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What To Do When You Strain Your Lower Back

Lower Back Pain: How To Tell If Its Muscle

What To Do When You Strain Your Lower Back?

When a patient visits my office with back pain, its my job to uncover the pain generator. We talk through the patients history, discuss their symptoms, and make a determination as to next steps. If need be, I prepare their case to be looked at by a surgeon, but generally, my goal is to help patients avoid surgery and find relief with more conservative measures.

Most cases of back pain are not caused by serious conditions. But its important to always rule out the possibility that a patient has another internal issue that mimics back pain . Colitis, kidney stones, gallbladder issues, vascular problems, or an aneurysm are examples of serious conditions that are capable of causing pain to radiate into the back, making it feel like youre experiencing back pain.

A thorough fact-finding investigation should help determine the cause. When did the pain start? How long did it last? What makes it better or worse? Key to determining the pain generator is the patients description of their condition and their medical history. For example, if a patient describes the pain as having come on suddenly and causing nausea, nearly prompting a trip to the emergency room, then disappearing just as suddenly, they may be suffering from a kidney stone rather than back pain from a spinal condition.

  • Muscle pain
  • Disc pain

Lets take a look at each type in more detail.

Here Are Some Additional Tips To Address Lower Back Pain:

  • Applying a cold pack following an injury can help reduce swelling. Follow with heat therapy to stimulate blood flow so your body can repair the tissue.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication can target the source of inflammation and reduce it.
  • Other pain medications or muscle relaxers, which require a prescription, are also an option.
  • Visiting a chiropractor or massage therapist can assist with loosening tight muscles and the promotion of the bodys natural healing process.
  • Lower back exercises can encourage the body to heal and keep your muscles used to movement. Be sure to know your limits and to stop if anything hurts severely. You should also modify any regular exercise you do on a day-to-day basis to make sure you dont quickly re-injure the area.
  • Yoga offers some especially helpful benefits for your lower back, when practiced regularly. There are also specific poses that can help alleviate pain and increase blood flow to your back.
  • Keep moving! As long as your doctor is okay with it and you arent overdoing it keep your body moving. Weakened core and back muscles mean a higher probability of future injuries. Once you feel you are back to 100 percent, find a way to keep these muscles active and strong.

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What Does Low Back Strain Feel Like

Symptoms of low back strain include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the back.
  • Pain in the buttocks and the legs, often in the back of the thigh.
  • Pain that worsens when bending, stretching, coughing, or sneezing.

Since some symptoms of low back strain are similar to those of more serious conditions, it’s important to get checked out by a doctor. Any numbness and weakness in your legs, or bowel and bladder problems, can be a sign of nerve damage — and that needs immediate medical attention.

To diagnose low back strain, your doctor will give you a thorough exam. You may also need X-rays, MRIs , and CT scans. These extra tests may only be needed if your pain doesn’t go away on its own or with conservative treatment.

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Put Good Posture To Work

Since we spend so many hours at work, many back injuries can occur at a desk, especially if you sit at a computer for most of the day.

  • Practice safe sitting, upright with your back and shoulders against the back of the chair, feet firmly on the floor
  • Sit in a well-constructed, ergonomic chair with good back support
  • Use a desk that is stable 2830 above the floor
  • Tilt your keyboard down and slightly away from you for better wrist posture
  • Take breaks to stretch or go for a walk to get the blood flowing again

Left Side Low Back Pain

What To Do When You Strain Your Lower Back

Many people experience muscle pain on only one side of their back. This can be due to compensating for a sore joint, like a hip or knee. For example, if one of your hip joints is weak, you may be putting strain on the opposite side of your lower back to make up for that.

However, lower back pain on your left side may also be due to:

If you do pull a lower back muscle, there are several things you can help relieve the swelling and pain.

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How Can I Prevent Low Back Strain

Here are some tips to help you avoid low back strain:

  • If you feel any low back pain during physical activity, stop.
  • If you feel low back pain within a day of stepping up your workout, take it easy for a few days.
  • Get your back in shape. Exercise and stretch your back muscles regularly.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach. Sleep on your back or your side, and wedge a pillow under or beneath your legs.
  • When picking up something heavy, bend at the knees, not at the waist.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Adopt good posture. Sit straight in chairs, with your back against the chair’s back.

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How To Know When Back Pain Is Muscular

If youve ever suffered from aches and pains in your back, youre not alone: According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, 75 to 85 percent of Americans experience back pain at some point in their lives.

But knowing whats causing your pain can be challenging. The most common complaint is what we characterize as non-specific low back pain, which means we havent identified a specific underlying source for why that individual has back pain, says Craig Van Dien, M.D., a sports medicine and physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute. In most cases, this is muscle-based pain or a muscle strain.

