Lower Back Muscle Strain

Lower Back Strain

If you suffer from lower back pain, there is a high likelihood that a muscle strain caused it. This happens when the muscles and ligaments that hold your spinal column in place are stretched too far, resulting in a rip or tear in the muscle. The spine will then become less stable and will put pressure on the nerves in your back.

While the lower back is where most of the pain resides, nerves run throughout your entire back, so other pain is possible if the issue is left untreated.

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Doctor examining patient who is pointing out where they are having pain in their back
Doctor pointing out areas on a human spine model

What Causes Lower Back Strain?

There are a few ways the back muscles can tear. This can happen in one big event, or the muscles could become fragile over time and rip with the slightest movement. Age is undoubtedly a factor to consider — ages 30 and above often see their first bout of low back pain — but it can happen to anyone at any time.

The following events can trigger or contribute to a lower back strain:

  • Lifting heavy objects improperly
  • Falling
  • Excessive physical exertion
  • Poor posture
  • Emotional stress or tension
  • Lack of physical fitness
  • Obesity
  • Immobility
  • Severe coughing

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Man sitting and gripping his back in pain

Symptoms of Lower Back Muscle Strain

If you have a muscle strain in your lower back, you likely feel:

  • Pain and stiffness in your whole back.
  • Pain getting worse when moving, coughing or sneezing.
  • Radiating pain from the lower back, through the buttocks and into the back of the thighs.
  • Back muscle spasms.
  • Difficulty walking, bending over or standing straight.

If you are experiencing bladder or bowel issues or numbness in your legs along with back pain, that may be a sign of cauda equina syndrome or compression of the spinal cord, by a herniated disc in the low back. It is important to contact a doctor immediately to prevent any further damage.

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Treatment for Lower Back Muscle Strain

Lower back strain can be treated — the quicker you seek treatment, the quicker the resolution will be. Most cases will heal on their own over time, but you can do some things to speed up the process.

Initially, apply ice — wrapped in a towel — to the sore region on your back for 10 to 20 minutes to reduce swelling. After two or three days, switch to heat for the same amount of time, but be careful not to leave it on any longer to prevent burns.

Turning to anti-inflammatories or other drugs for back pain should only be done by your doctor’s recommendation. Over-the-counter options will help but should only be taken occasionally. Prescription painkillers and muscle relaxants have also been effective.

Use this opportunity to take a spa day. Getting a massage or using pain relieving creams can help relax tense muscles around the affected area.

Utilizing physical therapy services for strained muscles is a helpful way to regain independence. Physical therapists will assist you by curating specific exercises to strengthen the muscles in your back and prevent another occurrence of back strain. Resting your back is only recommended for brief periods — bed rest can worsen the issue.

Doctors will usually try the least-invasive option first. However, in more extreme cases, back muscle strain may require surgery. Surgeries usually treat an underlying condition that has led to lower back pain.

At Desert Institute for Spine Care, we offer several surgeries to treat various conditions.

  • Artificial disc replacement will replace a spinal disc that is inflamed and causing pain in your lower back.
  • An endoscopic discectomy will remove a herniated disc or bone spur in your spine to reduce pressure and nerve inflammation.
  • Take advantage of our Personalized Pain Mapping approach to find the direct cause of your lower back pain and target it with appropriate treatment.

How to Prevent Back Strain

Physical therapy will teach you exercises to prevent another back strain, but how can you prevent it in the first place?

  • Stop physical exercise if you are starting to feel pain in your lower back — don’t try to push through it.
  • Stretch and strengthen your back muscles regularly.
  • Sleep on your back or your side — not on your stomach.
  • When lifting a heavy object, bend at your knees, not your waist.
  • Make good posture a habit — especially when sitting, standing and walking.

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Dr Abrams explaining spine x-ray Dr. Abrams laughing

Contact DISC Today

Desert Institute for Spine Care is committed to helping you find the proper treatment for your lower back muscle strain. Rely on our expertise to guide you through finding a solution. Our surgeons are some of the best in their field and want to help you get back to your favorite activities. For more information, contact DISC today to begin the healing process.


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