How soon after acute back pain can you exercise and don’t make things worse?

Contrary to popular belief, it is safe to exercise after an acute bout of back pain. However, the type of ‘exercise’ will vary immensely depending on your pain levels and symptoms. If you have any ‘red flags’ associated with your pain such as pain at night, paraesthesia (pins and needles/numbness) + weakness of the lower limb muscles, or urinary incontinence it is best to call your trusted health professional immediately for guidance on what needs to be done in that certain situation.

It is now well established that worse outcomes in terms of recovery are achieved through bedrest or avoidance of activity. Because of this, it is quite important to resume your normal daily activities as soon as you can.

So how do you decide which activities or exercise should be performed and which should not?

Well, this is dependent on each individual and their current symptoms, however we only wish to perform activity or exercise that is ‘tolerable’. So, for example if walking does not make your back pain much worse and is still within a tolerable pain level, it will therefore be perfectly fine to go for a walk.

If it hurts to bend down to the floor, but bending only halfway to the floor is still tolerable, therefore at this point in time bending down as far as tolerable is perfectly safe to perform.

Acute back rehab, especially for low back pain, involves gradual exposure to movement that is tolerable, but not aggravating further your pain.

How does one start to feel better when performing rehab for back pain?  

Well in this initial or acute phase, the body will be performing the necessary physiological processes to ‘heal’ itself, along with this as long as you stay as active and move as much as tolerated this will assist to reduce further tightness, stiffness and risk of long-term pain. Manual therapy or other modalities provided by a Physiotherapist can also assist during this time to help with management of your pain. Also if you are unsure what exercise to perform or how to perform it safely, a Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist can also help you in this situation, providing a safe and effective exercise program.

Remember, the back is one of the strongest structures in the human body! If you do suffer a bout of back pain, try to remain as calm as possible about the situation and seek professional help for pain management, assistance and guidance on how to return to your meaningful activities as soon as possible.

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