Sprain and Strain Injuries

When people start experiencing back pain in the absence of a fall or injury that obviously caused it, they begin to get worries that there is something seriously wrong with their backs. Personally, I have heard several stories from people who said that they felt something go out in their backs as a result of one fall or awkward lifting movement, and that their backs have never been the same since. Also, the general population is aware of the condition known as bulging discs or herniated discs, also known under the popular term "slipped disc." People are aware of this problem and the fact that it may result in chronic back pain. Fortunately, disc problems are also a rare cause of back pain. In most cases, back pain is caused by sprain and strain injuries, in which the ligaments of the back become sprained or the muscles become strained. In the majority of cases, these structures are pretty resilient, and they will heal over the course of several days to a few weeks. Sprain and strain injuries are the most common cause of acute back pain. These injuries are short lasting, and usually do not result in permanent damage, though they may be painful enough to be incapacitating - requiring bed rest until the injury heals enough for the patient to be able to resume their normal life. Let's take a look at how these injuries occur, what we can do to avoid them, and what treatments are available to facilitate the healing process when they happen.

Lower back strain: The muscles of the body are fairly resilient to injury, and heal fairly quickly when they do occur. When muscle strain does occur, the rich blood supply to them enables them to heal faster than other structures, such as the joints. Yet these injuries are painful enough to be crippling when they do occur, and are one of the most common causes of emergency room visits.

When muscle strain does occur, it is usually in the muscles that support the lower back. There are two categories of lower back strain:
  • A lumbar sprain happens when the ligaments become torn or stretched too far. The ligaments are actually partially composed of elastic fibers that allow them to stretch, but may become injured when elongated beyond a healthy range. Ligaments are very tough fibrous connective tissues that connect the muscles to bones and joints (the tendons connect bone to bone).
  • A muscle strain occurs when the muscle or torn or over-stretched, causing damage to the muscle fibers. This type of lower back strain is also known as a pulled muscle.
When patients present with mild to severe cases of back pain in the ER or medical clinic, these injuries may be diagnosed following a physical examination and after ruling out other severe back conditions. Lumbar strain and muscle strain are both listed under the general umbrella term of sprain and strain injuries, because they are usually treated the same regardless of the actually injured structures involved.

When these injuries do occur, inflammation develops around the injured muscles. This inflammation causes tension around the muscles in mild cases, and back spasms to the muscles in more severe cases. Back spasms involve continuous contractions of the muscles that have become inflamed due to inflammation in and around them. Back spasms may cause so much pain that they leave patients bed ridden or largely incapacitated until the muscle tension begins to break up.

Pulled Mack Muscle Causes: Lower back pain is typically caused by any type of movements or motions that put undue stress on the lower back. Common causes of pulled back muscles include sudden movements or falls, lifting while twisting, lifting heavy objects, repetitive movements, and lifting while bending.

Though pulled back muscles could occur doing many different activities, sports injuries are one of the most common causes. Sports that require powerful motions done while twisting may cause pulled back muscles; and sports that involve sudden impact or jarring motions may result in similar injuries.

Pulled Back Muscle Symptoms: Pulled back muscles may be suspected as the cause of lower back pain when some combination of these symptoms occurs:
  • Pain that comes on suddenly when playing sports, lifting, or carrying objects.
  • Then the lower back is sore or tender to the touch
  • The pain is localized to the lower back, and does not radiate down one or more legs.
  • The pain is somewhat relieved by resting or lying down, and increases when standing or walking.
  • There may be lower back pain accompanied by muscle spasms. Muscle spasms may feel very painful and involve a stiffening and tightness of the muscle.
The severe symptoms of back pain related to pulled back muscles are typically short lasting, and don't require a period of rest lasting longer than a few days. Mild to moderate pain, however, may linger on from a period of a few weeks to months.