • How to Achieve the Best Standing Posture
  • Lower Back Pain Research
  • Posture Trainer? Check out the BackTone 4000
  • Sports Injury? What to do? When?
  • What are Growing Pains?
  • What are the Benefits of a Standing Desk?
  • What are the Benefits of Good Posture?
  • What are the Common Adolescent Spinal Injuries?
  • What are the Common Massage Therapy Techniques?
  • What are the Early Warning Signs of an Injury?
  • What are the Healthiest Sleeping Postures?
  • What are the Signs of an Unsupportive Pillow?
  • What are the Symptoms of a Low Back Strain?
  • What Can You Do To Help Arthritis?
  • What Causes Pins and Needles?
  • What Causes Repeat Low Back Strains & Sprains?
  • What is a TENS Machine?
  • What is Chronic Pain?
  • What is Good Standing Posture?
  • What is Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy?
  • What is Nerve Pain?
  • What is Sports Physiotherapy?
  • What is the Correct Way to Sit?
  • What to do when you suffer back pain?
  • What to expect when you visit PhysioWorks?
  • What’s the Benefit of Stretching Exercises?
  • When Should You Use a Shoulder Posture Brace?
  • Why are Sprains and Strains of the Low Back Common?
  • Why are Your Deep Core Muscles Important?
  • Why does Back Pain Recur?
  • Why Kinesiology Tape Helps Reduce Swelling and Bruising Quicker
  • Common Lower Back Pain Treatments

  • Bed Rest
  • Early Injury Treatment
  • Avoid the HARM Factors
  • What to do after a Muscle Strain or Ligament Sprain?
  • Acupuncture and Dry Needling
  • Sub-Acute Soft Tissue Injury Treatment
  • Core Exercises
  • Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises
  • Active Foot Posture Correction Exercises
  • Gait Analysis
  • Biomechanical Analysis
  • Balance Enhancement Exercises
  • Proprioception & Balance Exercises
  • Agility & Sport-Specific Exercises
  • Medications?
  • Ergonomics
  • Orthotics
  • Real Time Ultrasound Physiotherapy
  • Soft Tissue Massage
  • Brace or Support
  • Dry Needling
  • Electrotherapy & Local Modalities
  • Heat Packs
  • Joint Mobilisation Techniques
  • Kinesiology Tape
  • Neurodynamics
  • Physiotherapy Instrument Mobilisation (PIM)
  • Prehabilitation
  • Strength Exercises
  • Stretching Exercises
  • Supportive Taping & Strapping
  • TENS Machine
  • Video Analysis
  • Yoga
  • Back Braces, Supports & Related Products

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