Dealing with Acute or Sudden Onset of Back Pain

How you handle this will depend on how severe your back pain is.

Don’t panic!

When acute and extreme low back pain strikes, your first reaction may be one of worry. The pain can be so severe that it may limit your ability to lie down or sit comfortably. Standing upright and walking may be difficult, and going to work may be impossible.
Remember, while your current pain is intense and your mobility is limited, that most back, neck and shoulder pain, arm pain and sciatica can be resolved quite quickly, and many cases pain relief can be achieved in a few short weeks with the right treatment and advice.

You can usually:

  1. Do something to control the pain. A combination of non- steroidal anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen and paracetamol is a good start if there is no medical reason why you shouldn’t take them. The next stage, if you are not coping, involves stronger anti-inflammatory and codeine based drugs from your doctor. These may be combined with a muscle relaxant as the third stage.

  2. Modify your activities. Stay active and continue work if realistically feasible. Keeping generally mobile as this helps spasm to subside. Avoid heavy or repetitive movement and where at all possible avoid sitting for too long. If it is too painful to keep mobile then you may have to bedrest for 24 hrs or so to let the pain and spasm ease. Whenever possible, you should try and get up and move around within the limits of the pain, and not bed rest continually without any movement at all.

  3. Use an ice pack, or more conveniently, a large packet of frozen peas wrapped in a thin, damp cloth and place on the painful area. In the case of sciatic pain, the peas should be placed on the low back rather than the leg pain itself.

  4. Soak in a warm bath containing a cup of Epsom Salts (magnesium sulphate) as long as you are comfortable laying and able to get in and out of the bath easily.

If you have symptoms such as saddle anaesthesia (numbness or lack of feeling to your bottom or seat), lack of control over bladder or bowel (inability or difficulty to urinating, incontinence, constipation) or weakness in the lower extremities and loss of sensations, contact your GP immediately or go to A & E as soon as possible.

When booking an appointment, let us know if your situation is urgent so we can prioritise an appointment for you, 01379 870707 for the clinic at Hartismere Hospital or 07802 185504 for Central Norwich.