Dealing with Back Sprains and Strains
The two most common types of back injuries are sprains and strains. Since the back is a weight-bearing champion when it comes to any physical movement, like running, walking, or lifting, any injury to it – common or not – should be taken seriously, even if the treatment is similar.
Do You Have a Back Sprain or a Strain?
A back sprain happens when a ligament (tissue that connects two or more bones at a joint) stretches or tears. A ligament is designed to prevent the joint in question from moving too much, to prevent injury to that joint.
A back strain occurs when a muscle or tendon is injured. A tendon’s job is to connect muscle and bone, and many such tendons support the spine, along with certain muscles. When those tendons and muscles are torn, twisted or pulled, that is a back strain.
How Do You Know if You Have A Sprain or Strain?
There are some typical symptoms that accompany a sprain or strain, though you may need a doctor’s visit or other medical treatment to be sure which it is.
- A pop may be felt when the injury occurs
- Similarly, a tear might also be felt
- The back pain gets worse as you move
- Your muscles cramp
- Muscle spasms - your muscles contract suddenly and uncontrollably
- The injured joint has a reduced range of motion
- The injured joint’s usability/functionality is reduced
- May appear as difficulty bending, standing straight, or walking
How Does A Back Strain or Back Sprain Happen?
Back strains and sprains are common because they can happen through every day activity. It can be a course of heavy activity or even be a stand-alone incident of lifting with the back muscles instead of with the knees that causes a strain. There are also long-term strains, or “chronic strains” that can happen due to extended, repeated movement of the areas in question.
Sprains typically occur suddenly, such as with an impact to the body, or a fall or twist. A sprain (as well as a strain) can also occur to do excessive curving of the lower back, or if you have a weak back, weak abdominal muscles and/or tight hamstrings.
What is the Best Way to Treat My Back Sprain or Strain?
The treatment for a back strain or sprain is relatively simple, and it is similar for both sprains and strains. The goal with treatment for either is always pain reduction and allowing the time to heal. The treatment may include:
- Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines for reduction of pain and swelling
- Rest (24-48 hours after injury)
- Ice packs and compression (24-48 hours after injury)
- After 24-48 hours, if possible, returning to your normal daily activities is generally ok, especially as bed rest beyond this period may slow your recovery and extend the pain
Healing from a sprain or strain in the lumbar area experience improvement within two weeks. Beyond that, it is advisable to consult your medical professional further.