There is no doubt that back pain can be excruciating, leaving you begging for an end to your misery. The most common cause of back pain is a pulled muscle, which is a muscle that is torn or overstretched. Also known as back strain, the injury can range from mild to severe. Though easy to treat, healing time can range from two weeks to two months.
Back Strain Causes
Pulled muscles can be easily prevented, but you must first know what the causes are. The most common contributor to pulled back muscles is lifting heavy objects. Though any muscles in your back can be torn or stretched, it is more likely to occur with weaker muscles rather than muscles you have strengthened through exercise. Weak muscles combined with poor lifting techniques (i.e., bending over to lift an object rather than lifting with your knees bent), is a back strain waiting to happen.
Back strain typically occurs in the lower back because it supports all the weight of your upper body. When you have poor posture, your back muscles have to work that much harder to support your spine, resulting in fatigue and strain.
In addition, overusing your muscles when you exercise can result in injury to your muscles, causing them to tear.
Though symptoms of a pulled muscle may be obvious, you should still be aware of them to seek or provide yourself with treatment. In most cases, the pain presents itself gradually, although it can come on suddenly and severely. It will sometimes radiate to surrounding muscles, making it more difficult to spot the exact location of the injury.
Once a muscle has been pulled or torn, your body will automatically begin to protect itself from further injury by becoming inflamed. The inflammation of the muscle hinders your ability to move, hence reducing your risk of further injury. Though part of the healing process, this inflammation can result in muscle stiffness and spasms, two additional symptoms. The inflammation is usually only a problem for the first three or four days, during which you begin to incorporate various types of treatment to relieve pain and speed the healing process.
Pulled muscles typically heal on their own without any special medical treatment. It is important to remember that although your pain may begin to dissipate within two or three weeks, it can take up to two months before the injury is completely healed.
Within the first 48 hours of pulling your back muscle, you should apply ice to the injured area. You can do this every four hours for a period of 15 to 20 minutes each time. This helps relieve your pain and reduce the inflammation, which can contribute to your pain as well. Continue this for the first two to three days, at which time you can begin applying heat to the affected area. This is also applied for 15 to 20 minutes, four times a day, and works by increasing blood flow to your muscles, which helps the back muscles relax.
Pain medication will help make you comfortable for the first week until the swelling subsides and the muscle begins to relax. If your injury is on the mild side, over-the-counter pain medications containing ibuprofen not only help relieve pain but reduce your swelling as well. However, if your injury is acute and more severe, your doctor may prescribe a pain medication for you which contains codeine, along with muscle relaxants to help stop muscle spasms.
Alternative medications can also be used in addition to or instead of the conventional treatments. A chiropractor may relieve your back pain by removing the stress from your muscles and tendons. This is done by restoring range-of-motion to your spinal joints by manipulating certain areas of your spinal column.
Massage therapy is another option, though you should be sure the therapist is a licensed professional. She will manipulate the muscles and tendons directly, which relaxes your back muscles. In addition, massage therapy increases blood flow, which flushes your system of waste products, resulting in an accelerated healing process.