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How Is Low Back Pain Diagnosed

A complete medical history and physical exam can usually identify any serious conditions that may be causing the pain. Neurologic tests can help determine the cause of pain and appropriate treatment. Imaging tests are not needed in most cases but may be ordered to rule out specific causes of pain, including tumors and spinal stenosis. Occasionally the cause of chronic lower back pain is difficult to determine even after a thorough examination.

Tests include:

Blood tests are not routinely used to diagnose the cause of back pain but might be ordered to look for signs of inflammation, infection, cancer, and/or arthritis.

Bone scans can detect and monitor an infection, fracture, or bone disorder. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into the bloodstream and collects in the bones, particularly in areas with some abnormality. Scanner-generated images can identify specific areas of irregular bone metabolism or abnormal blood flow, as well as to measure levels of joint disease.

Discography involves injecting a contrast dye into a spinal disc thought to be causing low back pain. The fluids pressure in the disc will reproduce the persons symptoms if the disc is the cause. The dye helps to show the damaged areas on CT scans taken following the injection.

Electrodiagnostics can identify problems related to the nerves in the back and legs. The procedures include:

How Can Back Sprains And Strains Be Prevented

What To Do Now When You Strain Your Lower Back

It is not possible to prevent all back injuries, but you can take some steps to help lower the risk of a sprain or strain:

  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet to keep your bones and muscles strong.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts added stress on the structures of the lower back.
  • Exercise regularly, including stretching, to keep your joints flexible and your muscles in good condition.
  • Practice safety measures to help prevent falls, such as wearing shoes that fit properly, and keeping stairs and walkways free of clutter.
  • Use good body mechanics when sitting, standing and lifting. For example, try to keep your back straight and your shoulders back. When sitting, keep your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Dont over-reach, and avoid twisting movements. When lifting, bend your knees and use your strong leg muscles to help balance the load.
  • Stop smoking. Nicotine interferes with blood flow to the muscles.

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When & How To Seek Medical Care

If low back pain lasts for longer than one to two weeks, seek medical care. First, make an appointment with your primary care physician.

Seek immediate medical attention if any of the following symptoms are present in addition to back pain:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Unexplained fever
  • Loss of control of your bowels or bladder

Try Doing Gentle Back Stretches

  • 1Go slow and stop immediately if you feel any pain. Try a back flexion stretch by lying down on your back, pulling both of your knees to your chest, and flexing your head forward until you feel a nice stretch. Another option is a knee-to-chest stretch, which you can do by lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Then, place both of your hands behind 1 knee and gently pull it to your chest until you feel a stretch. Slowly release the stretch and repeat it with the other leg.XResearch source
  • Hold each stretch for about 10 seconds or so.
  • Your doctor may also recommend specific stretches for you to try.
  • Dont try to push through any pain or you could make the strain worse. If a stretch starts to hurt, stop right away.
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    Back Strains And Sprains

    We all ask a lot from our backs. We bend, we lift, we slouch — it’s enough to make a back complain. According to the Mayo Clinic, four out of five adults experience back pain at some point in their lives. Two times out of three, injuries to muscles and ligaments in the lower back are to blame. These injuries are painful, but they can also be temporary. With proper care, most people can look forward to a quick recovery.

    What are sprains and strains?

    Healthy backs are strong and flexible, thanks in large part to the muscles that support the spine and the tough, fibrous ligaments that hold the vertebrae together. Unfortunately, these tissues can’t always handle the pressure of everyday life. Excess stress on your back can tear the muscles or ligaments. This is called back strain. Stretched ligaments can hurt even if they aren’t actually torn. This type of injury is called a sprain.

    It doesn’t really matter whether you have a strain or a sprain. If your back hurts, it hurts. Your doctor may not even be able to tell the difference between the two. Fortunately, strategies for relief and prevention are equally successful for each type of injury.

    Who is at risk for back sprains and strains?

    What are the symptoms of sprains and strains?

    What can I do to relieve the pain?

    If lying down feels good, you can try a day or two of bed rest. But too much time in bed can weaken your muscles and slow your recovery.

    Acupuncture has also proven effective in some studies.

