When Lower Back Pain Strikes

Updated: Nov 2

Dr. Andrew Johnston, DC


“Ouch!” You bent forward to pick up your pencil, or just rolled over in bed, or you tried to stand up from your chair and now your back is killing you. How many of us have been there? We try to do something so simple, and we get a flare up in our lower back. Well, what can we do at home to handle these flare ups prior to visiting our favorite chiropractor? Let’s discuss an immediate plan of action for when flare ups occur, what the symptoms and sensations that you are feeling mean, and why you should come see your favorite chiropractors. Immediate Plan of Action Ice, compress and mobilize! When the onset occurs, ice it. Your initial inclination may be to reach for something warm and soothing, but fight those instincts and grab a bag of ice, a bag of frozen peas, or that freezer burned steak way in the back of the freezer. Wrap said frozen object in a dish towel or sweatshirt, find a comfortable position and set that on the lower back. The ice will help slow the influx of inflammation and will help in decreasing the pain. Next, compress! With what? A foam roller, lacrosse ball, tennis ball, or even the towel that you just used to wrap your ice pack in. That compression will help in slowing down the onset of muscle spasming and guarding. Lay on your back, directly on roller or ball centered at the location of pain for at least 5-10 minutes. Lastly, mobilize! Mobilize? Yes, your inclination may be to hold very still in fear of pain returning, but mobilization is key. I don’t want you to go out and run a marathon, or go squat snatch 225 pounds, but I want you to bring some basic movement in as soon as you’re feeling up to it. When you feel ready, get up and walk, sit on your stationary bike and pedal, or if you can get into cat cow or cobra pose comfortably, let’s get there. The sooner we can get you moving, the better your outcome will be.

Symptoms and Sensations Now that we’ve put out the proverbial fire, let’s talk about what these symptoms can mean. Let’s break it down into three sensations, shall we? As you lean away from the side of pain, does it feel like a good stretch? Yes? Then most likely the injury is muscular in origin. If you lean towards the side of pain, does the pain become pinching or sharp? More likely joint in origin. Does the pain travel, or radiate into your hips or down into your legs? If so, there may be nerve involvement via inflammatory responses from either a muscle, joint or disc injury. Whatever the root cause, you can rest assured that our initial action plan from above does not change. Come and Get Adjusted You now may have an idea of what is going on, but whether you do or not, now is the time to come in and see your favorite chiropractors. You may think to yourself “if it’s a muscle injury or a disc injury, why should I get adjusted?” Great question. Muscles help make joints move. Therefore if the muscle isn’t working properly and is injured, the joint won’t work as efficiently either and the pain is perpetuated. When talking about potential disc injuries, the inflammation that occurs in those areas can cause muscle guarding and poor joint motion which will increase pain. That being said, our treatments (including adjustments) in the office will be different- whether it’s just a bit lighter or if it’s an entirely different, more tolerable adjustment. If we can get the joints in these areas to move better, sooner, you will feel better, sooner as well. There you have it - a simple, yet effective guide in immediate pain relief action plan, what your symptoms mean, and why you should come to get adjusted soon after injury. Happy moving Wash Park Chiro Fam!


Andrew Johnston, DC, SFMA, FDN 1 & 2 is a sports centered chiropractor whose passion is helping his patients achieve their greatest potential and dreams, whether that be lifting their grandkids, hiking the trail of their dreams, or succeeding in the professional sport arena. To do this, Dr. Johnston focuses on finding and treating the root cause of his patient’s problems, rather than just treating symptoms. Stay connected with Dr. Johnston on Instagram @washparkchiro