Back Pain Relapse! What Should I Do?

When you’re on the road to recovery, coming down with a relapse can be a difficult process to deal with – both mentally and physically. Unfortunately, relapsing is something that is certainly to be expected during recovery, although it’s certainly something we don’t expect to happen. It’s impossible to put yourself in a test-tube during recovery and accidents do happen, you might happen to lift something and tweak your back, you may do more than your body could handle or any number of things that can cause you to injure yourself in some way. Today we’ll explain what happens when you do injure yourself, why you won’t be going back to square one and what you can do to recover as quickly as possible.

What Stage Of Back Pain Recovery Are You At?

The stage of recovery you’re currently at will certainly dictate exactly what you need to do to make the fastest recovery. If you haven’t done any rehabilitation so far and you’ve perhaps just come down with back pain, maybe it’s the first occurrence or it’s a recurring problem you get from time to time, it’s only going to continue to get worse if you don’t start rehabilitating your body. Phase 1 of our Back In Shape membership area is free to access and guides you through relief based exercises that will bring down inflammation and calm your pain levels. No progress will be made in terms of rehabilitation during this stage, so it’s important that you don’t stay in this stage for longer than you need to. If you’re stuck in bed and can’t move because you’re in so much pain, seeking some medical assistance should be your first port of call, but if you’ve been checked over then doing the Phase 1 exercises will be vital to get yourself moving. Resting for back pain isn’t helpful and getting moving is a great way to get the circulation flowing. If you’re at that stage, staying in Phase 1 for a few days might be necessary, generally until you’re able to move around the house for around 15 mins with or without pain. At this point you should move onto Phase 2.

If you’re into rehabilitation and come down with a relapse, try to identify what caused the problem. Usually inflammation takes awhile to build, so did you overcook yourself the day before? Did you perhaps do an exercise with incorrect form? Did you do too much gardening? Have a long journey? You should be able to identify what it was that was out of the ordinary for you. You should also consider whether this pain is normal for you in terms of how your pain fluctuates throughout the day. A set-back like this isn’t easy to deal with but first of all, do accept that you’re not going back to the beginning although the pain may feel like it! Drop down to Phase 1 for just a couple of days and then return at around 50-75% of your previous effort level for exercises. You may also wish to do the towel and icing combination a few more times during these days to help bring down the inflammation.

What Happens During A Back Pain Relapse?

One of the most demoralising aspects of a relapse is that the pain can feel as if it did when you first had back pain, before your rehabilitation. We hear so often that people then think their rehabilitation is not working, that they’re back to where they were before and that it’s all been for nothing. That really isn’t the case so do make sure to remember this. If you’ve been doing rehabilitation, your body is a lot stronger than it was when you first started. By this time if you have been doing rehabilitation for a while, you’re likely to have developed some good stability and that this pain you’re experiencing is an influx of inflammation. When you tweak yourself, unless it’s been an aggressive injury, you’re unlikely to have caused tissue damage so the reaction you’re seeing is just inflammation. Going back to those relief based exercises is going to calm that and so you should see a noticeable reduction in symptoms over the next few days. The last thing you should be doing during this time would be any further rounding of the back, whether that’s in some of the stretches we ask you to avoid doing or any poor movement habits you might be doing day-to-day. During this time, take the extra rest, drop back to Phase 1 and also have a think back to how far you’ve come in your rehabilitation. Often looking back on what used to be your limits and see how many repetitions or sets of exercises you’re able to do now is a great way to get your motivation ready for when you can get back into the exercise. Remember that recovery is rarely a linear process and it’s completely normal to have set-backs, the important thing is that you’re making upward progress overall. Also remember that the further you are into the rehabilitation, the quicker you’ll rebound each time!

How To Move Forward Following A Back Pain Relapse

As we mentioned, you’ll want to drop back to Phase 1 for a couple of days before retesting going back to your Phase 2 or Phase 3 exercises depending on the stage you’re at. Using our T.R.E.A.T. principle, you can experiment with a percentage of your intensity that you were doing the exercises with before. First of all, test the exercises with between 50-75% of where you were at intensity-wise before the relapse. Make sure you then rest during the remainder of the day and try not to do anything out of the ordinary for you, so that it’s a fair test. During this time you’ll also want to make sure your form for the exercises is on point, so that you’re not letting yourself down there. Following this, evaluate the test and how it went, ideally the next day. Adjust accordingly, so if you felt you’d pushed yourself too hard or you feel you could increase a little more, do so by testing again.

We hope you found today’s topic of relapsing helpful! If you have any questions at all about relapses or about the Back In Shape membership area, do make sure to get in touch as we would be happy to help! You can reach out to us through our social channels, through email at or by tuning in to our daily livestreams on our Facebook and YouTube channel.

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