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How to Heal a Strained Back

by admin » on May 22, 2020 0

A back strain is an injury that can truly disrupt the day-to-day life of sufferers, as it frequently causes pain when performing everyday tasks. Back injuries such as strains are some of the most common of all injuries, ranking behind only headaches in terms of the complaints that healthcare providers receive most often according to the Cleveland Clinic. Thankfully, the prevalence of these injuries has led to the development of a great amount of understanding on the causes, symptoms, and best treatments for these kinds of back injuries. 

What Exactly IS A Back Strain? 

A back strain is an injury to a tendon of muscle in the back. When a strain injury occurs in this part of the body it results in muscles and tendons that support the spine being pulled, twisted, or even torn. It is important to note that a strain is a distinct injury different from a back sprain. A sprained back is caused not by muscle and tendon injuries, but by the stretching or tearing of the ligaments that connect bone joints together. 

What Causes A Back Strain? 

Back strains can be caused by a wide number of activities and underlying conditions, and can be the result of both long-term or one-time events. 

Causes of long-term back strains include prolonged, repetitive usage of the muscles and tendons, such as bending or crouching repeatedly. Participating in sports and activities such as football or weightlifting that put stress on the back can also lead to back injuries such as strains.  

Sudden back strains can be caused by a number of different events, such as a fall, extreme physical exertion, improperly lifting of objects in a way that causes exertion of the back muscles, or any lifting of heavy objects if you are overweight. 

Being overweight in general can contribute to a back strain, as can poor posture, emotional stress, sitting in one position for extended periods of time, having weak hamstrings or back muscles, and any activity that results in excessive spinal curvature. In some cases a severe cough can be enough to cause a strain.    

Signs And Symptoms Of A Back Strain 

There are a number of signs and symptoms of a back injury that should be easy to recognize, including: 

  • General pain and stiffness in the back that worsens with movement.
  • Muscle cramps or spasms in the back.
  • Pain in the legs and buttocks, typically located in the back of the thigh.
  • Difficulty walking or moving as normally, causing a limited range of motion and function.
  • Back pain that worsens when you do common things such as sneezing, coughing, or stretching.
  • In some cases sufferers may hear or feel a pop or tear when the injury first occurs.

Officially Diagnosing A Back Strain

Since many of the symptoms listed above apply to a number of different back injuries, it is important to have a medical professional examine the back to rule out more serious injuries, especially in instances with further symptoms such as numbness or weakening of the legs. 

When examining a patient and diagnosing a back strain, a doctor will need to perform a thorough physical examination, and it is not uncommon for them to turn to further medical testing such as x-rays or MRIs to confirm a strain has occurred, although these tests are typically only utilized in instances where the pain remains following initial treatments. This is done to ensure there is not a more severe injury causing the pain. 

Treating A Back Strain

The first step in treating a back strain is to reduce the pain the patient is feeling and limit spasming. Typically applying pressure through compression, applying ice, and getting plenty of rest are the first steps in this regard. This is a crucial step in the first day or two following the injury. A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen can also be helpful at this stage, as it will reduce swelling and pain. 

It is not recommended to extend rest time beyond the first 24-48 hours after the injury, as  extended immobility will actually extend recovery time. Instead, it is recommended that back strain sufferers resume normal activities within reason following that 24-48 hour window. 

This course of treatment will typically clear up pain and limitations from a back strain completely within two weeks. If symptoms remain at that point, it may be worth visiting with a medical professional to make sure there is not a more serious condition at play.  

Back Strain Complications

While there are not many complications related to this condition, the lack of movement and mobility the injury causes can lead to weight loss, flexibility loss, loss of muscle strength, and a reduction in bone density over an extended period of time. 

Preventing Back Strains

Back injuries are essentially inevitable, as so many common actions and lifestyle factors can cause them. That being said, it is possible to reduce your risk factor for back injuries such as strains. Some of the most important steps towards prevention include: 

  • Regular exercise. Stretching and other exercise that maintains flexibility in particular are helpful when it comes to preventing back strains. 
  • Use proper form and posture whenever possible. This includes keeping your backs straight and shoulder back while sitting, as well keeping your feet flat on the floor.
  • Avoid twisting movements whenever possible.
  • Bend your knees when lifting and use your legs to lift, not your back.
  • Eat a healthy diet that benefits bone and muscle strength.
  • Maintain a healthy weight, as being overweight can put undue pressure on the back.
  • Do whatever possible to prevent falls, including making sure to wear properly sized clothing and shoes.
  • If you smoke, stop smoking. The nicotine in cigarettes can inhibit blood flow to the muscles, including those in the back.

Back pain, and back strains specifically, are an unfortunate reality and will impact the lives of many, many people. Thankfully strains are not a major medical problem on their own, and initial treatments and procedures typically result in a complete recovery within two weeks of the injury, at which point strain sufferers can get back to the daily life without the added burden of a back strain.  

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