Self Care for Back Muscle Strain

Proven and effective treatment for your back muscle strain

Muscle strain is the most common caused of pain in majority of my back pain patients that I treat in the clinic. Muscle strain, also commonly referred as Pulled muscle, is a type of injury when a muscle is overstretched resulting to a tear of the muscle fibers.

Most of my patients who have back muscle strain report onset of pain after doing an abrupt movement such as falling, twisting, bending, or lifting heavy object.

In my experience, the lower back is always the area where strains occur. The low back is where the main muscle that supports the spine is located. And this muscle, despite being strong, is active in almost every movement of your body—thereby prone to injury—this is why low back pain is so common.

What are the symptoms of back muscle strain?

Here are some common symptoms that I noted in most of my patients according to the severity of their injuries:

  • Minimal pain and stiffness if you have moderate injury.
  • Extreme pain, muscle spasms and swelling if the injury is severe.
  • Intense pain, tenderness, swelling, spasms, bruising, and difficulty moving or walking if the injury has caused a muscle tear.

Self Care for Back Muscle Strain

Proper and effective care especially on the initial phase of this injury will help you get moving faster. Here are some self care tips that I usually advice to my patients, I find this to be very effective if followed properly:

1. Rest

If the back muscle strain is so severe, you need a complete bed rest during the first 48 hours guarding your body from any movement that can worsen the pain. This rest is necessary to decrease pain, muscle spasms, and inflammation of the injured area.

You should start returning to your normal daily activities after two days of bed rest but avoid anything that increases your pain.

Can’t find a comfortable position a back muscle strain injury?

Here are some positions that help my patients and may also help relieve the pressure on your the back:

  • Lie on the floor or firm bed with lower legs resting on a support or a chair and maintaining a 90-degree bent on the knees.
  • Lie on your back and placing a pillow under your knees.
  • Lie on your side with a pillow between the knees (knees slightly bent).
  • Sit with your feet or lower legs supported on a foot stool. Elevating your knees above hip level is sometimes more comfortable.

Warning: Avoid sleeping on your stomach even if it feels good at first. A lot of my patients reported that their pain increases after maintaining this position.

2. Cold application for Back Muscle Strain

Swelling and inflammation can produce increase pain after an injury. By applying cold initially, it will help minimize these reactions and facilitate healing, and is very effective in the first 24 to 48 hours from the injury.

What to use?

  • ice wrap in a towel, or
  • pack of frozen peas

Another way to stop swelling and pain and I’ve done this effectively in the clinic is the use of cold compression therapy. This is a combination of pressure and cold application to the injured area. You can find compression back wraps in most drugstores or pharmacies.

Apply cold pack to the painful area of your back for 15 to 20 minutes every 3 to 4 hours and continue doing this for 2 days.

Warning: Always place a towel or a cloth covering on the injured area before applying any forms of cold application to prevent ice burn on the skin.

3. Heat Application for Back Muscle Strain.

You can apply heat after cold application or when the swelling has subsided. Heat relaxes the injured muscles and increases blood circulation to the affected area which facilitates healing.

Some forms of heat application that you can use at home are:

  • a towel that has been soaked in hot water
  • a hot water bottle.

The most convenient is the use of electric heating pad that you can purchase from a drugstore or pharmacy. I prefer moist heat; I find that most of my patients with back muscle strain respond better from this compared to a dry heat application.

Some of my patients report relief and ease of the strained muscles after taking warm bath or shower.

Apply moist heat to the painful area for 15 to 20 minutes and do this every 4 to 6 hours until pain is relieved. I also find that alternating heat and ice application sometimes works best in treating pain.

Warning: You should not sleep on a heating pad as it can cause skin burn. If you are diabetic you should avoid using any type of heat application to your skin; most diabetic usually have diminished skin sensation and this is a danger for skin burn.

4. Pain Medications

Take over the counter pain relievers only when above self care tips don’t work. However, many of my patients with moderate pain take pain relievers immediately for short-term relief to help them continue with their day-to-day activities.

Examples of over-the counter pain relievers and their effect:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain relief.
  • Ibuprofen (advil, motrin) helps reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Naproxen (aleve, naprosyn) helps reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Aspirin- reduces inflammation and pain.

You can ask your physician for stronger dosage of these medications if the pain is excruciating. Prescriptions drugs are fast acting and more effective than their over-the-counter counterparts.

Muscle relaxants prescribed by your physician can also be used especially if you have severe back spasms or tightness, but I have some patients report drowsiness after taking them. If you are advised to take this type of drug please avoid driving.

Warning: If you have other medical issues you need to consult with your physician before taking any new medications, even over-the counter drugs.

5. Pain Cream or Ointments for Back Muscle Strain.

Some of my patients find relief by applying pain cream or ointment on the painful area. The feeling is soothing and relaxing to the sprained muscles especially if it contains eucalyptus, menthol, or camphor that may help diminish inflammation.

Instruction on how to use pain cream or ointment can be found on the product label.

6. Resume Activities

You should resume normal activities as tolerated after 48 to 72 hours from the injury. Prolonged immobility can lead to bone calcium deficiency and muscular atrophy or weakening—which can make the pain worse and increase the risk of further injury.

Also, during the first 4 – 5 weeks after the injury you need to avoid activities that require frequent twisting and bending of your torso, and heavy lifting—all these put a lot of stress on your strained muscles and could re-injure your back.

I’ve have seen patients re-injured their back because of not observing proper body mechanics when they start to feel better. You have to remember that if you had strained your back you have more risk of re-injuring it again.

It is important to continue observing proper body mechanics and avoiding lifting heavy objects . Prevention is the best cure.

Things to consider to avoid re-injuring your back:

  1. Use of back braces or back belts
  2. Shoes should be properly fitted.
  3. Use back supports or seat cushions.
  4. Exercise. Active and well-conditioned individual are much less likely to re-injure their back.

When to call a doctor?

I’ve seen and treated serious cases of back muscle strain or pain in my clinic. Here are some signs that can guide you if you have serious underlying problem other than a strained back muscles. If you have one of these signs you need to see a health care professional right away:

  • No sign of improvement after 72 hours of self-care.
  • Pain is severe and unbearable.
  • Severe weakness.
  • Pain radiating down to your leg/s
  • Tingling or numbness sensation on your leg/s
  • Loss control of bladder or bowels

A good qualified physician or physical therapist can determine the cause of your back pain and can provide solution to your pain if self care is not enough.

What if nothing seems to work?

An injury to your back sometimes can cause disc damage, or nerve irritation and impingement which can result into a chronic pain. Taking stronger dosage of pain medication prescribed by your physician will not always find you relief, or receiving traditional physical therapy treatment may not be the answer either.

Click here to investigate our non-traditional physical therapy treatment techniques that have worked wonders to even difficult to treat back problems, like spinal stenosis, herniated or ruptured disc, spinal spondylosis, sciatica,scoliosis, and many more.

Click here or Call us now at (248) 844-2665 to take advantage of our Free Consultation where we can tell you what Restore Physical Therapy LLC can do to help you!

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"… after few sessions my sciatic pain has practically disappeared. This type of therapy was much more useful to me than the heat packs and ultrasounds that I received in prior therapy."

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