Back pain: what to do? (In chronological order)

low back pain9 back pain what to do

You have back pain, and you're wondering what to do to heal as quickly (and effectively!) as possible.

You may have been told to avoid rest, take medication, go swimming, see a specialist, or have an MRI. These tips are certainly useful, but you would like to know other strategies to treat your back pain, and above all benefit from a structured method to resume your activities.

In the following article, I show you what to do after back pain chronologically (that is, from the onset of symptoms until they disappear).

1. Make sure it's nothing serious

The goal here is not to scare you. But you should know that back pain sometimes stems from a serious injury.

Obviously, these are extremely rare attacks which represent a proportion minime cases of lumbago.

On the other hand, you must consult urgently if you ever experience one of the symptoms mentioned in the infographic below:

If you ever want to make sure that your back pain is not serious, I invite you to consult the following article:

Back pain: When should you worry? (Is it cancer?)

In addition to serious conditions, back pain can sometimes come from another condition such as fibromyalgia, ankylosing spondylitis or any other inflammatory low back pain for example.

Another element to mention is theirradiation of pain in the leg. In general, the more the pain radiates (for example towards the foot), the less favorable the prognosis is (especially if it is associated with numbness and tingling).

2. Avoid things that will make the pain worse

We have now eliminated the risk of a serious injury that would require urgent medical intervention. That's good, but the pain still remains incapacitating and irritating!

Before taking any concrete action aimed at reducing your back pain, you should avoid actions that could potentially make it worse! In fact, several bad habits have the effect of delaying (or even completely preventing!) the healing of your lower back pain.

Typical example: If sitting aggravates your back pain, you will need to find strategies to limit this position during the day (if you have an office job, here are some tips to straighten your back).

I often suggest to my patients to get up regularly during the day to avoid immobilization caused by prolonged sitting position. Furthermore, there are adapted seats allowing dynamic sitting, and thereby improving your posture.

Click here to see seats suitable for people with back pain
Daccormax Ergonomic Office Chair, Comfortable Office Chair on Casters, Swivel Reclining Seat, Adjustable Armrests, Adjustable Headrest 11cm, Adjustable Lumbar Support, Black
  • 【Ergonomic office chair】The ergonomic design shows itself in various aspects: the headrest adjustable in angle of 120° and height of 11cm provides good support for your cervical spine; the armrests adjustable by 10 cm in height relieve the arms when resting; the 6cm variable lumbar support offers you reliable support for lumbar spine.
  • 【Backrest tilts up to 125°】The office chair can be tilted up to 125° angle, when you need a rest, you can pull the lever aside to tilt the backrest. The office chair rocker is designed to relieve back muscle pain and relax the mind. When you want the backrest to remain vertical, you can push the lever to lock the backrest at 90°.
  • 【Breathable Surface】The backrest made of breathable mesh allows air to circulate freely and gives you a good sitting experience in the bedroom especially in summer. The new sponge cushion is better in heat permeability than the recycled sponge cushion. The high resistance of the fabric makes the chair more durable and at the same time easy to clean.

Last updated on 2024-06-17 / Affiliate links / Images from the Amazon Partners API

Office Stool, 360° Rotation Rolling Stool, for Massage Salon, Office, Clinic
  • 💡COMFORTABLE AND FUN: This bar stool features a 360 degree rotating design that allows you to relax while rotating it. The adjustable height can reach 50-64,5cm and the load capacity can be up to 150kg, making it suitable for most people.
  • 💡ERGONOMIC DESIGN: The 8 cm cushion, thicker and larger, is covered in PU leather and the base has a chrome design, with several silent moving wheels for greater stability and resistance to wear.
  • 💡BEAUTIFUL AND PRACTICAL: This office chair suitable for home, hair salon, clinic, office, bedroom, etc., wherever you need it, it can get the job done. The beautiful and neat design also fits perfectly with your home decoration.

Last updated on 2024-06-17 / Affiliate links / Images from the Amazon Partners API

Devoko Sit Stand Desk 140×70cm with Monitor Stand Electric Height Adjustable Desk with 2 Memory Heights for Working
  • 【Perfect for the Office】: Alternating between standing and sitting allows you to keep your thoughts clear and be more productive at work. It improves the flexibility of the spine and avoid back pain after prolonged sitting. This desk is suitable for working, studying, drawing, reading, etc.
  • 【Height Adjustable Desk】: The height of the desk can be adjusted between 72 cm and 117 cm. Just press a button to adjust the desk to your desired height, allowing you to move freely from sitting to standing!
  • 【Sturdy Construction】: Devoko Desk are made from high quality metal frames, with motors that have been tested over 20 times to ensure durability, T-shaped legs for stability and a load capacity of 000 kg to provide you with a good working environment.