    Switch To Applying Heat After 3 Days

    Pulled Muscle in Lower Back? Best Treatments and Exercsies ...
  • 1Itll increase blood flow in the area. For an older or recurring injury, go with heat instead of cold. Place a towel over the strained area to keep your skin safe and then place heating pad on top. Leave it in place for about 15 minutes and itll provide pain relief and boost flow in the area, which can help with healing.XTrustworthy SourceMedlinePlusCollection of medical information sourced from the US National Library of MedicineGo to source
  • Make sure you dont fall asleep on the heating pad! It could make things worse or potentially burn your skin.
  • Try applying heat 3 times a day for the best relief.XResearch source
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    Low Back Pain Fact Sheet

    If you have had lower back pain, you are not alone. Back pain is one of most common reasons people see a doctor or miss days at work. Even school-age children can have back pain.

    Back pain can range in intensity from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp or shooting pain. It can begin suddenly as a result of an accident or by lifting something heavy, or it can develop over time as we age. Getting too little exercise followed by a strenuous workout also can cause back pain.

    There are two types of back pain:

    • Acute, or short-term back pain lasts a few days to a few weeks. Most low back pain is acute. It tends to resolve on its own within a few days with self-care and there is no residual loss of function. In some cases a few months are required for the symptoms to disappear.
    • Chronic back pain is defined as pain that continues for 12 weeks or longer, even after an initial injury or underlying cause of acute low back pain has been treated. About 20 percent of people affected by acute low back pain develop chronic low back pain with persistent symptoms at one year. Even if pain persists, it does not always mean there is a medically serious underlying cause or one that can be easily identified and treated. In some cases, treatment successfully relieves chronic low back pain, but in other cases pain continues despite medical and surgical treatment.

    Pulled Back Muscle Symptoms

    Muscle strains are graded 1, 2 or 3 depending on how bad the injury is:

    • Grade 1 injuries will have tightness in the back. The patient may be able to walk properly and will not have much swelling.
    • Grade 2 back muscle strains will probably result in the patient being unable to walk properly. They may get occasional sudden twinges of pain during activity and may notice some swelling. Pressing in over the site of injury will be painful.
    • Grade 3 injuries will result in the patient being unable to walk properly. They will be in severe pain and significant swelling will appear immediately. Contracting the back muscles will be painful and might produce a bulge in the muscle. The patient can expect to be out of competition for 3 to twelve weeks or more.

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    What Are The Symptoms Of Serious Back Injury

    Severe back injuries include fractures , wounds, extensive bruising and damage to your spinal cord and internal organs.

    Any of the following symptoms could indicate a severe back injury. You should see a doctor right away if you have:

    • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • problems with urinating or passing stool
    • numbness or pins and needles to the arms, legs, hands or feet
    • fever
    • paralysis
    • blood in the urine

    Seek medical assistance immediately by calling an ambulance on triple zero . Do not move the person unless they are in danger and advise the person to not move their back. Support their head, neck and spine and prevent twisting or bending movements.

    How Is Lumbar Strain Diagnosed

    What To Do When You Strain Your Lower Back

    In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, diagnostic procedures for low back pain may include the following. However, during many initial assessments and exams, specialized tests aren’t usually recommended.

    • X-ray. A diagnostic test that produces images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
    • Computed tomography scan . This is an imaging test that uses X-rays and a computer to make detailed images of the body. A CT scan shows details of the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. A CT scan shows detailed images of bones, muscles, fat, and organs.
    • Magnetic resonance imaging . A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
    • Radionuclide bone scan. A nuclear imaging technique that uses a very small amount of radioactive material, which is injected into the bloodstream to be detected by a scanner. This test shows blood flow to the bone and cell activity within the bone.
    • Electromyogram . A test to evaluate nerve and muscle function.

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    S To Reduce Back Pain

    No type of back pain should be overlooked.

    Your whole body relies on the health of your back and spine so you want to make sure you treat your pain the right way the first time.

    Most pain will go away quickly but if it continues for more than a week or two then you need to seek medical attention.

    In this blog, we take a look at 6 important steps to take immediately after experiencing back pain.

    We use our back every day to complete regular activities such as sitting up, lifting, and reaching.

    Your back is in use all day long making the tendons, muscles, and ligaments in your back work hard.

    That’s why the health of the muscles is very important.

    These three soft tissue structures need to work synergistically for you to function without pain.

    Since they are in constant motion it is common for them to tear, pull or get over-stretched.

    And if you’ve ever had a back strain, you know they are nothing to joke about.

    When someone says their back is sprained they mean the ligaments are overstretched or torn. Now if they say it is strained then that means a muscle or tendon was overstretched or torn.

    People tend to use back strain and back sprain interchangeably but they are in fact different and because of that, the course of treatment and length of that treatment differs also.

    Either injury can happen so fast and is easy to do.

    Signs that you have torn, strained, or pulled a muscle in your back:

    • A sore or tender lower back
    • Sudden pain


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