A “thrown-out back” is a common problem amongst people who suffer from on-again, off-again low back pain. When back pain flares up like this, the pain may occur at the base of the spine (SI joint) or in the muscles surrounding the spine. The low back pain may even radiate down a leg.
The most common reasons for recurrent episodes of this type of pain are posterior chain weakness (e.g. glutes, and hamstrings) combined with low back weakness. In addition, if you have stiffness in your hips and t-spine, it will be more difficult for you to move well when you are bending or lifting. This could result in overlead of an already weak back and predispose you to throw your back out. In addition, if you haven’t learned how to hinge at your hips and engage your hip and buttock muscles when you lift, your lower back may compensate and increase your risk of hurting your back. The best way to know what is contributing to these episodes with lifting is to undergo a strength and movement assessment.
If you’re in the acute (i.e. early stage) phase of a low back pain exacerbation, the first common-sense recommendation is to take a short break from aggravating activity. This allows for an environment for irritation to settle down and pain to subside. If pain persists, hands-on therapy can be effective to alleviate pain faster. Manipulation of the spine, dry needling, and/or deep pressure therapy calms down a spasming back and can quickly alleviate pain to a manageable level. Once pain is under control, you can now address the root causes of your recurrent back pain.
If you have a weakness, learning how to activate muscles that are not firing well is key. Exercises like glute bridges and prone hollows are a good starting place. Once muscles engage better, the next step is restoring movement. The basic function of the spine is to bend forward, bend backward, and twist. Jefferson curls, prone lumbar extension/rotation, and kettlebell rotations can develop normal movement at this stage. In order to keep back pain from becoming a recurring problem, advancing to strength-based exercises is recommended. When performed with a hinge technique, deadlifts are a great strength-building exercise. Most of these exercises can be found in our YouTube library.
When addressed with a specialized physical therapy program, you can live an active life without fear of throwing your back out. However, ignoring pain and engaging in higher-level activity may predispose you to more episodes in the future. If you want to solve recurring back problems, the physical therapists at Movement Solutions would be glad to help you.
We invite you to request a back consultation with one of our specialists. This is an opportunity to ask questions, obtain clarity about your back pain, and foster confidence that we can help you. If you’re certain that we’re a good fit to work together, you can decide on the next step.
If you’re in pain but unsure about what you should do, call us at (864) 558-5020 and ask how we can help.