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What Happens When Your Back "Goes Out"?

woman holding backYou hear it all the time. Somebody bends over either randomly or to pick something up and POP! Their back goes out. But what does that mean? People have become so used to the phrase that they either don’t think about what they’re saying, or for some reason think their spine has something that randomly moved out of place. Do people really think a vertebra dislocated out of place? I can assure you this is not the case and the cause for pain is actually much simpler than you think.


I always ask people when they tell me their back goes out, “Where did it go?” The fact is your back doesn’t “go out” anywhere. While there are a multitude of things it could possibly be, it tends to be either a simple sprain/strain of the low back or an injury to the lumbar disc. The back “going out” is usually preceded by heavy or repetitive lifting which has stretched the low back tissues making it vulnerable to injuries. At that point it takes something as simple as bending over to pick up a pencil on the ground to tear either the annular fibers of the disc or ligaments and tendons of the low back. This article on achy low back pain explains more about repetitive stretching, the pain it causes, and the repercussions.

When the injury happens, people usually report they can’t bend over, stand up, twist, or pretty much move at all. This makes sense since the low back is a core stabilizer and if something tears in that area our body is going to have trouble doing any motion that involves core movements. This is usually soon followed by muscle spasms. People often associate muscle spasms as being bad, but in this case the spasm is helping protect the injured area from moving excessively which may just cause further injury and pain.


So what should you do when your back “goes out?” Research has changed how people treat injuries like this and it is actually better to stay active than simple bed rest. However, it’s important to not aggravate the injury and there tends to be a fine line between staying active and not reinjuring the area.

Any time there’s an injury the body lays down collagen during the healing phase which results in scar tissue. Chiropractic adjustments can help decrease the formation of scar tissue as the area begins to heal by gapping the surrounding joints and stretching the surrounding tissues that have been injured.

This can also help increase range of motion and decrease local muscle spasms. Other modalities including soft tissue therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, kinesio taping, and electrical stimulation can help decrease inflammation, pain, and help the tissues heal properly. Core stabilizing exercises should be emphasized and are usually ignored as people start to feel better. These exercises help the collagen being formed to align properly and strengthen the surrounding structures. This helps decrease the chances of reinjuring the area.


Hopefully you understand now that backs don’t “go out” anywhere and nothing needs to be put back in to place. However, it’s important to properly take care of your back when you injure it and just because you start to feel better doesn’t mean you can ignore it and expect it to never happen again.

Chiropractic care is an important factor in maintaining a healthy spine. Call us today to schedule your no-obligation consultation.

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