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What to do when your lower back goes into spasm? A Physiotherapists' tips and advice from Person

Low back pain is one of the most common injuries we see within Physiotherapy and the severity of the protective muscle spasm can making moving around almost impossible. Having suffered a few short bouts of backpain myself- currently in pain from putting my trousers on yesterday morning- sparked me to give a few recommendations of what you can do to try and help yourself.

Mostly backs go into spasm when we bend forwards at 45 degrees and add a rotational movement to that (our spines have least protection in this position from muscles and ligaments and the forces are greatest within the discs) : lifting a case from a carousel, lifting a shopping bag or simply getting dressed can set it off. This one movement is often the straw that broke the camels back rather than the one action to cause all the pain and spasm. I am blaming my repetitive bad bending to switch of Christmas tree lights.

Once your back is in spasm the following simple tasks become a real challenge (we recommend getting appropriate medication from your GP will allow you to move around more comfortably):

  • Turning in bed

  • Getting dressed particularly underwear and socks

  • Sitting especially on the toilet

  • Standing from sitting

As a rule sudden onset back pain will be at its worst first thing in the morning and if you can take your time getting off the bed and have a hot shower things will start to ease slightly. You can try sleeping with a pillow between your knees at night to stop as much turning and therefore reduce the pain. Walking gently around the house will start to get some movement into the spine and we need movement to stimulate the nerve endings to calm the pain and spasm down. We need movement to nourish our discs within our spines.

Getting those socks and pants on is a tough gig and sitting at top of stairs can be easier than trying to do this either standing or sitting on a chair. Take your time and bend slowly and things will loosen up.

Keep bending and sitting to a minimum as it will be more painfiul the longer you sit still. Supporting your spine with a rolled up cushion or towel can help to reduce the load on your spine. However lying down and performing some gentle painfree movements can help. If you imagine you are a toddler and get fed up being in one place and keep your spine gently moving this can help. Your body will normally tell you which movements it prefers and its better to listen to your body than doing what worked for someone else.

The worst of the pain and spasm will normally settle within a few days and this will then allow your Physiotherapist to asssess and treat your back accordingly and get you back to your normal routine.

When we are in pain we forget how easy it was to move before and as soon as the pain is gone we tend to revert to old bad habits. Your core will need re focussing on after an acute bout of low back pain. Don't expect to be able to do the same lifting without addressing the core muscles. Pilates can help with this.

Jill Kerr Physiotherapy can offer help and advice for acute bouts of backpain and rehabilitation with one to one Pilates.

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