How To Heal a Strained Back Muscle

Dr. Constantine Toumbis

09 December 2022


Back and neck pain can be frustrating and in some cases, debilitating. If you’re suffering from this pain, you may have a strained back muscle – here’s how to tell and what you can do to find relief. 


How To Tell if You Have a Strained Back Muscle

The abnormal tearing, twisting or stretching of the soft tissue surrounding your spine is known as spinal muscle strain. This can result from lifting weights, playing sports, constant overuse or a traumatic injury, like a car accident

Pain is the hallmark of spinal muscle strain. It may feel like: 

  • Soreness to the touch
  • A sudden onset 
  • Spasms that cause more intense pain 
  • Pain that worsens with movement 
  • A dull ache
  • A localized pain in the lower back, which may radiate to your buttocks or hips 
  • Occasional instances of numbness, tingling, heat or severe pain, which could also indicate a herniated disc

While this injury can happen in any region of your spine, it commonly occurs in the lumbar (lower back) area.

How To Heal a Strained Back Muscle

At the beginning of your treatment, you want to rest for the first 24 to 48 hours. Your doctor may recommend: 

  • A back brace. Compression can help relieve pain, promote healing and reduce swelling as it helps support your spine and its surrounding muscles.
  • Medications. Muscle relaxants or over-the-counter pain medicine, like ibuprofen, to help with pain management. 
  • Hot-and-cold treatments. Using ice packs and heating pads can help reduce inflammation and aid recovery. You want to start with ice packs, which should be used at regular 10- to 20-minute intervals, with a two-hour break in between. Use a towel between your skin and the pack to avoid ice burns. You may be advised to use a heating pad 48 hours after your injury, following the same protocols as you would with ice packs. 

After this rest period, resume regular activity to avoid deconditioning your muscles and prolonging your symptoms. You may need to continue using the above remedies in conjunction with these treatments: 

  • Physical therapy. Working with a physical therapist can help you gradually stretch and strengthen your back and core, which can help you recover and learn proper form for future exercises. Strong muscles also support good posture, which can prevent re-injury.
  • Alternative treatments. Massage therapy, chiropractic care and acupuncture may help relieve your pain and aid in recovery. 
  • Low-impact exercises. Taking short, frequent walks throughout the day, swimming and using a stationary bike can help you prevent stiffness and, in turn, lessen your pain. 

If your symptoms don’t improve after two weeks, your healthcare provider may recommend a minimally invasive remedy, like epidural steroid injections. These are typically used to treat pain resulting from herniated discs or stenosis, but can also provide longer-term pain relief from spinal muscle strain.

After these treatments, if your condition persists or your pain is accompanied by severe symptoms speak with your back pain specialist. They will be able to help you get to the root of the problem and find relief.

Explore Spinal Muscle Strain Treatment at Citrus Spine Institute

With offices in Central and Northeast Florida, our board-certified spinal experts at Citrus Spine Institute are here to help. Our team has completed thousands of minimally invasive, outpatient procedures to help people find relief from neck and back pain. 

Ready to find relief from spinal muscle strain? Schedule a consultation today to get started.

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Dr. Constantine Toumbis

Dr. Toumbis is a board certified, fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in cervical, thoracic and lumbar surgery. He received his undergraduate degree in Biology from New York University in 1987, then continued on to receive his Masters in Natural Sciences as well as a PhD in Experimental Pathology from State University of New York at Buffalo. He completed his medical degree at Wayne State University School of Medicine with a distinction in Biomedical Research. After moving to Florida to complete his internship and residency in orthopedics at the University of Florida Shands Hospital, he went on to pursue a fellowship at Cleveland Clinic's Florida Spine Institute. He moved to Citrus County and has been in private practice since 2005.

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