In this article we provide everything you need to know about a pulled muscle in the back and the best treatment options available. Back muscles are just as vulnerable as the other muscles of the body. If any tendon or ligament in the back gets injured or inflamed, there is a high chance of back pain, (1) which is usually regarded as pulled back muscles. The treatment of such a health condition is only temporary and so the duration of treatment is not that long and distant.
A strained muscle is specifically based on the injury of a muscle or tendon that causes intense pain in the bank. The fibers in the back muscle tear and the breakage in the muscle give an impression of a pulled muscle in the back. Basically, this type of pain (2) results from injury to the muscle.
Strained muscle results from the tear in the muscle that happens because of stretching and pressure placed on the back muscles. This is the sole cause of back strain. This can happen in the lower back as well as the upper back. But this type of strain mostly causes low back pain.
Causes of Pulled Muscle in the Back
Muscle strain can be caused by several activities. The most common causes are the ones that cause back sprains and back strains. This includes bending and excessive curving of the spine, involved in sports that require bending frequently, for example, diving, hockey, batting, etc. Obesity and overweight can contribute to back injuries because such people are more prone to back sprains. Frequent muscle spasms and lifting up heavy objects can also contribute to the development of lower back pain. People who go to the gym are very much likely to get pulled muscles. Anxiety-induced back pains are one of the most common body ache problems. (3) In general, people who have weak muscular health and do not tone muscles with a healthy diet and exercise are at greater risk of having pulled back muscles. Secondary causes like a herniated disc, sciatica, or vertebral damage can also be a cause of back pain but these of course do not signify a muscle strain or muscle sprain.
Signs and Symptoms of Pulled Back Muscles
These types of pain usually get worse with any movement and relevant motion involving the back. If the muscles do not relax for a specific period, there are chances that muscle spasms and muscle cramping reoccur. Once the back muscles are pulled, the patient suffers from severe immobility, making it difficult for him to bend up and down and even sideways. Hamstring muscular stretch is often accompanied by a low back strain. The lower back muscles show strained injuries through strengthening and stretching exercises, making it easier to detect the causal link between the back muscle strain and the previously practiced physical activity. (4)
Diagnosis of Lower Back Strain
Lower Back Strains are often located somewhere near the lumber area of the spine. So, it can also be regarded as a lumbar strain. The diagnosis of such pulled back muscles is usually done by an initial physical assessment followed by a radiological assessment for confirmation.
The physician will first ask you about your personal information like your age, gender, and occupation. Occupation will be the first thing that will give an indication of the source of the injury and the type of injury. Next will be the physical examination based on the basic senses of the physician like vision and touch. If there are any signs of redness and inflammation, there is surely some internal injury like a muscle tear. The doctor will also touch the pain site to check for any severe pain and signs of tissue damage. (5)
After initial assessments, the physician will recommend a radiological exam to confirm the diagnosis. The radiological examination will show the inner condition of the muscles and the back and the physician will be able to look into any fractures and muscle tears. The radiological assessment will show a muscle tear, but for that X-ray usually doesn’t work. X-rays are preferred for skeletal and hard tissue exams. For muscles, ligaments, and tendons, Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI scans are more appropriate, since they show the image of all the soft tissues of the body.
Treatment of Pulled Muscle in Back
There are various ways of treating (6) a pulled-back muscle:
The therapy is usually initiated with home remedies such as PRICE therapy.
The back muscle should be protected from any further injury so that no further strain is put onto the same back muscles. So, protection is the first step in PRICE therapy
Rest is very important to help treat an existing injury. The muscles need some rest in order to restore the blood supply in the relevant blood vessels and transport oxygen and nutrition to the damaged muscles. Bed rest is a common recommendation for patients with injury, at least for the first few weeks.
Cold therapy is a famous way of treating pain and speeding up the healing process. It reduced pain, swelling, and inflammation. Heating pads are always used frequently to reduce pain, but recent studies show that ice therapy is a better option in this regard.
Ice therapy is often accompanied by the use of compression. It will also help in the maintenance of good posture. It is also a very good way of pain relief without the use of pain medication.
Elevation will help restore the muscular strength and help the muscle come back to its original form and shape as the muscular tear heals. Again, it has been proven helpful to treat poor posture which can result from frequent back spasms.
The use of medications is always an option to speed up recovery and ameliorate pain, but it always comes with some side effects. The use of NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs includes ibuprofen and naproxen. These medicines present the least side effects and least drug-drug interactions. Corticosteroids are also a form of anti-inflammatory drugs but they should only be utilized in severe cases and again they are only for short-term use. Muscle relaxants like tizanidine are also very useful for relieving muscle spasms. Over-the-counter medicines are usually best for treating muscular pain. (7) Any other option should only be adopted on the recommendation of a professional healthcare worker.
Strengthening exercises are very important to improve and maintain muscle strength after back muscle injury. AANS has mentioned that exercise does well for your body that any other therapy cannot. It should be noted that any physical exercise should not be done before the rest therapy. Exercise should begin after 3-4 weeks so that the muscles get proper rest and time for healing. The overuse of muscles can instead harm the muscle instead of benefiting it.
Physical therapy and chiropractic therapy is a very commonly employed solutions for the pain in the back as well as the abdominal muscles. The exercises will help increase blood flow towards the injured area and help a speedy recovery. The common exercises performed to cure back pain are as follows:
- Twists: This stretching exercise involves sitting on the hips and twisting the upper body first towards the left and then towards the right side. The exercise should be repeated with a break of 30 seconds every three times
- Knee pulls: This exercise requires the person to lie on his or her back and stretch the feet upwards. You can fold your arms around your shin muscles and bring your legs closer to your chin and the chin closer to the legs. The exercise should be repeated three times with an interval of 20 minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for a pulled-back muscle to heal?
While the other back injuries might take a longer time to heal, a pulled muscle in the back is only a minor condition and takes no longer than four to six weeks to recover.
What does a pulled-back muscle feel like?
A pulled-back muscle feels as if someone or something is applying intense pressure on your back where the pain is located. The intensifies on any movement and the patient is unable to bend or even move sideways.
How do you know if your muscle is pulled or just sore?
The only way to get to know the proper diagnosis is by getting a radiological exam. A sore may go away within a few days to one week, however, a pulled muscle pain might persist for longer and can be confirmed by a CT scan or an MRI.
How should I sleep with a pulled-back muscle?
You should avoid sleeping while lying on your back. Physicians recommend sleeping sideways so that the affected side is not pressed and gets enough rest from any physical or external pressure.
How do I know if my back pain is serious?
If pain persists and the intensity increases instead of decreasing with time, it is a clear indication that the pain is serious and the person needs to go through a clinical examination.
Should I stretch a pulled muscle?
A pulled muscle should first be allowed to rest for a few weeks. After the rest period is over as per the doctor’s recommendation, the patient can start light stretching exercises the strengthen the muscles.
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- Cholewicki, J., & McGill, S. (1996). Mechanical stability of the in vivo lumbar spine: implications for injury and chronic low back pain. Clinical Biomechanics, 11(1), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1016/0268-0033(95)00035-6
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- Snook, S. H., Campanelli, R. A., & Hart, J. W. (1978). A Study of Three Preventive Approaches to Low Back Injury. Journal of Occupational Medicine, 20(7), 478–481. https://www.jstor.org/stable/45011187
- Casazza, B. A. (2012). Diagnosis and Treatment of Acute Low Back Pain. American Family Physician, 85(4), 343–350. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2012/0215/p343.html