What to Do When You Throw Your Back Out

Man with neck and back pain. Man rubbing his painful back close up. Pain relief concept

Last Updated on April 4, 2024

Throwing out your back can be painful and terrifying. When you throw out your back, it’s important to know what step to take so you don’t make the back injury worse than it already is.

What should you do when you throw your back out? Read on to learn the steps you need to take after throwing out your back.

Related: How to Relieve Whiplash Neck Pain Naturally 

What Does It Mean to Throw Your Back Out?

When someone says they threw out their back, it typically means they strained one or more muscles in their back. Bending forward in an awkward position or lifting a heavy object can cause this to happen.

The pain from throwing out your back usually concentrates in the lower area. Here are some common activities that cause people to throw out their backs:

  • Hitting a golf ball or other motions that involve twisting the back

  • Lifting an object that’s too heavy

  • Practicing poor posture when lifting a heavy object

  • Stretching the back too far

Many people are under the assumption that throwing out your back only happens when you’re engaging in rigorous activity. However, this is not the case. Even just standing up wrong can cause you to throw out your back.

Related: 6 Healthy Habits to Do During a Pandemic

Symptoms That You Threw Out Your Back

When someone throws out their back, the pain is usually immediate, making it fairly easy to tell what happened. Throwing out your back can cause you to suffer from the following symptoms

  • Back stiffness that prevents you from moving well

  • Muscle spasms or intense bouts of muscle relaxing and tightening

  • Issues maintaining good posture

  • Intense pain in the lower back area

If your back injury is acute, the pain shouldn’t last anymore than 10 to 14 days. If your symptoms last over two weeks, you may be suffering from a chronic injury.


Most of the time, you don’t need to undergo a formal test to tell if you’ve thrown out your back. Rather, your doctor will ask you about the symptoms you’re experiencing to determine the extent of your back injury.

For example, if your pain is mild, they may just recommend some at-home treatments. However, if the pain is severe and you’re experiencing numbness, they may recommend some additional testing and medical imaging.

Depending on your pain severity, your doctor may also recommend that you get an x-ray, CAT scan, or MRI. If your pain doesn’t subside after two weeks, additional testing may be required.

Throwing Out Your Back: What to Do After the Injury

Lower back pain

As mentioned in the introduction, it’s important that you take the right steps after throwing out your back so as not to make the pain worse. Here are the steps you should take:

1. Rest

One of the biggest errors people make when throwing out their back is trying to push through the pain. As soon as you throw your back out, stop what you’re doing and slowly walk to the couch or another safe area to sit down.

When you sit down, keep your back upright. You can also set pillows behind your back to reduce the strain on your muscles. If you want to lie down, do so on a hard surface.

2. Apply Ice

Applying ice or a cold pack to your back injury can help ease soreness and reduce inflammation.

You should apply ice in 10 to 15-minute increments. Never apply ice directly to your skin. Instead, make sure to always cover it with a cloth. Ice not only makes you feel better, but it also helps minimize potential tissue damage by slowing down blood flow in the affected area.

3. Relieve the Pain

In addition to applying ice, there are some other things you can do to relieve the pain associated with throwing out your back.

OTC medications such as Advil and ibuprofen can help with pain relief. However, remember that these medications only offer temporary relief.

Sleeping on your back and minimizing your activities will also help you manage pain in the coming days. You can also sleep with your knees bent and a pillow behind your legs or sleep with a lumbar roll behind your back to reduce stress.

Avoid sleeping on your stomach, as this can make the pain worse. If you work a desk job, you may also want to place a lumbar roll between your back and chair for extra support.

Check out this post to discover some other strategies for lower back pain relief!

4. Seek Treatment

Often, this type of back injury heals on its own. However, if you’re experiencing more severe symptoms, you should seek medical attention.

You should schedule an appointment with your doctor if you’re experiencing:

  • Numbness

  • Difficulty standing

  • Abnormal bowel movements

  • A fever

As mentioned earlier, your doctor may order more tests or prescribe specific treatment methods.

5. Consider Ongoing Treatment

Acupuncture needles
Alternative medicine. Close-up of female back with steel needles during procedure of acupuncture therapy.

Some people throw out their back once and never experience back pain again. Others aren’t so lucky. If throwing out your back has led to chronic pain issues, then you should consider seeking ongoing treatment.

You can speak to your doctor about what type of treatment is right for you, but most of the time, individuals with back pain use a combination of chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage therapy, or physical therapy.

Some also look to their diet to explore the root causes of their pain.

Related: Herniated Discs and Chiropractic Care

Throwing Out Your Back: Time to Act

While throwing out your back can be scary, if you take the right steps, you can heal your injury in a timely manner.

A few days after throwing out your back, you can usually begin to engage in light movement and stretching. Over time, you should be able to get back to your normal daily activities and even engage in heavy lifting again.

Are you thinking about trying acupuncture for your back pain? Contact us today! 

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