Signs and Symptoms

Acute low back pain can present as:

  • Sharp catching sensation that limits movements (sometimes feeling like it takes your breath away). This is often most limiting with bending forward, or extending fully upright.
  • Sometimes acute pain can present as a dull ache that is hard to pin-point.
  • It can feel like a grabbing, spasming and overworked muscle. 
  • Sometimes it can feel like generalised stiffness that takes time to get moving – especially in the morning. 

It can be Nerve related – But don’t stress

Low back pain can involve irritation of the nerve tissue which may result in radiating pain into the buttocks or leg, pins and needles, or numbness and altered sensation.  Back pain that has symptoms of nerve involvement is important to get checked by your physio or GP.  However, don’t fear – nerve related pains can settle well with the right advice.

What to do when Acute Low Back Pain strikes?

When acute low back pain strikes it is tempting to adopt a position of comfort (foetal position on the couch is what we hear a lot of at Sydney Physiotherapy) and hope the best.  However there are some key steps to take early in the process to help resolve the issue quickly. 

Keep Moving

Even if it is small gentle movement.  Short regular walks or small repetitive stretches can be a lovely way to keep the back moving. 

Be wary of the Quick-Fix

It can be tempting to try to stretch the pain away by pushing hard into painful movements. Trying to “crack” the back to ease the tension,  or trigger-pointing until you are black-and-blue.  This isn’t necessarily the best approach (despite what your trainer/ colleague/ partner/ acquaintance says). Everyone will respond differently to pain and to treatments.  Exercises with acute low back pain should be regular and smooth, and while not always painless, it should not make your pain worsen or linger.

Use hot or cold packs

These can provide a simple and safe form of pain relief.  At Sydney Physiotherapy we generally recommend hot packs for back and neck pain (unless there is a super acute inflammatory process at play), as the gentle heat has a great effect on calming pain, and helping to promote relaxation and movement.

Pain relief medication

Paracetemol or ibuprofen can be effective first line management (1) to help settle the pain and allow movement. 

Seek reassurance and advice

Come and see the team at Sydney Physiotherapy located on Pitt St near Martin Place.  Early assessment and reassurance can be incredibly helpful.  We want to make sure there are no other factors at play, and get you back to the the activities that you love.  

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.