Emergency! What To Do For Sudden Acute Back Pain

Sometimes you’re just doing a simple, everyday movement – and zap! Your back goes into spasm. The pain is suddenly excruciating, you’re frightened to move and have no idea what’s happening to you.

This kind of situation feels like an emergency because the signals your brain is receiving are alerting you to potentially serious tissue damage.

The good news is that (provided the pain isn’t caused by a fall or collision) it is rare for lower back pain to indicate a need to visit A&E.

Here’s our advice for when the pain is intense and you can’t move:

  • Wait. Get yourself into the least painful position possible and just wait a bit.
  • Breathe calmly and use ‘common sense thinking’ to reassure yourself that this acute stage is short-lived. Intensity of pain is very much mediated by fear and anxiety. Staying calm and logical is the best way to handle panic feelings.
  • Painkillers. Take an anti-inflammatory like Ibuprofen. The NHS advises that you can also take paracetamol alongside for pain relief.
  • Use heat (a hot water bottle) wrapped in a tea towel to ease spasms and stiffness.
  • Use cold – we sell cold packs but you can use a bag of frozen peas (wrapped in a tea towel) to relieve swelling and pain.
  • Move gently. Don’t go to bed or immobilise yourself on a soft sofa. As soon as you’re able to, begin to move about gently. Get up and walk to and fro, sway or just gently stretch. If all you can do is change your position at first, then do that regularly.
  • Give Sundial a ring – our chiropractors can talk through your symptoms and advise you, check for ‘Red Flags’, and arrange a time for you to come in for treatment.

You could also try these exercises as long as it doesn’t make the pain a lot worse (a bit worse temporarily is okay though):
The 3 Best Back Exercises To Do At Home

Red Flags: when should you go to A&E?

Below are the symptoms which tell you to ring 999 or go to Accident and Emergency if sudden acute back pain immobilises you .

  • Chest pain
  • Severe back pain following a recent accident – but remember, if you’ve had a fall or been involved in a collision, it’s important to get yourself checked out anyway
  • Numbness or tingling round the genitals
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Loss of control of bladder or bowels


Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you’re worried about back pain. We really are here to help.

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