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  • Writer's picture Dane Monaghan - Physio

What to do when you've hurt your back? A guide to Acute Back Pain



If you've ever experienced acute back pain, you can appreciate the level of discomfort and fear that can be associated. We've heard it described as a 'Lightning Bolt' or a 'Bite' in particular areas of the back.

Back pain can disrupt daily activities and can feel quite inhibitory and fatiguing if experienced throughout the day

Let's have a look at how we can manage the early stages and prevent further complications


Understanding General Acute Back Pain

Acute back pain is sudden and sharp. While it can be alarming, it’s important to note that the first 24-48 hours are often the worst symptoms and give a false perception of your prognosis. Hence, let's look at some tools to combat the first 48-hours


First Steps at Home

  1. Relative Rest*: Now you may not feel like it in the early stages but movement is a key strategy to help limit pain or discomfort. Inactivity can worsen symptoms of back pain. Motion is the lotion when it comes to back pain. Aim to perform gentle movements that don't exacerbate your pain. Walking is a perfect example if you can tolerate it

  2. Apply Heat or Ice: You may hear conflicting advice on this point. Heat can be a fantastic tool to promote blood flow to your back, particularly if quite guarded in its response (Spasm). Others find ice a pain analgesic that helps to calm the area down. Heat is often preferred if you're struggling to go to sleep which is important. It's hard to recover when you don't sleep

  3. Over-the-Counter Pain Relief: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Neurofen or Voltaren can help reduce symptoms. Additionally, Panadol can also be helpful in the short term. However, it’s important to use these as directed on the package or by a healthcare provider.



When to See a Physiotherapist

Straight away. The above strategies at home can help however getting a thorough assessment is important when dealing with back pain. No two back pain presentations are the same so a cookie-cutter approach can't be applied. Getting a plan to help you manage your presenting symptoms helps get back into daily activities quicker If you experience symptoms of numbness, pins & needles, weakness, or severe pain, then you should contact a High Line Active Physio as soon as possible.


  1. Hands-on Manual Therapy: Our physios will determine which treatment technique will suit your presentation and get you the best results possible. Techniques such as massage, joint mobilisations, dry needling, taping, cupping, ultrasound, and others

  2. Education: Having an understanding of what triggers there may be for your back, and strategies that will work for you best at home are paramount in managing back pain and avoiding further injury

  3. Exercise Prescription: Both Nicole and Dane are trained Strength & Conditioning coaches (ASCA L1) who can accurately prescribe the appropriate exercise(s) for you to get back into movement. Remember, Motion is the Lotion. Reviewing control and technique as you progress through each exercise


Long-Term Recovery and Prevention

Recovering from a back injury doesn’t just stop at pain relief. The goal is to ensure you can return to your normal lifestyle and activities without fear of re-injury. Key areas:

  • Strength and Control: Strengthening specific areas of weakness can help to improve and support the spine long term. Think of this area as injury prevention/reduction

  • Life / Work Advice: Discussing work or home setups can be valuable in avoiding falling into the same triggers that began this back pain in the first place.


  • Ongoing support: Regular follow-ups to adapt your treatment plan as you improve and progress your strength.


Experiencing acute back pain can be frustrating but it doesn't have to be a long-term impairment.

Our team here at High Line Active can expertly guide you through your recovery and beyond. We want the best for you and your active lifestyle


If any of this sounds valuable to you or someone you love, then please contact us and we'd gladly point you in the right direction



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