Wednesday, August 12

Back Pain, and the road to recovery.

I originally wrote this for a friend of mine that runs the SoCal Surf forecast blog. The content refers to surfing, but it is certainly for anyone who has experienced back pain or injury.

As you all know surfing can be a demanding sport. The conditions are always changing and the terrain if you will, constantly moving. The dynamic actions surfing requires as well as the plain old exertion from paddling can put a lot of strain on ones back. One of the most common complaints in sports medicine as well as surfing is “my back hurts”.

As we get a little older and more consumed with adult life, we find ourselves in the water less and at a desk more. Some of us anyways. And unless your one of the lucky few that surf everyday, then you know what I’m talking about. So what do I do when I hurt my back and all I want to do is go surf, or mow the lawn? I hear this question all the time and the answer obviously differs with each situation/ injury. So I would like to outline a simple and easy guide to back pain recovery in this short but helpful article Back Pain and the road to recovery.

*Disclaimer, this article is just some advice for the generic questions of back pain. If you injure your back or neck in any way, please go see a doctor or your local physical therapist for a proper evaluation, treatment, and program specific to your needs.*


First and foremost let’s start with a little pain relief. With out going to the medicine cabinet you can gain quite a bit of relief from thermal modalities alone. The debate over ice or heat when injured has been going on for longer than I’ve been alive; however I like to recommend a simple answer to most injuries.

Ice for the first 72 hours.

I know a lot of people like the heat for the back, hey it feels good. But when it comes to new injuries or re-aggravations of old injuries Ice will help dull the pain and reduce any swelling that may occur. Even though you may get a little stiffer in the muscles the joints will thank you for it later.

Ice for 20 min at a time and off for an hour. This is an easy interval and quite effective without over icing and burning the skin.

After 72 hours you can if you choose, switch to heat. This will increase blood flow and relax the muscle spasms as well as introduce fresh nutrients into the injury site. Not to mention heat feels nice and loosens up those stiff muscles. Same principals apply to heat, as they do for Ice.

Heat for 20 min at a time and off for an hour. Be very careful when using microwave heat packs as they can easily get too hot and cause burns. If the skin is very splotchy and white after heat, you may have caused tissue damage and should avoid further heat for a day or two. For the best and safest heat therapy pads on the market you can contact us at Therapy Innovations and get one of our Portable Smart Heat pads. (Shameless plug).


This is an important component to the healing process because you need to give your body time to heal. Now rest does not mean doing nothing! Often people with back injuries or back pain will opt out of any movement at all. I understand, and have been there when your back locks up and everything hurts, but doing nothing will prolong the injury cycle and slow down your progress to get back in the water. Rest in my opinion actually means rehab not surfing, bungee jumping, helping a friend move, or any other pesky house chores you don’t like doing. Rest and Rehab.

Core exercises, light stretching and easy movement are very important right from the get go. After you’ve taken your day on the couch and realize one day of doing nothing didn’t miraculously heal you, its on to a little light rehab. Below are some easy stretches and exercises that will help get the muscles moving and begin strengthening up the core. Keep in mind these are the most basic and safest exercises for the early stages of injury recovery. Light movement should include easy exercise like walking, using an elliptical machine, or light swimming depending on the level of injury. Using light exercise will get the blood flowing and warm up the body to better facilitate the stretching and core exercises. Stretching cold is much less effective than stretching warmed-up.

Remember to breath and relax into each stretch to get the most out of your exercise.

Take it slow and do what you can pain free for the first week or so of rehab. We have all heard the old adage no pain, no gain. Well we had a little saying in the training room at UCI that went no pain, good. During the healing stages of injury recovery try to do your stretches and exercises just to the point of discomfort, don’t over do it. Pushing yourself hard here will just make the injury last longer.


I believe this is one of the most overlooked and underappreciated aspects to reducing pack pain. Your mom told you to sit up, stop slouching, and stand up strait! But did we listen, no and where did that get us? On the couch with a back spasm and no surf! As a society our posture is terrible, mine is terrible and I’m sure yours is too. And I’m sure your saying I know I know, tell me something I don’t know. Well I got nothing here other than listen to your mom and sit up straight! There aren’t enough reminders in a day to get you to practice good posture.

Practicing good posture not only lines up the spine to a more natural position it also strengthens the core muscles. If you have terrible posture, try sitting up straight and pulling your shoulders back for about 10 min and see how tired your back gets. This is proof positive that you should work on strengthening those muscles. Keeping the spine in good alignment will take stress off of the joints and release chronic tension in areas that may always seam sore.

Getting the spine in good alignment can reduce an amazing amount of back pain and discomfort. We don’t always have to go to the chiropractor for this either. In fact if you don’t practice good posture, strengthening, and flexibility no amount of chiropractic visits will cure your back.

When you find yourself laid out on the couch, standing a little crooked, or just plain stiff and sore remember these three helpful tips to get you feeling better and on the track to recovery. Ice or Heat, Rest and Rehab, and Posture. Doing a little everyday can make a world of difference.