It can happen when you’re vacuuming, standing up after sitting for a length of time, shoveling snow, or bending over to unplug your laptop. The pain shoots through your low back like lightning, and can drop you to your knees. After the initial shock, the pain is constant and even the slightest movement can send the muscle into spasm, making a grown person cry out in agony for a day or two. Those who’ve had this happen to them know it’s not an exaggeration.
First, what to do: Rest is best. Finding a comfortable position and riding it out for 24 hours is advisable. However, for many of us, shutting the world down for 24 hours just isn’t possible. So, here are a few tips:
-Keep the spine and low back in a neutral position as much as possible. This means if you’re sitting, get your backside back in your chair or car seat to prevent slouching. This gives your muscles the best chance to heal, and reduces the amount of stress we put on those muscles.
-Plan on activities taking a little longer. Need to go to the bathroom? Sit up perfectly straight for 30 seconds before attempting to stand. Use your arms to assist you when you can to help take the burden off of the muscles in the low back.
-Give your chiro a call. The damaged muscles will take time to heal, but a chiropractor can help with pain control during that first day or two in many cases, and assess the injury to determine if your injury is more severe than a simple sprain or strain. After the spasms have stopped, consulting a chiropractor is still a good idea to assess function and determine the extent of the damage.
-If the pain is unbearable, or if you lose bladder or bowel function, get to urgent care or call an ambulance. Loss of bladder or bowel control is a very serious issue that often requires surgical intervention.
Second, how do you keep this from happening again (or at least keep it from happening as often)??
-Sit up straight! Slouching while sitting, watching TV or driving causes the natural curve in your low back to reverse. This put the muscles at a mechanical disadvantage, and makes you more susceptible to injury.
-Strengthen your core! The muscles in your low back serve just as much as “stabilizers” as they do “movers”. Stabilizing the low back by strengthening your core has been shown to be beneficial in reducing low back injuries.
-Stretch your hamstrings, and abdominals! If your hamstrings are tight, your pelvis doesn’t move as it should, and that means the low back has to arch forward in order to make up the difference, and THAT means your low back has to do more work than it’s supposed to, thus making you more susceptible to injury.
Note* This is not meant to be an all-encompassing advice article on low back pain and spasm. Low back injuries can be very serious, and sometimes indicative of more severe conditions. I strongly advise a consultation with a medical professional or specialist (including a chiropractor) in the case of severe low back pain or sciatica.
References and research articles are available upon request.