Help! Threw Out My Back!

Updated on March 15, 2017
N.R. asks from Chicago, IL
15 answers

I was shoveling snow and boing! - twinge in my low back and now it's hard to move without pain. I read to ice for first 1-2 days, take anti-inflammatory and rest in "neutral" position when possible. Now on day 3. What do you do? So much conflicting info out there - stretch/don't stretch; heat/no heat/alternate heat & ice; massage/no massage; rest/keep moving. Anyone been in this situation and have a good idea of what to do to help heal? I don't want to go to doc as I hear there's not much they can do - kind of like a sprained ankle. I understand there is no quick fix, but wondered if there are things I can do that are helpful. (And I know once I'm back to "normal" that I need to work on core strength and stretching etc.) Thanks in advance!

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So What Happened?

Thanks to all for the good advice and commiserating. A combo of ice and heat (and continued anti inflammatory) seemed to help. I'm quite sure I just pulled a muscle but will certainly follow up with a doc if the issue doesn't resolve in a reasonable amount of time. Chiro is a great idea, too. Thanks, all, for taking the time to chime in!

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answers from Boston on

I feel for you - did the same thing two years ago, right around this time. Go to a chiropractor stat - they can do A LOT for you. My chiro had me functional after the first visit and back to 100% (able to jog and go to the gym) in 2-3 weeks. Mine uses a tool to work on the spine that delivers quick, deep pulses and then has me sit in a chair and they put on electrode things that deliver little pulses to the muscles while you wear either hot or cold packs, and gives me gentle exercises to do at home. I'll go 2-3 times a week for a couple of weeks and then it's over. Much faster than when I used to try to just tough it out at home without help.

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answers from Springfield on

if moneys not an issue for you like it is for me i would head over to the dr and ask for physical therapy. then a trained professional can help you get your back feeling better and then help with proper ways to strengthen your core.

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answers from Philadelphia on

A muscle relaxer (flexeril) is a miracle drug. I personally would continue to stretch and take NSAIDS but if it is not better in another week just go to the doctor and get the muscle relaxer.

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answers from Beaumont on

Not sure if you can get out but I been going to a chiropractor periodically for years. They are a Godsend. You are doing all the right things. If you need more than you can do yourself then that would be my next move. Hope you feel better soon.

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answers from Sacramento on

I would call your doctor's office for input. Kaiser didn't need to see me when I did the same, but the advice nurse helped on the phone. Kaiser had me taking max dosages of ibuprofen and naproxen at the same time. I also used a Thermacare patch on my back (huge fan of these now!). The combination allowed me to at least move around.

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answers from Norfolk on

An epsom salt bath might help and I'd alternate the ice with a heating pad and/or heat patch.
I think it needs to feel better first before you start stretching.
Can you find an indoor pool where you can go swimming?
A lot depends on whether this is muscular or an actual problem with your spine/discs.
I know some people swear by chiropractors and some are totally against them.
I think if one can help with a session or two it might be alright, but if they try to sell you session after session or lots of supplements - run for the hills.
Yeah, with snow you have to learn to lift with your legs/knees and not let your back do the hauling.
I grew up with snow - it's why I now live where we rarely get any.

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answers from St. Louis on

It really just depends on what you did. I have been dealing with a bulging disk for almost a month. Same thing happened last November but not as bad. In November I just took it easy for a few days, went to the doctor to see what was wrong so I wouldn't make it worse. Within a few weeks I just had a little numbness left. I am already on anti inflammatory meds for my poopy knees.

Thing is the second time, a month ago, I did it really good. Labor was less painful! Anyway, you are wrong, there are a lot of things doctors can do. If it is just a slipped disk a chiropractor can realign your spine. I had that happen ten years ago, couldn't walk with my back straight, looked like Egor. One adjustment, no pain. The bulging disk this time, I had a steroid injection two weeks ago, I get another one today or in a week, not sure, my insurance is kind of sadistic with the waiting nonsense.

There is also surgery but most of the time there are non surgical options that work.

What doesn't work is making it worse by seeing Dr Google and not really knowing what is wrong.

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answers from Boston on

I'd just walk when you can. I did this a couple months back. I rested it, then slowly started moving and doing normal bends. If it doesn't hurt , keep at it. Just don't overdue it or you'll wind up hurting it more..



answers from New York on

Have you ever considered a chiropractor? My mother had severe pain in her hip (so much so, she thought it was broken!) and went to the regular doctor. He said that her such and such (don't remember what the specific name was) was out and she needed to have a chiro pop it back in. He also refused any pain meds or relaxers stating they wouldn't help - only popping it back in would solve the problem.

