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"Help, I Threw My Back Out!" Our Tips for Dealing with Back Pain

Hi, I'm Dr. Kenzie, a chiropractor who just threw her back out! *gasp!*


Yes, it's true, it happens to the best of us, and with me, it was squatting at the gym. This happens to me once every year or so from a disc injury I had when I was younger, and while I can mostly predict when it is going to happen and start treatment then, sometimes it just happens and I have to manage it.


So, what does a chiropractor do when they throw their back out? Let's dive in!


 

Step 1: Get Adjusted


Duh!!!! I always get adjusted when I hurt my back. Adjustments are great for restoring motion in your spine and keeping everything moving as it should. But here is the catch, it is definitely not a fix all! *gasp #2!*. Adjustments are helpful, but they are such a small piece of the puzzle. We can also provide tools like dry needling, electrical stimulation, red light therapy, stretching, and the roller table, that can also provide some relief.


 

Step 2: Find a Movement Pattern That Works For You


I have extension based back pain, meaning, when I lean backwards the pain is worse, and when leaning forward, the pain is better. So you know what I do? Very small extensions BACKWARDS. That's right, I lean into the pain. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but by leaning backwards, I am putting forces in the direction our lumbar curve is supposed to go. This helps with disc restoration and improves your spinal mobility. The majority of the time we see extension based back pain, rather than flexion based (meaning it hurts worse to lean forwards). So, this is a common treatment for back pain.


Here is the progression I followed:


First, Standing extensions: These were as simple as just doing slight extension backwards through my spine. I did a few repetitions of these every hour after my injury. I only continued doing them if they did not make my pain worse, even though they were a little painful. I started these the moment I felt my back pain, and I really truly do these all of the time. I noticed that my pain decreases slightly after a few repetitions, so that is how I know to continue doing them.



Next, Prone Extensions: This is a similar mechanism, but you are on your stomach. Starting with just a slight extension up, just until the pain starts, hold for a second, then repeat. You want to work up eventually to pressing yourself up fully, but keeping your hips on the ground. Again, if you do these and the pain continues to get worse, regress your progression.





 

Step 3: Home Care


Heat: Heat is such a great way to relax muscles, promote blood flow, and improve healthy inflammation. My favorite heat sources include:

  • Red Light Therapy

  • Moist Hot Packs

  • Saunas

  • Epsom Salt Baths (or just a Hot Bath!)

I recommend doing something with heat 1-3 times daily. This will help keep everything from stiffening up too much



Movement: Even if you hurt your back through movement, the worst thing you can do is not move. I know it can be hard, but walks, light exercise, light stretching, biking, are all great for low back pain. My rule of thumb, is that a little pain is okay, and if your pain gets better as you do the movement, perfect! But if your pain gets worse as the movement or activity progresses, maybe try something else


If you go home and sit on your couch for hours, you are just delaying your healing. I know it is the easy thing to do, but at the very least, change your position every 30 minutes or so. Keep that blood flowing!



Lastly, and MOST importantly, DON'T PANIC!!

As a chiropractor, I have seen people with mild back pain, all the way up to not being able to walk. Inflammation is painful, disc injuries are painful, muscle spasms are painful, and they are all potentially happening when you throw out your back. It can be very scary having your health taken away from you, and realizing how much you took for granted!


So, don't panic. Things will get better, it just might take some time. Use this pain as motivation. Maybe start working on strengthening your core, your glutes, maybe start more mobility, maybe go see your chiropractor more!


As a chiropractor, I do have to recommend that you do your due diligence and go get your back pain checked out. While it is difficult to diagnose you when you are in 10/10 pain, we can at least give you personalized care on how to heal quicker. AND, we can help you maybe not have this happen again!




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