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Acute low back pain

What is acute low back pain?

Acute low back pain is one of the most common medical problems in the developed world. Acute low back pain is pain that has been present for around 4 – 6 weeks (less than 3 months). When referring to ‘mechanical low back pain’ this means pain that is caused by one or more of the following structures in the low back. Spinal joints, vertebrae, soft tissues such as muscles, tendon and ligaments and discs. Acute mechanical back pain may also be referred to as acute low back pain, idiopathic low back pain, lumbar syndrome, lumbosacral strain, pinched nerve, ruptured disc, slipped disc, lumbago or lumbosacral sprain.

What causes mechanical low back pain?

Chiropractors, physiotherapists and medical doctors can identify the reason (structure) for mechanical low back pain. In some cases, a specific trauma or activity can be the cause of back pain. Only about 1% of people who develop acute low back pain is due to a serious cause, such as cancer or infection. At Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C) we understand how important it is to achieve classification and diagnosis of acute low back pain. This diagnosis will allow our chiropractors and physiotherapists the ability to give an effective, reliable and safe treatment.

What are the symptoms of acute low back pain?

While most people experience mechanical low back pain in their lower back it is common for the pain to spread to other parts of their body, such as the knees, thighs and buttocks. Back pain can also cause spasms for many people, with symptoms becoming most noticeable when lifting objects or moving in specific ways. If you are experiencing these symptoms and they persist, it is important to see a chiropractor or physiotherapist.

How is mechanical acute low back pain diagnosed?

At Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C) our chiropractors and physiotherapists can determine and diagnose mechanical back pain through a physical examination and a person’s history. With this information, our chiropractors and physiotherapists will work with the patient to develop a tailored treatment plan aiming for a pain-free result. Sometimes additional tests may be ordered and these include an MRI, CT scan or x-ray.

How is acute low back pain treated?

Back pain is most often treated through pain relief medication, chiropractic and physiotherapy. At Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C) our chiropractic and physiotherapy treatments will depend on the cause of the low back pain. Regardless of the cause of the acute low back pain our chiropractors and physiotherapists in Balmain will use safe, effective and evidence-based treatments and recommendations that have been proven to work.

Bed rest
Bed rest typically not recommended by our chiropractors and physiotherapists as it can lead to longer recovery times. However, bed rest is recommended for patients who are experiencing severe back pain and muscles spasms but only for a time.

Physical activity
For quick recovery from acute low back pain, early physical activity, chiropractic and physiotherapy are recommended. For mild acute low back pain, it is recommended that you maintain a normal daily schedule from the very beginning of the acute low back pain.

Ice and heat application
To help the muscles relax and decrease inflammation, heat and ice applications may be effective at the very start of acute low back pain. I

Muscle relaxants and pain relief medication may be prescribed by your doctor.

In most circumstances, physiotherapy and chiropractic is a pivotal part of back pain rehabilitation. In regards to rehabilitation, it’s essential to work with a trained and specialised physiotherapist on an approach that is right for you. To return to work and daily activities, physiotherapy is encouraged to shorten the recovery of acute low back pain.

Chiropractic is a profession that specialises in non-surgical treatments of neck and back pain. A chiropractor should be your first contact when it comes to an acute bout of neck or back pain. Chiropractic treatments will largely depend on the cause of your pain.

When can I return to work?
If your job permits, our chiropractors and physiotherapists recommend that you return to work as quickly as possible with modified duties based on your occupation.


Chris Knee

Chris is a chiropractor, sports chiropractor, McKenzie Credentialed practitioner, nutritionist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). Chris studied the Doctor of Physiotherapy program at Macquarie University from 2016-2019. He is now finishing his Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree to become a medical doctor.