Last updated on 2024-06-17 / Affiliate links / Images from the Amazon Partners API

3. Control pain and inflammation

You suffer, and your pain prevents you from going about your daily business.

Fortunately, there are several ways to control pain and inflammation. On the other hand, most of the proposed strategies act in the short term, and do not constitute a lasting solution.

If you feel significant pain, try this:

  • Apply ice to your lower back area for 15 minutes. Place a wet towel between the ice and your back to protect the skin. Repeat every 2 hours.
  • After 24-48 hours of ice application, you can use a heated bag instead of cold. This will allow to act more on the muscular tensions in particular responsible for your back pain.
  • Then determine whether it is the heat or the ice that gives you the most good, and use the modality of your choice. To learn more about the difference between hot and cold, see the following article.
  • If the pain is too severe, medications will need to be considered. Talk with your doctor to determine the right medications, doses, etc.
  • Some people hate medication, and prefer to opt for essential oils for their back pain. If this is your case, know that there are many natural products available on the market (the best known are covered in this article). However, your doctor should be informed if you opt for these options, simply because these products sometimes have side effects and interactions with certain pharmacological products.
  • If you ever see a therapist (such as a physio or an osteo), he may use manual techniques such as mobilizations, massages and others aimed at relieving pain. machines like the TENS can also emit an electric current for analgesic purposes.

4. Reduce muscle tension

We mentioned that heat could reduce muscle tension, which is particularly responsible for back pain. Indeed, many patients feel relief from their symptoms after a massage, or even a hot shower. It is the same with manual techniques from a qualified therapist.

However, you should know that muscle tension is generally not the main cause of your back pain, but rather a consequence. It is with this in mind that the solutions proposed generally work in the short term only, and must be combined with a global (and active!) therapeutic approach.

Now, what can we do to reduce muscle tension, “untie” knots and relieve stiffness? Here are some strategies that can be practiced from the comfort of your home.

  • Take a tennis ball and place it on a stress point in the lower back. Lean your back against the wall so you can feel the pressure of the ball. Hold the position for a minute, then make mini-movements back and forth allowing the ball to massage your lower back.
  • Breathing exercises like diaphragmatic breathing can also relax tense muscles.
  • Believe it or not, meditation could also help you reduce muscle tension. Because it relaxes the mind and reduces stress, mindfulness (Mindfulness in English) is a very interesting strategy when you suffer from back pain. To learn more about this type of meditation (and benefit from exercises to integrate into your daily life), see the following article.

5. Minimize rest (yes, but how?)

You've probably already heard that you should stay active after back pain. Easy to say, you might say. How to move when the majority of movements are painful?

The secret boils down to one key concept: The progressive overload. Essentially, you have to find movements (no matter how small) that are well tolerated, then progress them by adjusting the intensity and amplitudes.

Your body is stronger than you can imagine, and has an impressive capacity for resilience. The same movement may seem impossible one day, but become possible through repetition (all within a safe and progressive framework).

6. Adapt your bedding and optimize your sleep

The quality of your sleep is linked to back pain. Whether it is the pain that prevents you from sleeping well, or the lack of sleep that contributes to the pain, it is clear that sub-optimal sleep is harmful for your back.

There is not necessarily an ideal position for sleeping well. However, some positions are better tolerated than others. For example, if you usually sleep on your back, put a pillow under your knees (and even under the sheets to make sure it doesn't move during the night). Also use a proper pillow to protect your neck.

To know my opinion as a physiotherapist on the memory foam pillows, see the following article:

Shape memory pillow: Opinion of a health professional

If you're used to sleeping on your side, a pillow between your knees can also reduce spinal twists that potentially cause increased pain.

Regarding the prone position, it is often considered “bad” for the back. It's a myth. Certainly, it forces the neck to rotate and accentuates the lumbar lordosis, but it's all about adaptation. If your spine is able to support this position, there is no harm in adopting this position.

On the other hand, in the presence of back pain or neck pain, a pillow under the belly is often better tolerated for people who are used to the prone position. It's up to you to see what's best for your back.

