How To Fix A Thrown Out Back

A “Thrown Out Back” refers to experiencing an acute episode of lower back pain.

This blog post is a comprehensive guide on how to self treat a thrown out back as quickly (…and as thoroughly!) as possible.

Symptoms Of a Thrown Out Back:

  • Lower back pain
  • Muscle spasm
  • Stiffness
  • Reduced ability to move lower back
  • Difficult to find comfortable position
  • Pain with coughing/sneezing
  • Altered walking pattern


You may experience a thrown out back when you place an unaccustomed amount of load/strain onto your lower back.

This is usually associated with:

  • Over reaching
  • Lifting/Pulling an object off the floor
  • Twisting your lower back
  • Sudden movements of your back
  • Sitting for too long
  • Sleeping in an awkward position

How To Fix A Thrown Out Back

There are multiple structures in the lower back that can get injured (namely the Muscle, Disc, Joint and/or Nerve).

The following steps in this blog post more specifically address a thrown out back due to a muscular strain.

STEP 1: Adopt A Positive Mentality
STEP 2: Reduce Aggravating Activities
STEP 3: Reduce Inflammation
STEP 4: Perform Gentle Movements
STEP 5: Keep Active
STEP 6: Pain Management
STEP 7: Optimize Sleeping Posture
STEP 8: Release Tight Muscles
STEP 9: Gentle Stretches
STEP 10: Decompress The Lower Back
STEP 11: Core Strengthening Exercises
STEP 12: Lower Back Strengthening
STEP 13: Lifting Technique
STEP 14: Sitting Posture
STEP 15: Seek Help

STEP 1: Adopt A Positive Mentality

Despite the high levels of pain that you may be experiencing in your lower back, it is important to adopt a positive attitude to help optimize your recovery.

Unhelpful and negative thoughts will not help you eliminate your pain any faster.

In fact – it may actually lead to a prolonged recovery time.

Examples of negative thoughts:

  • Assuming the worse about your injury
  • Always thinking and stressing about the pain
  • Thinking that the presence of pain is causing more damage
  • Believing that physical activity is dangerous

Understand this: In the vast majority of cases, the acute back pain will naturally and completely resolve by itself.

(… Please take some comfort in knowing this!)

Please seek help from a trained professional if you are struggling to cope with your pain.

How long will it take to fix a thrown out back?

Generally speaking – The recovery time for acute lower back pain can take anywhere from a few days to 6 weeks.

STEP 2Avoid Aggravating Activities

Ongoing exposure to any activity, movement and/or position that significantly aggravates your thrown out back will make it difficult to perform the exercises that will help fix this issue.

Common Aggravating Activities To The Lower Back

  • Prolonged sitting/standing/walking
  • Bending forwards
  • Lifting/Carrying a heavy object
  • Coughing/Sneezing
  • Getting out of bed/chair/toilet/car

My Recommendation:

In the initial stages of your recovery, aim to minimize your exposure to any activity that make your symptoms significantly worse.

This will give your body the best chance to recover.

(Keep in mind – I DO NOT recommend completely resting in bed all day! This may lead to de-conditioning of your entire body which can result in even more issues.)

STEP 3Reduce Inflammation

If there is a significant amount of inflammation, this can increase the sensitivity and pain in the lower back.

This may limit the ability to perform the suggested exercises on this blog post and potentially prolong the time it takes to recover.

Here are ways to reduce inflammation:

a) Anti-Inflammatory Gel

Apply an anti-inflammatory gel to the lower back.

Do this 3 times per day.

b) Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

It is recommended that you take an anti-inflammatory medication consistently for at least 7-10 days.

Keep in mind – there are different strengths/types of NSAIDs and is best used if the prescribed medication is appropriate to the severity of the inflammation.

(Note: Please consult your Primary Care Provider before taking any medication.)

c) Cold Therapy

Apply an ice pack to the lower back at least 10-15 minutes.

Do this 3-5 times per day for the first 2-3 days following your injury.

(Note: Do not apply the ice pack directly to the skin as you may develop an irritation on the skin.)

Once the initial pain has subsided, consider applying heat (via heat pack, hot shower and/or deep heat) to help relax the region.

d) Try Natural Products

It is suggested that taking turmeric, ginger, chia seeds and/or fish oil capsules are natural ways to help reduce the inflammation.

e) Cortisone Injection

The cortisone injection consists of a steroid (cortisone) and an analgesic substance.

The aim of the injection is to reduce the inflammation and reduce the pain by numbing the area.

