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Acute Low Back Pain

The problem

  • Lower back and/or sciatic (leg) pain
  • ‘Acute’ indicates onset within the last 6 weeks

Hints for self-management

  • Keep moving, return to work if you can, even if you only perform light duties
  • Do not be averse to taking medication as deemed necessary by your doctor.
  • Stay calm, it is well known that anxiety increases the sensitivity of pain centres in your brain.

Interesting facts

    • 80% of Australians will have an episode of acute low back pain – you are not alone.
    • Acute low back pain may involve one or more structures around the spine such as the intervertebral disc, the facet joint the ligaments or the muscles.
    • Acute low back pain often affects people suffering with irritable bowel syndrome, continence issues and respiratory diseases
    • Research shows that acute low back pain inhibits the stabilising muscles surrounding the spine (see below picture) leading to chronic weakness
    • Stretching is only effective if you are targeting the right muscles. Too much stretching can actually make you more unstable in the long term
    • Stretching is only effective if you are targeting the right muscles. Too much stretching can actually make you more unstable in the long term

A combination of strength and flexibility is vital for the long-term health of your spine

Management options

  • Regular monitoring by your specialised physiotherapist can help to ensure that the interventions are tailored to your responses
  • Increase your awareness of good postural habits
  • Anti-inflammatory creams/patches or medication may be prescribed by your doctor

What you can expect/look out for

  • You are very likely to improve significantly within one month
  • You can expect slower improvements over the 3 months following
  • It is not uncommon to suffer a repeat episode within 12 months

More information

  • It has been proven through good quality Australian research that improving your posture and the strength and control of your anti-gravity muscles, will reduce the chance of future episodes of acute low back pain


  • Waddell, G Clinical Guidelines for the Management of Acute Low Back Pain, London: Royal College of General Practitioners, 1996
  • BMJ. 2003 Aug 9;327(7410):323. Acute low back pain: systematic review of its prognosis. Pengel LH, Herbert RD, Maher CG, Refshauge KM.


At Sydney Sports and Orthopaedic Physiotherapy our highly qualified physiotherapists specialise in the assessment, treatment and prevention of neuromusculoskeletal injuries.



Contact us today – 9252 5770


This handout was prepared by Sydney Sports and Orthopaedic Physiotherapy and is intended as a general information service. Please note that the information provided is not intended as a substitute for advice from a registered physician or healthcare professional. If symptoms persist, please consult your doctor.

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