To benefit from advice allowing you to sleep like a baby despite your back pain, I invite you to see the following article.

7. Incorporate cardiovascular activity

It is often recommended to do cardio to stay in shape, and lose those extra pounds. Let me tell you that we underestimate the benefits of cardiovascular activity on back pain!

Among the benefits, we note a decrease in the sensitivity of the nerves (think of the sciatica and cruralgia !), improving the quality of sleep, optimizing the immune system, reducingchronic inflammation, improved mood, and so on!

Try to incorporate a "cardio" type activity into your routine. Brisk walking, swimming, cycling, any activity that helps to increase your heart rate without aggravating your low back pain can be practiced.

8. Identify a preferred direction

The concept of "preferential steering" is taken from the famous Mckenzie method.

Simply explained, there are usually specific movements and/or postures that aggravate back pain, and others that relieve it. The objective of the Mckenzie method is to identify a direction of movement that could relieve back pain, and provide exercises to incorporate into daily life.

Let's take a typical example: Mary has been suffering from back pain for several months. On MRI, he was diagnosed with disc herniation L5-S1. The sitting position is poorly tolerated, and any movement of flexion (leaning forward) increases lower back pain and causes radiation in the leg.

When assessed (by a Mckenzie therapist), it is observed that lumbar extension movements centralize symptoms. After several repetitions, the pain once in the calf resides only in the buttock.

It can therefore be concluded that the preferred direction is lumbar extension, and treatment should emphasize movements in this direction. Marie must therefore perform specific exercises regularly during her daily life in order to control the pain in the leg, and ultimately eliminate the pain.

For examples of exercises from the Mckenzie method, see the following article.

9. Become aware of psychological factors

Have you ever been told that back pain is in the head? Many take it as an insult, like being told your symptoms aren't real.

In fact, pain is a nervous message from the brain. So technically, yes, the pain is in the head (literally)! On the other hand, anyone who tells you that your pain is not real is wrong.

It is a fact. Pain can be affected by factors other than physical. Have you ever felt your back tense after a stressful day at work? Or, being afraid to move for fear of hurting yourself more?

These psychological and social factors contribute to the overall picture, and underestimating them is a mistake that many people – and even specialists! - make.

Morality ? Do not attribute your symptoms solely to physical causes, and integrate strategies allowing you to improve your state of mind, mood, relaxation, etc.

Avoid thesocial isolation which could lead to depression and Chronic Pain. If you feel stressed, diaphragmatic breathing and mindfulness meditation are an excellent starting point. Also, consult a shrink if ever your morale is down.

10. Consult a therapist

A health professional is someone who has seen a lot of cases like yours, and who knows what to do to get you better. Why not enjoy it?

Often, the first instinct of people with back pain is to talk to their doctor. But there are several therapists and back specialists who will be able to help you if needed.

An expert will be able to issue (or clarify) your diagnostic, either via clinical tests or via examinations ofmedical imaging. And above all, he will be able to offer you individualized solutions to improve the health of your back.

To find out who (and when) to consult, refer to next article.

Bonus: Don’t stop your good habits!

If you follow the advice mentioned above, there is a good chance that your symptoms will improve.

You will have understood by browsing the article that the reduction of pain requires an effort on your part. You have to be proactive, move, ask for help, work on yourself, define aims, etc.

Here is a problem that I often notice in my practice: Patients, as soon as the pain is under control, stop doing the activities that helped relieve their symptoms. They no longer take breaks after a long period of sitting. They let the stress of work affect their sleep. In short, they resume their bad habits.

Until the lower back pain comes back again!

Morality ? When your back pain is not incapacitating, this is the EXACT moment to maximize the treatment. Do your exercises and back stretches, improve your muscle strength and flexibility, correct bad postural habits, adopt good sleep hygiene, etc.

It's your turn!


The management of back pain is sometimes complex. Some treatments work for some, while they provide no benefit for others.

You have in this article a list of solutions to treat your back pain. The advantage is that they are listed in chronological order, which will give you some structure when it comes to treating your condition.

Remember that there are a multitude of treatments available. I also wrote an article that offers 36 ways to relieve back pain quickly (I promise you will be surprised by strategy #26!).

The important thing is not to give up when a treatment does not provide the expected results. Keep fighting, surround yourself with the right people, and don't hesitate to ask for help.

Good recovery!

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