Managing your back injury
Lower back pain is a major cause of discomfort and absence from work. If you have injured your back and need treatment, your care provider will help you manage your back injury. Learn about treatment options, their risks and their benefits.
Lower back pain is a major cause of discomfort and absence from work. If you have injured your back and need treatment, visit one of the following care providers to diagnose and treat your injury:
- medical doctor or nurse practitioner
- physical therapist
Your care provider will help you manage your back injury. If you require treatment, specific exercises may help you recover. Talk to your care provider about treatment options, their risks and their benefits.
If you are injured at work, you must report immediately seek medical attention if you need it and report your injury to your employer and the WCB, even if the injury does not require immediate care or time off work.
First visit to your care provider
During your first visit, tell your care provider that your injury happened at work. Your care provider will report to the WCB. Your care provider is required to give you a written list of physical activities you can do at work and what you should not do as a result of your injury.
You are required to provide this list of abilities and restrictions to your employer as soon as you can. In some cases, your care provider may contact your employer to provide this information.
Diagnosis and treatment plan
Your care provider will examine the injured area, make a diagnosis and discuss your treatment options, including the benefits and risks of each. Your treatment plan may change over the course of your recovery.
Most back injuries heal within a short time with little or no treatment required. Your care provider will decide if you need to see a specialist or have further tests (x-ray, MRI or CT-scan.) These are required in a small number of cases. Only rare cases require surgery.
Treatment during your recovery
During the first few days after your injury, your treatment will focus on pain relief, stretching exercises and gentle movement or activity.
You should continue as many of your normal activities as possible, but avoid heavy lifting. Walking is recommended in most cases. If in doubt, check with your care provider.
As you heal, your care provider may recommend more intense stretching and other exercises to strengthen the injured area.
Recommended treatment options
Health care providers no longer recommend bed rest or inactivity for most back injuries because it can delay recovery.
The treatment options listed here are the best ways to treat a back injury based on scientific research. Your care provider may also refer you to another provider to receive other treatment. Each treatment option has risks and benefits. Discuss your options with your care provider.
Treatment by medical doctors or nurse practitioners
Your doctor or NP may prescribe exercises or medications to relieve pain or reduce inflammation. Your doctor or NP will tell you what the medicine is for, how often you should take it and possible side effects.
Some pain medications are addictive and should be taken only as prescribed.
Treatment by physical therapists
Physical therapists use a variety of manual therapies and useful injury-specific exercises to treat back injuries.
Some physical therapists with specialized training also provide spinal manipulation.
Treatment by chiropractors
Chiropractors use a variety of manual treatments, including manipulation and injury-specific exercises, in treating back injuries.
You may hear of other treatments for back injuries. The WCB, however, may not pay for these treatments because of their safety risk or lack of scientific evidence about their usefulness.
Treatments that have not been proven to work include:
- Bed rest for acute back pain.
- Lumbar supports for patients with uncomplicated lower back pain.
If you receive treatment from someone other than a doctor or NP, physical therapist or chiropractor, have them contact the WCB before starting your treatment.
The WCB will pay only for treatment that has been proven useful for back injuries by WCB accredited care providers.
Return to work during recovery
Research shows that going back to work as soon as possible after injury actually helps you get better faster.
Your care provider will give you a list of physical tasks you can and can’t do during the course of your recovery. Give this list to your employer as soon as you can. Then your employer can change your duties or adjust your work station so you can return to work safely while you recover.
In some cases, your care provider may contact your employer to make sure they understand what duties you can do safely.
Keep in touch with your employer regularly during your recovery.