Acute Back Pain

See your MD or PT before you follow the protocol below.

The below is not intended to replace the care of a MD or PT. It can be used in conjunction with the care of a MD or PT. Use the below when there is no medical care available.


The most common mechanism or way you hurt your back is by lifting an object with your knees straight. This causes you to load the spine in an unsafe manner and puts more stress on your low back. So, what should you do once you hurt your back?


Initial Treatment

Lie down at home on a firm surface. One suggestion is putting a comforter on top of the carpet. Lie down on your back with your bottom touching the sofa and your legs resting on top of the sofa cushions with your knees bent. Your hip and knees should both be at 90-degree angles. This is known as the 90/90 position. A comfortable pillow should be placed behind the head and upper shoulders. Apply ice to the low back to ease acute pain and inflammation. Use crushed ice in a zip-lock bag with a light or moist towel between the skin and crushed ice bag. This tends to be safer than chemical ice packs because there is less risk of getting an ice burn. The ice pack should be left on the low back for between 20 to 30 minutes.

  • See your PT or MD at the first opportunity.
  • In order to perform the following exercises, you must be under the care of a PT or MD.

McKenzie Emergency Back Routine

Description and Reasoning:
Sitting – 500+ pounds of pressure on the lumbar spine
Standing – 90 pounds of pressure on the lumbar spine
Lying – 15 pounds of pressure on the lumbar spine

  • Lie prone (facedown on your stomach)
  • Pinch heels together while squeezing your gluteal muscles. Repeat 10 times.
  • Relax the back and place your hands on the floor next to your face, with your thumbs about level with the top of your forehead. Press your chest up off the floor. DO NOT contract the back muscles- keep them relaxed. Repeat 10 times.

See your PT or MD before doing the following motion.

If you stand up and see your hip sticking out more to one side, move your hip to line up with the rest of your body. This can be painful, so perform the movement very slowly.

Do NOT sit at all – not even to eat!

As with all medical conditions, you must seek the care of a MD or PT.