Acute Low Back Pain

Low back pain is one of the leading reasons for physiotherapy visits in Australia.  Low back pain can present as Acute Back Pain – usually sudden onset and generally settling over 1 day – 6 weeks.  It can present as Chronic Back Pain – lasting longer than approximately 6 weeks, or longer than expected for acute injury recovery. Some people experience Acute-on-Chronic Back Pain – recurrent bouts of the same pain over a long period of time.

At Sydney Physiotherapy, we know that back pain can effect people of all ages and backgrounds.  It can be incredibly debilitating, costly and frustrating.

Acute Low Back Pain

Workers in the Sydney CBD regularly present to us with acute low back pain.  Frustratingly, acute low back pain can be brought on by anything from exercises (you name it, we’ve seen it), repetitive lifting (gardening, moving house?!),  prolonged sitting (Sydney CBD Desk-Jockeys know what we are talking about), and even innocuous things like sneezing or bending to tie your shoes!  This can be incredibly frustrating. But more annoyingly – it can make people anxious about returning to exercise, work, or even activities they love.  For these reasons, an understanding of what is happening is key!

Causes of Acute Low Back Pain:

In many of the cases of acute low back pain that we see at Sydney Physiotherapy there is no evidence of new or acute injury, or damage in the back.  Most cases of low back pain that we see in the Sydney CBD result from protective pains and muscle spasm, and even movement inhibition – all of which serve as very effective alarm systems for when our body senses that we need a warning. 

The pain is very real!

The pain is very real and the spasm is very real, but thankfully this doesn’t always align with injury or with long-term prognosis. This protective response can result from over-stretching our bodies in unfamiliar or unexpected ways (that first yoga class is always a shock to the system); doing more repetitive movements than our body feels is safe or necessary (too much gardening, paving or carpet laying); and sometimes just for getting out of bed the wrong way! 

Other factors:

Often these seemingly innocuous causes of acute low back pain have some other precursors.  These may be: increased time spent sitting at work over several weeks (starving our back and nerve tissue of movement which is what keeps it happy and healthy); more time spent in travel (long flights or car trips / commuting); stress – in all forms; illness – even things like the common cold can “wind-up” our protective pain system; and lack of quality sleep, just to name a few.

It’s Important!

Understanding these other precursors is important as it helps us to rationalise our pain experience.  We want to get back to the activities we love without fear. And we want to do what we can to prevent future flare-ups.

Where to go with your acute low back pain?

Please understand this blog is used for general advice.  If you are having severe or persistent pain please come and see us at Sydney Physiotherapy. Or speak with your GP.   Phone on 9232 2311 or head to our website where you can make a booking

  1. Australian Acute Musculoskeletal Pain Guidelines Group. Evidence-Based Management of Acute Musculoskeletal Pain – A guide for clinicians. Bowen Hills: Australian Academic Press; 2004.