(Note: Talk to your Primary Care Provider to see if the cortisone injection is appropriate for your lower back.)

STEP 4Perform Gentle Movements

In the early stages of your rehabilitation, it is crucial to perform gentle movements of the lower back to help promote a quicker recovery.

Gentle movements can reduce stiffness, promote blood flow and maintain range of motion in the lower back.

a) Knees Side-To-Side

thrown out back


  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Let your knees drop towards one side.
  • Allow as much movement as you can comfortably manage.
  • Alternate sides.
  • Repeat 20 times.

b) Knees To Chest

stretches for thrown out back


  • Lie down on the floor.
  • Hold both knees with your hands.
  • Completely relax your legs and allow the arms to take the full weight of the legs.
  • Pull your knees towards your chest.
  • Move as much as you can comfortably manage.
  • Continue for 20 repetitions.

(Note: You can also perform this exercise using one knee at a time.)

c) Standing Extension

gentle exercises lower back pain


  • Stand up right.
  • Place your hands on your hips.
  • Slowly arch your lower back backwards.
  • Move as much as you can comfortably manage.
  • Aim to feel a gentle tension across your lower back.
  • No pain should be experienced.
  • Repeat 20 times.

d) Standing Side Bends

LBP exercises


  • Stand up right.
  • Slowly bend towards one side.
  • Make sure that you only move far as you are comfortable.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Repeat 20 times.

e) Pelvic Tilts

pelvic tilt exercise


  • Lie down on your back.
  • Keep your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Gently tilt your pelvis forwards.
  • Arch your lower back.
  • As you perform this, aim to feel a gentle contraction in the lower back muscles.
  • Relax to starting position.
  • Perform 20 repetitions.

STEP 5: Keep active

It is important that you aim to stay as active as possible.

This is to reduce the amount of deconditioning that may occur in the body due to the reduction in the activities/movements that you would normally do.

My Recommendation: Aim to walk as much as you are safely and comfortably able to tolerate.

(If you have difficulty with walking, consider walking in a heated pool (Hydrotherapy) or walk shorter distances.)

STEP 6: Pain Management

If there is a significant amount of pain even after following the previous steps, consider the following suggestions:

a) Apply Heat

Applying heat to the lower back can help relax the muscles in the region.

Place a heat pack on your lower back for at least 10-20 minutes, 3-5 times a day.

Other ways you can apply heat:

  • Take a Hot/Warm shower
  • Apply Deep Heat cream

b) Pain Relief Medication

If you are having difficulty managing your pain levels, you may need to consider taking pain medication.

(Note: Seek medical advice from your Primary Care Provider before taking any medication.)

STEP 7: Optimize Sleeping Position

In my opinion: Good quality sleep is helpful in the recovery of your thrown out back.

How do you sleep with a thrown out back?

In regards to your back pain – the best sleeping position has the following aspects:

  • The lower back feels completely comfortable.
  • You are able to have good quality sleep without waking up multiple times.
  • You do not wake up with a significant amount of pain in the lower back.

However, that being said, I do encourage you to adopt a sleeping position where your lower back is in a more neutral position.

This will help distribute load throughout the structures of the lower back more evenly which may reduce the chance of aggravating the back.

Here are my sleeping position recommendations:

a) Sleep On Your Back

sleeping position with lower back pain

This sleeping position encourages the most symmetry in your spine.

Additionally, you can place pillows underneath the knees to take some pressure off the lower back.

Note: Depending on your level of comfort, you may require to try different heights of pillow under your knees until you find the most supporting and comfortable position.

b) Sleeping On Your Side

side sleeping posture back pain

As many people do not feel comfortable sleeping on the back, the next best position is on the side.

Consider the following:

  • Place a pillow between your legs to prevent the upper leg from rotating your body.
  • Support your upper arm on top of a thick pillow to prevent the torso from twisting.
  • Support your head with a pillow with an appropriate height to encourage the neutral position of the spine.
  • Place a small rolled up towel underneath the side of the waist to minimize side bending of the spine.
  • Make sure that the mattress is not too firm as this will encourage more side bending of the spine.

STEP 8: Release the painful area

Releasing the painful area can help relieve tension in the painful muscles in the lower back.

a) Release the Painful Area

thrown out back massage


  • Locate the exact area where there is pain.
  • Lie down on your back.
  • Place a massage ball underneath your lower back region.
  • Position your body so that the painful muscle is directly top of a massage ball.
  • Apply as much of your body weight as you can comfortably tolerate.
  • Keep your body completely relaxed!
  • Slowly circle around the target area and pause at any areas that elicit more tenderness.
  • Duration: Aim for 2-5 minutes.

