Q: What do I do now?
A: Do not sit down!
Depending on the severity of your pain there are several answers about what to do, the bigger question may be what not to do. The one thing to be sure to avoid is sitting down! Sitting can actually make things worse and increase or prolong your pain, you are better off lying down or trying to walk around. Listen to your body…bending, lifting and twisting should be avoided and usually don’t feel good. Try to tighten you abdominal muscles and gluteal muscles whenever you transition from one position to another. The more you take care of your body in the early stages the better off you’ll be in the long run.
Whether a muscle strain or a disc problem, sitting down can make the problem worse particularly in the case of a disc injury. If you lie down on your back put a pillow under your knees or lie on your side and put a pillow between your knees, this will keep your back in a neutral position. If you walk around try to stay as upright as possible, if you can’t do this right away try to keep moving and eventually work up. If you have injured a disc, sitting only reinforces increasing pressures into the area of weakness so that once you stand again it becomes more painful and harder to get upright.
In addition to positioning and movement, a follow up with your physician or physical therapist may be appropriate especially if your pain lasts longer than two weeks. In 80% of low back pain cases, pain is gone completely within two weeks. However, Do not ignore this pain because muscle imbalances may lead to compensations that never resolve. Several clients have come in reporting a history of sudden low back pain that came on just by bending over to pick up a piece of trash. In other cases, it was a simple turn to put down a cup that started the pain. It is not uncommon for an individual to give a history of this happening 2-3 times in the past. Typically these events are spread out over months or years and have resolved without much effort, but often the pain starts lasting longer and occurs more often. Good care in the first few weeks after injury can keep this from becoming a life long problem. Take good care of your back, stay strong through your core muscles, keep active and be aware of your movement and hopefully you’ll never need to know what to do after an injury.