How to Treat a Ruptured Back Muscle

Updated April 17, 2017

The muscles of the back are composed of strong compact fibres that are made to keep the body erect when moving. But even if they are that strong, they still aren't invulnerable to injury. Back muscle strain or rupture occurs when the muscle is stretched beyond its normal limits and when it over contracts from a sudden movement such as lifting. The erector spinae muscles are the ones that do most of the work; and are located in the lower back, so that explains why most of the pain is localised in this area. Overuse and poor posture places unnecessary load on back muscles, which will then make them spastic. And soon enough these muscles will go weaker to the point where they could not function properly anymore--making it difficult for an individual to move. A ruptured back muscle is graded according to how bad the stretch or tear is. Below are the different grades along with its corresponding treatments.

Grade I is a mild strain and only few of the muscle fibres are over stretched or torn. Pain is present along with tightness and possible swelling; but the strength of the affected muscle is still normal. Take some pain medication, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil)

Rest your back to relieve it from stress.

Apply ice on your back for 15 to 20 minutes every 4 hours for 2 to 3 days. This method helps in reducing pain and swelling. Make sure to put a towel on the area before applying ice to prevent ice burn.

Application of heat is beneficial on the area within 4 to 5 days after swelling has subsided. Place a towel on your back and put the heating pad over it for 15 to 20 minutes. Heat application increases blood flow and also enhances relaxation of spastic muscles.

Try massage therapy. This will help soothe the pain on your back.

Schedule a physiotherapy session. Physical rehabilitation program may include application of modalities such as electrical stimulation, therapeutic ultrasound, water therapy and paraffin wax treatment to ease the pain.

Do some mild aerobic exercises like riding a stationary bike, walking around the house for a few times or swimming to help relieve pain and promote faster healing.

Grade II is a moderate strain where in more muscle fibres are stretched or torn. Pain is more intense coupled with mild swelling. There may also be bruising on the area and a noticeable decrease in muscle strength. Protect your strained back muscles from further injury

Rest your back and get some time off from training sessions and avoid doing something that may worsen your condition.

Apply ice on the area for 15 to 20 minutes. Do this every hour at the very onset of pain. The next day, you can apply ice for at least 4 to 5 times a day with the same duration (15 to 20 minutes).

Compress your strained muscle by wrapping it with an elastic bandage. This will provide support on the area and also decreases swelling. Make sure to not wrap it too tight to avoid impeding the circulation.

Elevate the injured area to further decrease the swelling. Place a pillow under your knees so that your lower back will be a little bit inclined or elevated. This position helps in taking the pressure off your back.

Place ample amounts of pain relieving cream or gel on your back to help soothe the pain.

Application of massage is very important to relax spastic back muscles and increase circulation on the area. Make sure that massage is applied along the sides of the spine and not directly on it; and the direction of the stroke should always be towards the heart.

Take some pain medications to find relief. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is beneficial for direct pain relief, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen Advil, to reduce pain and swelling; and for over spastic and tight back muscles, muscle relaxants can be of help.

Try acupuncture to help relax and increase the supply of oxygen to your spastic back muscles.

Schedule for a physical rehabilitation program. Modalities such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation and paraffin wax treatment may be applied to soothe the pain. Your physical therapist will also do joint mobilisation techniques and strengthening exercises to increase range of motion and strengthen weakened back muscles.

Grade III is the most severe type of muscle strain or rupture. The back muscle is really torn all the way which is manifested by complete loss of function, severe pain, swelling and discolouration. Protect, rest, ice, compress, and elevate (PRICE) the area. The application of PRICE is an important initial treatment in order to reduce pain, swelling, and to protect the already injured area from further damage

Taking painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs can be of help during the initial stage of injury.

Oral intake or injection of corticosteroids on the area is helpful in relieving severe muscle spasm and pain.

Application of cast or surgical procedure is made for serious cases to completely immobilise and allow repair of the severely ruptured back muscle.

Wearing of braces and corsets is advisable in order to protect and allow relaxation of the strained back muscle.

Exercise, application of modalities, and proper education of posture and movement mechanics will be part of the rehabilitation program given after surgery.


Observe proper posture so as not to place more stress on your back muscle. Watch your timing and body mechanics when lifting heavy loads. Maintain an ideal body weight to reduce unnecessary pressure on your back muscles. Warm up to make your back muscles flexible before doing any type of exercise.


Seek immediate medical help if the following are present: if symptoms persist 2 to 3 weeks even after medications and rehabilitation, if there is numbness or loss of sensation on the area, if pain is accompanied with fever or chills or if there is bowel and bladder dysfunction.

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About the Author

Wirnani Garner holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy and works in the medical profession. Her articles focus on health-related subjects, though Garner is proficient in researching and writing about a diverse range of topics.