A pulled muscle in the back commonly affects the quadratus lumborum. This large, triangular-shaped back muscle is responsible for movement of the spinal column, so muscle strain here results in obvious symptoms that restrict mobility. While back strain symptoms are similar to those caused by pulled muscles in other parts of the body, the size and location of the quadratus lumborum heighten the consequences. It may take substantial force to damage this thick muscular tissue, which will require greater time and effort for recovery.
Back pain at the moment of overexertion is common. The pain may be severe enough to cause a break in activity, or it may be vague and grow over the next few hours. The University of Buffalo Sports Medicine group reports that the physical sensations may include a popping sound or burning feeling in quadratus lumborum. Acute pain usually lasts about two days and may recur in waves thereafter to a lesser extent.
While strain-induced muscle spasms or cramps can hurt, they indicate that healing has already begun. Following severe back strains, the body may try to immobilize the area to reduce shock and allow self-repair to begin. The University of Maryland Medical Center relates that back spasms represent this type of effort. These symptoms should pass in a matter of minutes but may recur later.
Inflammation is another healing response by the body to muscle strain. As the Cleveland Clinic reports, increased blood flow to the pulled muscle creates symptoms of warmth radiating from beneath the skin and redness in the local area.
Increased activity by the white blood cells around the back strain site causes fluid to leak into the muscle tissue. The Cleveland Clinic notes that this action is behind symptoms of swelling, which may be mild or severe. The presence of swelling means that the muscle strain is in its acute phase and vulnerable to further injury.
A muscle strain separates the muscle fibers to some degree, in some cases creating a complete tear or rupture. Any tissue separation degrades the strength and functionality of the muscle. Symptoms of weakness, limited range of motion and limited ability to support the weight of the back are listed as common results of back strain by the National Institutes of Health.
Due to the slow recovery time of large pulled muscles such as the quadratus lumborum, soreness may linger for as long as three months. The National Institutes of Health notes that this residual pain symptom is a reminder to work within limits until rehabilitation is complete. Returning to strenuous activity amidst muscle soreness can create a relapse or chronic back problem.