Having a “pulled muscle” refers to a type of injury wherein a muscle has been stretched, strained and possibly even torn beyond its normal range of movement and tolerance. It is more precisely referred to by the medical community as a strained muscle. There are three generally accepted grades of muscle strain:
- Grade I: characterized by mild soreness, non disability, little or no impact on activity
- Grade II: characterized by moderate soreness, inability to perform certain movements, sufferer may experience localized pain and minor swelling
- Grade II: characterized by severe pain, significant swelling and prominent bruising, all movement causes discomfort, and activities are severely limited.
One of the worst and most painful places to “pull a muscle” is in your back and developing this injury in the lower back or lower lumbar region of our spine is often incapacitating even when the grade of the injury is relatively low. A pulled muscle in the back affects our ability to function much more profoundly than any other kind of pain.
Treatment for a pulled back muscle is, of course, dependent on the severity or the strain as determined by a medical professional. The first course of action should be to rule out the most severe grade of strain and immediately rule out rupture which may require surgery to prevent disability. Once you know the extent of your injury and its prognosis there are several levels of treatment that may be advised.
Pulled Back Muscle: Initial Treatment
In the short term, the following treatments should be applied:
- Avoidance of weight bearing activity and bending movements
- Rest—relaxation of the affected area in so far as is possible will encourage healing to begin, but avoid too much bed rest, which may actually aggravate your condition.
- Application of ice at 20 minute intervals every few hours for the first 72 hours after injury occurs—heat should be avoided in this period as it may aggravate swelling and inflammation.
- After 72 hours have passed, moist heat in the form of compresses should be applied to encourage increase blood flow to the affected area. Ice may be alternated with the moist heat, each application lasting no more than 20 minutes every few hours.
- Take NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium as directed by your physician. Over the counter dosages may be sufficient for minor pulls, more severe injury may require prescription strength doses.
Pulled Back Muscle: Long Term Treatment
In the longer term, the following treatments may prove helpful:
- Use of support devices such as back braces
- Modification of activities to avoid undue strain to the lower spinal area, including minding posture, insuring proper lifting protocols
- Implementation of an exercise regimen designed to strengthen core muscle groups. Exercise should never be undertaken until healing has reached a stage where its introduction does not cause further pain.
- Massage of the affected muscle can help reduce and break up scar tissue, which will form inevitably in the wake of a muscle tear. Built up scar tissue further weakens muscle tissue and can result in being more prone to future injury.
- Modify your customary sleeping position in bed. A recommended sleeping position is lying on the side curled into a fetal ball with a pillow behind your knees.
- If your mattress is worn and broken down, consider replacing with a firm mattress that provides adequate support to your back at rest.
- Avoid muscle fatigue brought on by over exercising or improper pre exercise warm up—a fatigued muscle is more prone to re-injury
- Pay attention to posture at all times, striving to keep your spine in optimum alignment. Choose seating that provides proper support.
Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist once you have reached a level of healing from the original injury. While physical therapy can be hard and uncomfortable work, the benefits of supervised exercise with a trained professional cannot be underestimated.
Complementary medicine options also exist that may prove beneficial in conjunction with a more conventional treatment approach. Chiropractic manipulation, massage therapies, and acupuncture have all been known to provide relief from pulled back muscle pain and should be discussed with your primary care physician.