Spinal Muscle Strain

When soft tissues surrounding the spine are stretched or torn, you can end up with spinal muscle strain — also referred to as lumbar strain when it occurs in the lower region of your back. In most cases, this muscular injury can be treated with conservative methods.

Scroll down

Finding Relief for Spinal Muscle Strain

A slight twinge in your back that goes away after a few days is typically nothing to worry about. However, if your pain is severe or long-lasting, you should contact a board-certified spinal specialist to evaluate your back injury and recommend the appropriate treatment. 

There are a wide range of non- and minimally-invasive treatment options for spinal muscle strains. If conservative treatment fails to lead to a full recovery and cessation of pain, we can recommend more advanced techniques including surgery to repair damage to the tissues around the spine.

Learn More About Spinal Muscle Strain

Spinal muscle strain can happen to anyone. For some, it is the result of a traumatic incident, after which lumbar pain makes its appearance. In other cases, damage can accumulate over time, and then the trigger event is something as simple as getting out of bed. Typically, spinal strain is linked to injuries from sudden impact or heavy lifting. 

You may find you’ve strained your spinal muscles from picking up a heavy object straight from the ground with no precautions, getting something heavy off of a high shelf, or twisting your spine while lifting. Impact injuries could be a result from a car accident, a sporting incident, fall, or other jarring impact, causing an acute back muscle injury. 

Symptoms of spinal muscle strain can vary depending on which muscles are damaged, how severe the injury is, and whether or not your discs or nerves are involved. Each individual may experience spinal pain differently, however, the symptoms of a pulled lower back muscle will typically include one or more of the following: 

  • A dull ache in the lower back. Strained muscles can cause pain on either sides of your spine, or in a band reaching from one side to the other across the width of your back. This pain is usually a tight soreness that may be accompanied by a feeling of general warmth.
  • Pain that worsens with movement. Spinal muscle strain can increase in intensity suddenly when the affected muscle is flexed. This can produce a flare of sharper pain that radiates from the strained muscle upon moving, for example, sitting or standing up from lying down.  
  • Highly localized pain. Pain that is specific to the lower back is a hallmark of lumbar strain. In some cases, pain can travel down into the buttocks or hips, as muscles that help support the lower half of the body are affected. 
  • Disc and nerve pain. Inflamed muscle tissue or a herniated disc can put pressure on your nerves, resulting in sensory signals that the brain interprets as spikes of intense pain, flashes of heat, tingling, or even numbness.

If you experience severe symptoms, you should seek the help of a qualified spine specialist sooner rather than later, as spine injuries can worsen quickly. Emergency care may be required if you lose bladder or bowel control, have severe abdominal pain, or are running a high fever.

Risk factors for lower back injury include things that are impossible to control, like aging, and things that can typically be at least partially controlled with lifestyle choices, like weight or muscle tone. Other risk factors, like the following, can be mitigated with proper care.

  • Repetitive motions. Overuse of muscles can cause muscle tears. Certain types of athletes are at higher risk, such as rowers, golfers, and baseball players. Workers in specific professions can also be at risk, including carpenters and painters.  
  • Deconditioned muscles. Muscles that are stiff and underused are more prone to injury, and can easily be injured when participating in a new activity or workout routine. 
  • Poor posture and conditioning. Weak back muscles and a lack of core strength can lead to an easily damaged lower back. People who work desk jobs are extremely susceptible to lower back pain.

Preventing lumbar strain isn’t always possible, but you can take steps to reduce strain on your back and make lifestyle choices to support spinal health. 

  • If you’re exercising or playing sports and your back starts to hurt, stop and don’t push through the pain.
  • Always lift something heavy using the correct support and form — straight up, using your legs — not by leaning over and lifting.
  • Adopt proper posture when you sit, especially if you work at a desk. Don’t slouch or slump in your chair.
  • Exercise your core to strengthen the muscles around your spine and reduce the chances of an injury.

Aside from being a muscle strain or sprain in your lumbar region, lower back pain could also be caused by a herniated disc or a pinched nerve. The treatment for muscle pain and nerve pain are different, so it’s important to get a clear diagnosis from a spinal expert.

If you experience back injury resulting from a jarring impact, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. If your back starts hurting after a seemingly harmless event, like the day after a weekend activity or when you stand up from a seated position, you may want to try resting your back and alternating heat and ice before you become overly concerned. However, if the pain is severe or doesn’t subside after a few days, you should seek professional help.

At Citrus Spine Institute, we evaluate each patient carefully and build a strained back treatment plan tailored for their specific needs. Potential aspects of your treatment may include the use of anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, bracing, muscle relaxants, spinal injections, or surgery. We'll also help you find ways to prevent future injuries with activity and lifestyle modifications including dietary changes and targeted workout routines such as core strengthening and flexibility exercises.   

Next Steps: Living With Spinal Muscle Strain

As you recover from a spinal muscle strain, make sure you follow your doctor’s directions carefully. A common mistake in recovery is overdoing exercise too soon, which can result in an injury even more severe than the initial lumbar strain.

You may also want to investigate supplemental forms of spine treatment to quicken and support your recovery. Many people have success with alternative therapies such as chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, and deep tissue massages.

If you are suffering from chronic lower back pain or muscle spasms, don’t ignore the pain. Your body is trying to tell you something is wrong, and that it needs help to heal. Proper back strain care can help eliminate pain, restore functionality to your spine, and improve your quality of life. 

Can We Help?

It takes a doctor with experience treating Degenerative Disc Disease to determine the right solution for you. Schedule an appointment today to learn how to reduce or eliminate degenerative disc disease.

Request Appointment