Image Credit: Grace and Frankie, Netflix. Season3, Episode 7: 'The Floor' March 24 2017 LINK
The above image is from an episode of Grace & Frankie, in which two women in the 60's experience severe, acute back pain and become stuck on the floor, unsure of how to deal with their pain.
Of course, as with any injury, back injury prevention is much more efficient than back injury intervention, but it's too late when you're already on the floor writhing in pain. This is my quick guide of what to do if you're experiencing severe, acute back pain.
No two people experience back pain in the same way so some of these steps may not be appropriate. Seek advice whenever possible, stop if pain is exacerbated.
The first and most important step is to get the pain under control and to do that you need to find a position that will decrease the muscular load on the low back - for most people, that means lying on your back with your knees bent (see image above).
You might also need some pharmacological help. Call your pharmacist or Nurse-On-Call (1300 60 60 24) for advice on whether this is appropriate for you, and if it is, what/how much to take. Nurse-On-Call may also direct you to a home-visit doctor service may be appropriate in extreme cases.
Avoid the temptation to add ice or heat unless you have been instructed to, and let the back rest without movement until the pain has dulled enough for you to seek professional care.
Movement should be avoided but might be necessary to reach your phone or to find a place to lie down.
If you need to move, move slowly and deliberately, and ensure to brace the low back - that means engaging your gluteal muscles (squeeze your bottom) and activating your core (tucking your pelvis slightly).
Early professional treatment is critical to diagnose the issue and to treat the pain. Don't assume that because the initial pain has passed, that the injury has resolved - it could just be the pain medication working!
Seek treatment ASAP from your preferred health professional, or if you are unable to leave your home, contact Nurse-On-Call (1300 60 60 24) to arrange emergency home-care.
NOTE: Avoid massage or other hands-on physical therapies during or directly after acute back pain - it is likely to make the pain worse, not better.
For more information on severe, acute back pain, email me directly via the contact page. For specific information on an injury you have, or for emergency treatment, contact one of my clinics directly. You can find that information here.
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Dr Mitch Clark