(Note: Only apply as much pressure to the painful area that you can comfortably tolerate.)

STEP 9: Gentle Lower back Stretches

If you experience pain with any of the following stretches, your lower back may be sensitive to certain positions.

(… Don’t worry. This is very common!)

If this is the case, only move your back as far as you can comfortably tolerate.

(Note: If it is still too painful, you may need to avoid performing the stretch for now.)

a) Forward Fold

lower back pain stretches


  • Sit on the edge of a chair.
  • Have your knees facing outwards.
  • Fold your torso between your legs.
  • Make sure that your torso is completely relaxed in this position.
  • Aim to feel a stretch in the lower back.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

b) Cobra Pose

lower back extension stretch


  • Lie down on your stomach.
  • Place your forearms onto the floor to support the weight of your torso.
  • The elbows should be positioned directly below your shoulders.
  • Keep your lower back and legs completely relaxed.
  • Lean backwards.
  • Aim to feel a comfortable stretch in the front of your abdominals.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

c) Side Stretch

lumbar spine stretch


(The following steps are described to stretch the right side of the lower back.)

  • Stand up right with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Place your left hand on left hip.
  • Push your hip towards the right.
  • Whilst reaching over towards the left with your right hand, tilt your torso to the left.
  • Aim to feel a stretch on the right side of the torso..
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.

STEP 10: Lower back Decompression

The following techniques are designed to reduce the amount tension in the lower back.

You will need completely relax your leg and lower back muscles in order for these exercises to be effective.

(Note: If the following decompression stretches make your symptoms worse, this may suggest that these exercises are not appropriate for you.)

a) Chair Hover

(Do not attempt this exercise if you have issues in your upper limb, shoulder or neck.)

decompression of lower back


  • (You will need 2 chairs for this exercise.)
  • Hold onto the top of the chairs. (See above)
  • Slowly apply pressure into your hands as to take pressure off your feet.
  • Most of your body weight will be going through your arms.
  • Keep your legs and lower torso completely relaxed.
  • Keep your toes lightly rested on the floor.
  • Aim to feel a stretch sensation in the lower back.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

Note: Please make sure that the chairs you use are sturdy and can support your body weight.

b) Decompression Over A Ball

spinal decompression at home


  • Lie facing downwards on top of a large exercise ball.
  • Position your body so that your lower back is in line with the top of the ball.
  • Completely relax your legs and allow them to dangle.
  • Support your body using your hands only.
  • Allow the toes to gently rest on the floor.
  • Aim to feel a stretch in the lower back.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.

For more ways to decompress your lower back:

See Post: Spinal Decompression Exercises

STEP 11: Core Strengthening Exercise

Strengthening the core muscles will help support and stabilize the lower back.

This can reduce the amount of load that is placed on the lower back muscles.

How to activate the Core

Starting position:

core exercise
  • Lie down on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Keep your neck and chest completely relaxed throughout the whole exercise
  • (If required – You can use a pillow underneath your head.)


Take a deep breathe in through your nose. Breathe out.

As you breathe out through your mouth:

  • Slowly push out ALL of the air out of your lungs.
  • Engage your core muscles (“draw belly button in AND gently tense your abdominal muscles”)
  • Your lower rib cage should drop down as you exhale completely.
  • Flatten your lower back completely on the floor.
  • Aim to feel a strong contraction in the abdominal region.
  • Whilst keeping your lower rib cage in the dropped position, take a breath in through your nose.
  • Repeat 3-5 cycles.

Now that you understand how to activate your core, challenge yourself with the following exercise:

a) Dead Bug Exercise

dead bug exercise


  • Lie down on your back.
  • Keep your arms and bent legs raised in the air.
  • Activate your core muscles.
  • Keep your lower back flat on the floor.
  • Slowly lower the opposite arm/leg as far as possible without allowing the lower back to lift off the floor.
  • Repeat 10 times.

b) Maintain core activation throughout the day

It is important to engage your core muscles throughout the day.

This does not mean that you have to tense your stomach muscles at 100% intensity all of the time.

The aim is to generate an appropriate amount of core contraction relative to the demands of the movement/activity that you are performing.

For example – If you are getting yourself out of bed, aim to activate the core muscles gently (eg. ~10-20% of the maximum contraction of the core). Whereas – if you need to lift a heavy object off the floor, you would want a firm contraction of the core muscles (eg. 80-100% of the maximum contraction of the core).

Want more Core exercises?

