Acute Low Back Pain

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

Low back pain refers to pain felt below the thoracic spine (as highlighted in the diagram below) and is generally accompanied by stiffness, decreased movement and difficulty loading.

Lower back anatomy


The lower back is comprised of the L1 to L5 Lumbar segments of the spine. This region of the back supports the entire weight of the upper body. Between each vertebrae are fibrocartilaginous pads called intervertebral discs, which act as shock absorbers throughout the entire vertebral column. Connective tissue known as ligaments maintain the structural integrity of the back, along with tendons which attach to the muscles of the spine. There are 31 pairs of nerves which originate from the spinal cord and traverse throughout the spinal column to supply their designated tissues. These tissues therefore comprise the potential nociceptive stimuli contributing to low back pain (along with referred pain from other sources such as visceral structures).


Acute back pain can last anywhere from two days to a few weeks.


Vertebral Column

What causes acute lower back pain?

Acute low back pain is commonly caused by sudden injury to the muscles and ligaments which provide support to the back. This pain arises as a result of the stimulation of nociceptors (pain receptors) in the lower back in response to muscle spasms, strain, or a tear in the ligaments. Acute low back pain can also occur as a result of traumatic events such as playing sports, car accidents and falls, where the structures of the back are injured.


Most acute lower back pain is mechanical in nature, suggesting there is a disruption in the components of the back, and how they functionally work together.

Structures of the Lumbar Spine

Examples of sources of mechanical back pain include:

- alignment issues

- injuries to the soft tissue

- degenerative problems

- nerve and spinal cord problems.


Risk factors for developing lower back pain:

Anyone can get low back pain, however, there are some risk factors which increase your susceptibility to low back pain. These include:

- Age related bone degeneration

- Low Fitness level

- Overweight/obesity

- Genetics

- Physically demanding jobs (heavy lifting or pulling)

- Jobs which require desk-work all day

- Anxiety and Depression

- Smoking


How can my lower back pain be diagnosed?

Since some symptoms of lower back pain are similar to those of more serious pathology, it's important you see a health professional. Any numbness or weakness in between your legs, and/or bowel and bladder problems can be a sign of damage to the nerves that exit at your lumbar spine (and spinal cord), and require urgent medical attention.

In order to diagnose mechanical back pain (injuries to the muscles, ligaments, etc. of the back), our expert physiotherapy team here at Breathe Physio and Pilates can perform a thorough physical examination, as well as assess your history and take into account the prevalent risk factors.


How do we treat acute lower back pain?

Physiotherapy is essential to ensure acute soft tissue injury does not turn in to a chronic low back pain condition. We treat acute lower back pain with an in-depth physical assessment, a variety of hands on techniques to manage the pain, and later on, appropriate exercise prescription. The consistent practice of Pilates is also extremely beneficial to prevent low back pain from recurring.


If you are experiencing lower back pain, give us a call at 07 3061 7128.

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