PHYSICAL THERAPY GUIDE FOR ACUTE LOW BACK PAIN
Experiencing low back pain can really be unpleasant, especially if you have a long list of errands to do. What you may not realize is that 25% of Americans also feel the same as you. Most of the time, low back pain is mild and disappears on its own, but you don’t need to endure it. Thanks to Physical Therapy, low back pain can be managed and your lifestyle can improve immensely through management programs.
What is Acute Low Back Pain?
Generally, low back pain (also referred to as Somatic pain), is characterized by discomfort, muscle tension, or stiffness, localized to the area around the lumbar spine. Back pain may radiate to the groin, buttocks, or legs, and may be associated with lumbar radicular pain such as sciatica.
Low back pain is described as acute if present for less than six weeks, sub-acute between six weeks and three months, and chronic if it continues for longer than three months. According to most literature, the majority of acute non-specific low back pain episodes are resolved within two weeks, and about 70–90% of patients will fully recover from an acute episode within three months.
For this article, we will focus more on acute low back pain and how to manage it through Physical Therapy. Of course, don't forget that it will be necessary to have your medical history checked and a physical evaluation conducted before a Physical Therapist can begin physical therapy sessions with you. It is important to determine the onset and duration of pain, the site, radiation, precipitating and relieving factors, severity, functional impact, any neurological deficit, and finally, any symptoms of systemic illness.
Here are some examples of typical rehabilitation exercises for your condition. We recommend that you start each exercise slowly. Be sure to ease off the exercise if you start to experience any pain.
When one suffers from lower back pain, proper stretching provides relief. It also loosens and activates your tight muscles and helps resolve spasms. Some of the most common stretches you can do, have already been featured by us in previous articles released. They are: Bridges, Knee-To-Chest Stretch, and The Bird Dog Stretch.
Core Strengthening Exercises
When it comes to core strengthening, Physical Therapy can offer a lot. With this type of exercise, the aim is to manage and improve your lower back muscles, and the surrounding muscles such as your hips, abs, and buttocks. Having a solid core will reduce your risk of back pain.
1. Pelvic Tilts
This strengthening exercise helps strengthen your abdominal muscles, and also stretches the muscles in your lower back
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor (make sure you’re using a yoga mat).
Next, draw in your stomach as if you’re pulling your belly button towards your back and hold that position for 10 seconds. Keep in mind that you also need to focus on feeling the stretch and your breathing.
Slowly return to your neutral position and repeat the steps.
Perform at least eight pelvic tilts.
2. The Wall Sit
The wall sit is designed to activate the muscle groups in your lower body. Some of these muscle groups include: your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. The wall sit also increases your muscular endurance and enhances your stability.
Find a solid wall and stand up straight next to it (one foot away) facing yourself in the opposite direction.
Lean your back flat against the wall and begin sliding yourself down until you find your knees are slightly bent.
Gently press your lower back into the wall and remain in a sitting position for 10 seconds.
Gradually slide yourself back up the wall until your legs are straight again.
You can perform eight wall-sits following these steps.
3. Hip Stretches
Hip stretches can improve your stride length and help decrease pain in your lower back, hips, knees, and groin. Hip stretches can also promote an increase in hip flexibility.
Kneel down onto your left knee with your right knee out in front of you making sure your right foot is flat on the ground facing forward (the position should resemble a man down on one knee about to propose).
Now slowly pull your left foot up towards your butt so that you feel the muscles stretching and hold this position for 10 seconds.
You can repeat these steps 8 times for each leg.
Finally, when you have finished, find a comfortable position to rest in. Be sure to keep yourself moving and avoid staying in the one position for too long. Take 20 minute walks every 3 hours or thereabouts doing your best to avoid hills, stairs, and slopes. Remember, that the aim here is to take it easy as you ease your way into these exercises. We want you well and injury-free. Also, be sure to stop these exercises if you are experiencing any pain or discomfort. Immediately contact and report any problem you may be experiencing to your physician and therapist and get their advice.