These coming couple of weeks has a number of awareness events relevant to us, so I’ll be posting more than usual. This whole week is Back Care Awareness Week, and this Sunday is World Mental Health Day. Next week includes World Arthritis Day (12th) and World Spine Day (16th) whilst World Osteoporosis Day is on the 20th.
So for today, let’s take a look at acute low back pain (Acute LBP). Back care awareness week is organised by @BackCareCharity, and supported by the @BritChiro amongst others
LBP is the fifth most common reason for physician visits, which affects up to 85% of people at some point. The exact cause of the acute low back pain often remains unknown, though thorough examination can reduce the number of possibilities. The back pain can come on suddenly after lifting things, or gradually through overuse, or even for no easily identifiable reason. Many cases will resolve within a few days and minimal intervention (reduced loading, ice and movement). It is rarely serious; though it can be debilitating; and rarely needs imaging – except in cases of direct trauma, suspected inflammation, or medical red flags.
Acute vs chronic are measures of duration, not severity; with Acute being anything that has lasted less than 8 weeks; with Chronic being more than 8 weeks. Between 6-8 weeks duration is often labelled as Subacute.
Whilst most cases resolve within a couple of weeks; for those that do become chronic, the best thing you can do to improve the prognosis, is to start treatment sooner; which is a bit of a catch 22. As a rule of thumb, if the back pain is significantly reduced after 5-6 days, then you shouldn’t need any treatment; if it is barely improved, or still worsening, then treatment might be a good idea, even if it’s just in the form of advice on how to manage the pain at home, and prevent it coming again.
In the mean time, you can use the POLICE protocol for managing acute pain, and keep your back as mobile as you can, and try not to be over-protective. Mobility, balance and strength training are the best ways to prevent episodes, though these things do happen as part of the human condition. If caused by significant trauma, or if the pain is intolerable, see your GP, minor injuries (Tewkesbury) or A&E Cheltenham / Gloucester).
You can find out more here: