You’ve almost certainly heard the phrase referenced in the title of this piece. You may have even used it yourself.

It raises an interesting though. Can you actually throw your back out, and what, exactly does that mean?

Assuming you can, how can you avoid doing it?

Those are all great questions, and we’ll address them in this piece.

First and foremost, yes. People can absolutely throw their back out, which is shorthand for doing anything that causes sudden, acute back pain. While it’s certainly possible that it can happen to anyone, the people who are most at risk are the elderly and people who are out of shape and/or overweight.

The elderly tend to have a more limited range of motion. People who are overweight and out of shape put more stress on their backs simply by carrying the extra weight around.

Far and away the most common cause is muscle strain. It is normally caused by lifting something heavy improperly or moving, bending or twisting wrong. It is possible that your sudden back pain could be caused by a condition like cancer, an infection, a damaged vertebra, or a herniated disk. However, those are incredibly uncommon.

In the vast majority of cases, sudden, acute back pain will go away on its own, usually in 72 hours or less. However, you can help the process along by resting your back and alternating ice and heat treatments.

Having said that, there are a few signs that you’ve got a more serious problem, including:

  • A loss of sensation in the legs
  • Weakness in your legs to the point that they won’t hold your weight
  • Bladder or bowel control issues
  • Fever or other symptoms of illness occurring in tandem with the pain

If you experience any of these, see your doctor or chiropractor right away.

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