See PostCore Activation Exercises

STEP 12: Lower Back Strengthening Exercises

Performing strengthening exercises is recommended once the lower back pain has settled down to a tolerable level.

A strong lower back can minimize the risk of throwing out your back again.

a) Pelvic Tilt

lumbar spine strengthening exercises


  • Assume the 4 point kneel position.
  • Engage your core.
  • Arch your lower back as you tilt your pelvis forwards.
  • Aim to feel a contraction in the muscles of the lower back.
  • Hold for 2 seconds.
  • Return to neutral spine.
  • Repeat 30 times.

b) Bird/Dog Exercise

bird dog exercise lower back pain


  • Assume the 4 point kneel position.
  • Engage your core.
  • Lift the opposite arm and leg together.
  • Aim to feel your hip, lower back and shoulder blade muscles engage.
  • Hold this position for 2 seconds.
  • Repeat on other side.
  • Perform 10 repetitions.

c) Superman Exercise

thrown out back strengthening exercise


  • Lie down on your stomach.
  • Stretch out your arms in front of you.
  • Engage your core.
  • Lift your arms, chest and legs off the floor.
  • Aim to feel a contraction of the muscles in your lower back.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • Progression: Hold the end range position for longer.

d) Side Bends

side bends


  • Hold onto an appropriate amount of weight in each hand.
  • Stand up right.
  • Side bend to either side.
  • Perform 10 repetitions.

e) Dead Lift

hinge lifting technique for back pain


  • Stand up right.
  • Have your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Engage your core.
  • Push your hips backwards as you hinge forwards at the hips.
  • Hinge as low as you can keep a neutral pelvis and spine.
  • Perform 10 repetitions.
  • Progression: Hold onto an appropriate amount of weight between your hands.

f) Single Leg Hinge

single leg hinge


  • Stand on one leg.
  • Engage your core.
  • Hinge forwards.
  • Make sure to keep your foot and knees facing forwards.
  • Keep your lower back and pelvis in a neutral position.
  • Aim to feel a muscular contraction on the side of the hip of the stance leg.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • Progression: Hold onto an appropriate amount of weight.

STEP 13: Lifting Technique

To minimize the chance of hurting your back whilst lifting something, you’ll need to learn how to perform the hinge movement. (see below)

hinge pattern

Try to following suggestions when you need to lift something.

a) Neutral Back

If you need to lift an object, aim to keep your lower back in a more neutral position.

b) Bend the Hip and Knees

If you are picking up an object from the floor, aim to bend more from the hips and knees. Keep your lower back straight.

c) Offload the Back

how to prevent thrown out back

As you bend down to lift an object off the floor, place your other hand on your knee to off load some of the pressure from your lower back.

d) Engage the Core

Aim to firmly engage your core to stabilize your lower back as you are lifting.

STEP 14: Sitting

If sitting tends to aggravate your lower back symptoms, try to following suggestions:

a) Don’t sit for too long

Aim to get out of the chair every 20 minutes.

b) Move often

If you can’t get out of your chair, aim to move your body whilst on the chair every 20 minutes.

c) Use a lumbar support

Place a small pillow in the arch of the lower back to provide support to your lower back.

d) Recline the chair

Occasionally reclining the chair backwards on an angle will help reduce pressure on the lower back.

STEP 15: Seek Help

“When should I seek medical attention?”

a) Serious Symptoms

Get a review with your Primary Care Provider if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Severe pain
  • Unable to walk
  • Neurological symptoms (Burning pain, tingling, numbness) in the leg
  • Bowel/Bladder issues
  • Severe weakness in legs
  • Unrelenting night pain
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Fever

These symptoms suggest that you may have an injury to specific structures in the lower back (eg. Disc Bulge, Foraminal Stenosis, Nerve Impingement) which will benefit from a specific assessment by a trained professional.

You may be required to get investigative scans for the lower back.

b) General Rule

If you have persisted with the exercises for at least 2 weeks and there has been minimal improvement in your lower back pain, consider getting a review with a healthcare provider.


If you have a thrown out back, consider following the suggested steps in this blog post to fix your back pain as quickly as possible.

Remember to seek medical attention if you have any doubts.

What to do next

1. Any questions?… (Leave me a comment down below.)

2. Come join me:

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3. Start doing the exercises!

Disclaimer: The content presented on this blog post is not medical advice and should not be treated as such. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Use of the content provided on this blog post is at your sole risk. Seek guidance from a healthcare professional before attempting any exercise. For more informationMedical Disclaimer.

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