Muscle Strain and Back Pain from Overload Injuries:
Pain from strained muscles or ligaments can occur when the
back is overloaded - such as when lifting something too heavy.
Weak muscles are more easily overloaded and injured than strong
muscles, but any muscle can be overloaded.
Poor lifting techniques as well as lifting objects that are
too heavy can strain the back muscles. Falling down or an unexpected
twisting of the back can cause sudden back pain. Though this
acute back pain is usually from overstretching or tearing of
muscles or ligaments, sometimes a spinal joint becomes irritated
and the muscle around the joint goes into spasms.
Muscle Strain and Back Pain from Overuse Injuries:
Back pain often occurs when
a muscle contraction is held too long. The body is made to move.
When one position is held too long, the back muscles get fatigued
and strained. Switching positions shift the workload to another
group of muscles, preventing one muscle group from becoming fatigued.
Doing too many repetitive movements can cause muscle strain from
overuse. Increasing back exercises too quickly can also cause
back pain due to overuse injuries. Poor posture also cause the
muscles to have to work harder to support the spine, which leads
to fatigue, strain, and back pain.
Symptoms of Back Muscle Strains:
Symptoms of back muscle strain include back
pain and muscle weakness and sometimes muscle spasms, cramping
and inflammation. The back pain may be sudden, but usually comes
on gradually. Mild muscle strains usually heal within two weeks.
Moderate muscle strains may take six to eight weeks to heal.
Back Pain from Ligament Strain (Sprained Back):
Acute back pain can result from a back sprain. (Torn or
Ligament Injuries and Back Pain that occur suddenly:
movements can cause injury to the ligaments because the muscles
don't have time to react - e.g.
in a fall or car accident. The muscles don't contract enough
to keep the spine within its normal range of motion, causing
ligaments to stretch or tear.
Symptoms of Back Sprains :
Minor back sprains
(slight tearing or overstretching of a ligament) cause minor
back pain and swelling with little or no bruising. Moderate
back sprains cause moderate back pain and swelling with bruising.
Severe back sprains cause severe back pain, swelling and bruising
and make it almost impossible to move. Healing time depends
on the severity of the sprain. Most back sprains heal in six
to eight weeks but it can take several months for complete recovery
from a severe back sprain.
Treatment of Back or Ligament Strain:
Back pain caused by muscle or ligament strain will usually
resolve without any special treatment within 2 weeks
to 2 months. However, many people who experience recurring
back pain have weak core muscles- the muscles that support
the back. Strengthening these muscles can prevent back
pain from recurring , though the time for strength
exercises is after the back pain has resolved. See
Post-injury exercise page and Back
To Treat the Pain:
Temporary relief of
back pain may be obtained with pain medications and applying
heat and cold. Relief from the Back Pain from Sprains and Strains
can be obtained by applying ice to the injury for 15 minutes
every 4 hours for two or three days. The cold helps reduce pain
and inflammation and is also a distraction from the back pain.
After four or five days, providing the inflammation has subsided,
applying heat for 15 or 20 minutes at a time may be beneficial.
Heat increases blood flow and helps relax tight back muscles.
(Pain can cause muscles to tighten or spasm)
Your doctor may prescribe pain medications that contain codeine
and/or muscle relaxants to relieve severe acute back pain, especially
for the first week after the injury.
Drinking plenty of water is important to flush out the acidic
byproducts of muscular activity that can accumulate and irritate
There are many methods to relieve pain and loosen tight back muscles -
massage therapy, hydrotherapy, etc. See Back
Pain Treatments for
Tip: To avoid aggravating back pain, 'roll'
out of bed: bend your legs at your knees and hips and roll on
your side. Push yourself up with your arms as you hang your lower
legs over the side of the bed.
What about Exercise after Back Strain?
Bed rest will actually delay recovery. But you could restrain injured
muscles by rushing into an exercise program before healing has taken
place. Maintain daily activities. Gentle stretching exercises for
the back increase circulation to the muscles to speed healing, relieve
tight muscles and help increase mobility. Save the strengthening
exercises until your back pain has gone or as recommended by your
doctor or physical therapist. If you are unsure as to what exercises
are safe or when to begin them, a physical therapist can create
a personalized exercise program for you to follow. Back Exercises
will reduce your chances of back pain recurring.
See Post-injury exercise page.
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