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Dealing with Back Strains

Apr 20, 2015

Back strains can be painful and limit your mobility so that performing daily tasks becomes nearly impossible. If you’re experiencing pain in your back, you may be dealing with a muscle strain. This common injury can be treated effectively, but it’s crucial to seek help at the first sign of pain.

Keep reading to gain a better understanding of back strains, the causes, symptoms you’ll experience, and how to find relief.


A back strain is an injury to the muscles or tendons that support the spine typically caused by a twist, pull, or tear. This injury is common among athletes, especially those involved in sports that require them to twist, make jarring movements, or endure forces of sudden impact. Lifting can also be the cause of a strain from overstressing the back muscles, as well as overuse due to repetitive movements.


Symptoms of a back strain include pain that worsens with movement, sudden muscle spasms or cramping, and limited motion such as the inability to bend. In some cases, a pop or tear may be heard when the injury occurs.


If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. He or she will review your medical history, cause of injury, consider your symptoms, and perform a physical examination. These methods will allow a physician to diagnose a mild strain, but painful and severe strains may need X-rays to rule out more serious injuries.


First and foremost, treatment of a strain requires rest for a minimum of 24-48 hours. Then, you’ll be advised to apply ice to reduce swelling, or use over-the-counter drugs like Motrin to treat inflammation and pain. Applying pressure through the compression of an ACE bandage can also help relieve pain. After using these treatment methods, the strain should improve in about two weeks. If symptoms continue, the issue may be more severe than a strain and further examination will be necessary.


While some injuries can’t be prevented, there are measures you can take to help lower the risk of suffering a back strain.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts additional stress on the muscles and tendons of the lower back which could result in a strain or make a strain more likely to occur.
  • Perform at least thirty minutes of exercise daily, including light cardio and stretching. This will keep your muscles healthy and your joints flexible.
  • Lift with your legs instead of your back. Perform proper lifting practices that take the pressure off of your back so that injury doesn’t occur.

In order to get pain relief as soon as it begins, it’s important to understand how and why back strains occur, the symptoms they cause, and the treatment options available to you. It’s crucial that you contact your physician at the very first sign of a back strain in order to prevent more severe pain in the future.

For more information about treating pain and injury to the spine and back, download our e-book, The Patient’s Manual to Spine and Back Surgery. This educational guide will provide you with all you need to know about dealing with back pain.