If you’re headed back to the gym when they open over the next couple of weeks, or you’re in the throws of a relapse of back pain, we’re going to be going through exactly what you can do to help. How you move on from a relapse will depend on what phase you’re in of recovery, so we’ll also go through how this will differ depending on the stage of recovery you’re at.

Why Did The Relapse Occur?

When we experience a relapse of back pain, it can occur either straight away after doing something – in which case you’ll know exactly what you did that you should probably avoid for the meantime – or as a delayed reaction to something you maybe did a day or two before. If you just woke up with the pain, the chances of you having injured yourself at night is probably unlikely, it’s far more likely that you did something out of the ordinary the day before to cause the problem. Did you go back to work? Spend more time on your feet than normal? Did you progress a workout with a higher weight or go on a long bike ride? Whatever you did, knowing that it’s probably too soon to be doing those things is a good way to avoid relapses for the meantime. If the activity is going back to work, you won’t be able to avoid this but at least you’ll know how you can deal with this abnormal behaviour so you can relieve your symptoms.

What Stage Of Recovery Are You At?

If you’re not in our Back In Shape membership area yet or you’ve just joined, Phase 1 is the best starting point as it can teach you how to engage your core correctly and how to perform stretches that will improve the flexibility and mobility of the lower body to better support your spine. The towel stretch and icing strategy will help you reduce levels of inflammation and the advice on what to avoid should hopefully give you clarity on what you might be doing on a daily basis that might be making the problem worse. Anyone can access the Phase 1 membership, so if you’re not yet a member you can sign up for free at www.backinshapeapp.com.


If you’re in Phase 2 of the membership, you will have started to make more progression in terms of improving the control over your body, your strength in the core and lower body muscles and flexibility – your muscles should be able to take more of the strain off your back so you can start healing effectively. It can be very demoralising to relapse at this stage, especially as it may have taken a number of weeks to get to the stage you were at before this new pain arrived. However, you’re a stronger person than you were when you started, so you’re now better able to cope with a relapse. Dropping back to the Phase 1 protocol for a few days will help you recover from the relapse. Make sure you’re doing the towel exercise and the icing so you’re bringing down the inflammation and don’t leave it too long before starting your strengthening once again. A few days back at Phase 1 will be enough, before restarting Phase 2 at about 70% of the intensity you were doing before – for example if you were doing 10 repetitions of an exercise, you can drop down to 7 for the meantime.

Join The Back In Shape Program

A full protocol to support you get out of back pain in the short term and then rehab safely and effectively to deal with the issue for the long term.

If you’re at Phase 3, you should have good progress at this point – enough that perhaps the relapses don’t come around that often. You should notice that you’ve come a long way since you first started at Phase 1, so it won’t take you long to recover from a setback. It’s important to note that you may not yet be bulletproof – none of us are after all! So keep in mind what you still need to be avoiding and continue strengthening at this point and progressing your exercises. If you suffer a relapse at this stage, again dropping back to Phase 1 for a day or two should be enough to get a handle on any inflammation. Once a couple of days has passed, again get back into the strengthening but at 70% of the intensity. You may wish to drop down the weight or reps here to make it slightly easier for yourself. Build up that intensity over the next 3-5 days depending on how you’re feeling, then plateau at that point for a week before progressing the exercises any further. 

Going Back To The Gym

If you were a gym bunny before lockdown, there’s no reason why you can’t jump back in as soon as they open but you need to be wary of a few things. Most of us have been without weights for the last few months, so going back in at a lower effort is going to be important. We ourselves here at the clinic would be going back at about 60% of the effort we were doing pre-lockdown. You’ll want to make sure you plateau the exercises for a while to ensure you’re adapting to them. Increase the intensity by around 10% a month to help with injury prevention. If you’re currently doing Phase 2, don’t jump back into gym workouts straightaway – follow the program as instructed before bringing in added resistance at Phase 3. 

We hope you’ve found today’s article helpful especially if you’re going back into the gyms when they open in the next couple of weeks or perhaps venturing back to work. If you have any questions at all about the topic today, please do get in touch! You can reach us through our social channels, by email at info@themayfairclinic.com or by tuning in to our daily livestreams on our YouTube and Facebook channels. Remember, you can sign up to our Back In Shape program for guided rehabilitation prepared by our spinal experts, by visiting www.backinshapeapp.com.

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