Don't assume there isn't a "quick fix" - it took two sessions (two days in a row) to pop my mom's hip back in and she had immediate relief with only mild soreness after easily controled by IB.

Good luck!



answers from Rochester on

I did something similar about 20 years ago and even now it doesn't take much to tweak my back again. In fact I'm dealing with it right now along with a pulled muscle and/or a pulled or torn ligament in my lower ribs.

It doesn't hurt to call and talk to a doctor. My dad ignored/lived with some back pain that should not have been ignored. He ended up with emergency surgery and then a year later 30 days in traction followed by two more surgeries within a week. He has so much hardware in his back that they had to reinforce his lowest vertebrae with cement. My best friend's mom has had to undergo multiple back surgeries in the last year and is filled with hardware as well.

Be careful not to reinjure it. Be careful with lifting and twisting. Gentle stretching is good. If it hurts, stop. One of the best things for me is to stand with my back to the wall and kind of squat until my back is flat against the wall. Hold it until it becomes uncomfortable.

Start with ice, but after a few days use ice or heat--which ever feels best. Ibuprofen, even if it isn't hurting right then.

Alternate between sitting and standing when possible. I'm a teacher, so I try to sit for no longer than 15-20 minutes and try not to stand for more than 15-20 minutes. When sitting, be sure you have good back support.

Sleep in whatever position is most comfortable. This time being flat on my back with my knees up is most comfotable. Last time it was sleeping on my right side with a body pillow behind me to keep from rolling over. Be careful getting out of bed. Roll to your side, use your top arm to push yourself up, slide your bottom arm up so you are resting on your elbow. Push up to a sitting position. Then swing your legs over the side of the bed. You can probably find a diagram online.

Also be careful getting up from chairs. Use your legs and arms to push yourself up.

Talk to a doctor before seeing a chiropractor or getting massage. Depending on what type of injury you have a chiropractor or massage could aggravate it more. The last time mine acted up I ended up doing physical therapy (stretches to strengthen core muscles, therapeutic massage, and EMS-electrical muscle stimulation). Both that time and this time my doctor told me that the type of injury I had would not have been helped by a chiropractor and in fact the manipulations could aggravate the injury more. If my dad had seen a chiropractor the manipulation may have speeded up what led to his emergency surgery or have caused a stroke.

Good luck! There isn't much that is worse than back pain.


answers from Chicago on

Ice is for injuries, heat is for muscles.
This is muscle.
Heating pack to relax the low back and hips.
Then...stretch your hips and hip flexors. That's the front. You tweaked THOSE muscles while shoveling, and your back locks up to compensate. (Trust, I've spent years doing this with my chiro.)
Google search if you're not sure which stretches will help you in that area, but the issue is with your front, and your back is just reacting to it. Loosen the front, and your back will feel a lot better.

Following, the suggestion of an Epsom bath is a good one after you've stretched.


answers from Washington DC on

Thank’s for your question N..

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Medical questions may be asked, however, please know that the first and best source for the answers to all such questions will alway be an appropriate certified professional. Please always consult such a professional in these matters first and foremost.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

You could have done many things to your back from simple muscle strain to tearing a ligament or popping out a disk. Only a doctor can find out for sure. They might want to do an MRI or CAT scan to see if something is going on more serious.

What I get when I hurt my back from the doc is muscle relaxants. Flexaril works very well. It doesn't knock me out but my muscles respond very well. My D.O. gives me a shot of Soma Plain in my back to help get the muscle started relaxing then he uses heat and massage to get it loose.

I think muscles are odd ducks. Either you ice them down to keep the inflammation down or you heat them up to get them relaxed.

So try both. See which ones make you feel better.

Slow stretches out go help. Gentle and minimal.

Look on Pinterest for back pain and see if you can find some links to exercises that will help.



answers from Detroit on

Gentle yoga like the child pose may help. Also, Epsom salts bath will help.



answers from New York on

I never thought I'd ever see a chiropractor. But my neck hurt so much I had to give it a try. Best decision EVER! I don't go often unless my neck is hurting and then I go three times and feel 100% better. And if you can pair it with their in house masseuse, all the better. The masseuse will work in conjunction with the dr. and really help to heal you.

Feel better!!

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