What to do for a pulled back muscle?

Updated April 17, 2017

If you overexerted while doing some physical activity recently, it's probably a pulled muscle or strain. A strain occurs when a muscle or tendon stretches and/or tears. Strains are commonly called pulled muscles. Hamstring and back injuries are the most common.

Causes & Symptoms

Know the dangers of doing too much, too soon. According to the Mayo Clinic, "a muscle becomes strained, pulled and can even tear when it stretches unusually far or abruptly"--such as when you decide you can clean out the garage or the basement all in one day, or you think you can become muscular by lifting weights in one weekend. But a muscle strain can also happen when you jump, throw, lift a heavy object, slip on ice, run or lift in an awkward way. Lack of conditioning can also cause a pulled back muscle.


See a doctor if you hear a popping sound in your back when you move, there's considerable swelling, you can't walk upright, or over-the-counter analgesics (such as ibuprofen) aren't taking care of the pain. Don't rely on self-treatment or home remedies. For mild back muscle strains, your doctor will likely recommend standard home remedies such as rest, ice or heat, and over-the-counter analgesics. But if your pulled back muscle strain is more severe, the doctor might immobilise it with a back brace or splint and treat you with more powerful pain relievers. You should also use common sense and avoid overdoing it again; rest your back until you're feeling better. This means staying home from work for a day or so and avoiding many household chores. Some sports you should avoid while your back is healing include jogging; racket sports such as tennis or racquetball; golf; weightlifting; sit-ups and dancing.

Be Good To Your Back

Sleep in a curled-up, fetal position with a pillow between your legs to relieve some of the pain and allow the muscle to heal. Those who normally sleep on their back can find relief by placing a pillow or rolled-up towel under their knees. Avoid exercise, but only for a short time. After a few weeks it's probably safe to start exercising again, but only with your doctor's approval. The key after an injury like this is preventing it from happening again. So don't be surprised if your doctor recommends stretching exercises and learning to relax. Activities such as yoga, t'ai chie can help your back stay healthy.

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About the Author

Sharon Durmaskin has been a writer since 1969. She’s written for newspaper ("The Wichita Beacon," "Downtown Wichita News" and "East Wichita News"), radio, advertising and audiotext, where she actually got paid to write horoscopes and soap opera updates. Sharon earned a Bachelor of Arts in English with a creative writing emphasis from Wichita State University and is the owner of Durmaskin Communications.