When back pain is caused by an injury, maintaining
day-to-day activities is usually recommended.
BED REST FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS ONLY: Muscles
go into spasms at the site of an acute injury (triggered by inflammation).
Muscle spasms restrict movement to protect the body from further
Muscle spasms may cause
intense pain. For the first couple of days after an acute back
injury, lying on a firm surface may be helpful in relieving muscle
spasms and pain. After a couple of days the inflammation subsides
substantially, along with the muscle spasms it has triggered.
After a couple of days, bed rest is counterproductive. Prolonged
bed rest weakens the back and delays healing.
For the majority of people experiencing back pain from an injury,
maintaining normal activity speeds up recovery. Maintaining
normal activity is better than either bed rest or getting into
an exercise program too quickly.
In the case of an acute back injury, back exercises (except
for gentle stretching exercises) are best started after the majority
of back pain has resolved. It is important to maintain day-to-day
activities, as bed rest will not speed up recovery and prolonged
bed rest causes wasting of the muscles. Weakened muscles make
recovery more difficult.
If you are suffering from severe back pain caused by an acute
couple days of bed rest may be necessary until inflammation
and muscle spasms have subsided, but get up and get moving
as soon as possible. Increase activity slowly. Try to get up
and walk around the house a little. Do a little more every
The muscles that support the back are activated during
almost any activity - even while simply sitting or
standing the core muscles support the weight of the body -
so maintaining daily activities will maintain the muscles that
support the back. Walking and swimming are low impact activities
that can be started before the back pain has totally resolved,
as recommended by your physician. Stay away from high impact
activities until you have completely recovered from a back
Start with gentle stretching exercises only. Stretching exercises
for the back increase circulation to the muscles to speed healing,
relieve tight muscles and back pain, and help increase mobility.
A warm shower or bath before exercising will loosen up tight
muscles and ease pain, making the exercises easier to do.
Save the strengthening exercises until
your back pain has gone
or as recommended by your doctor or physical therapist. Until
back pain is gone, avoid exercises that put pressure on the lower
back, such as leg lifts done in a face down position. You don't
want to restrain injured muscles and cause a flare up of back
pain. If you are unsure as to what exercises are safe, a physical
therapist can create a personalized exercise program for you
*Warm water exercises are particularly beneficial. Warm water
increases circulation, speeds healing, relaxes tense muscles, and eases
pain, which makes the exercises easier to perform. Many public
pools offer warm-water exercise classes.
When you have recovered from your back injury,
begin strengthening exercises that target your core muscles.
Strong back, abdominal, and buttocks muscles support the spine,
take stress off the joints of the spine, are vital to good posture,
and will reduce the chance of recurring back pain. Do strengthening
exercises regularly to maintain strong muscles. See Back Exercises
Strengthening the muscles that support the back
can prevent back pain from recurring.
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