A pulled lower back muscle is debilitating enough to keep you out of your favorite activities for a few days or even weeks. It can be very frustrating, especially if you are just setting out to achieve one of your fitness goals. Thankfully, this is a very common injury and easily treatable, unless you have a severely pulled muscle.
Muscle Strain in Your Back
Pulled muscles are also known as strains, which can affect either the muscle itself or the tendon, which is a thick band of tissue that connects the muscle to the bone. Muscle strains can range from a mild or moderate overstretch of the muscle or a partial tear. In severe cases, a strain may indicate a complete tear.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons explains that sports like soccer, football, hockey, wrestling and other contact sports put you at risk for muscle strains. They also cite explosive sports that require quick starts, like hurdling, long jump and running races, as potentials for acute strains.
Overuse sprains are a result of a chronic overuse of lower back muscles or tendons. According to the Cleveland Clinic, poor posture, weak abdominal muscles, tight hamstrings and being overweight can put undue stress on your lower back muscles, which increases your risk for a muscle strain.
These problems are all preventable with an exercise program that focuses on proper stretches for the hamstrings, strengthening of the abdominal muscles and proper instruction on how to lift and handle heavy objects.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The most common symptoms of a pulled lower back muscle are sudden lower back pain, spasms in the lower back and feeling sore to the touch in that area. A doctor might order an X-ray, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), EMG (electromyograph) or radionucleotide bone scan to confirm that you have a pulled lower back muscle.
Home Remedies: RICE
Once it's confirmed that you have a pulled lower back muscle, the treatment is relatively simple. The first steps can be done at home and are known as RICE: rest, ice, compression and elevation. For the first week after your injury, it's best to avoid activity, apply ice and take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as you let the swelling go down.
Consider Physical Therapy
Once you've taken care of the swelling, you need to focus on doing exercises and stretches for your lower back injury. A physical therapist can provide you with moves that are appropriate for your degree of injury and fitness level. You can return to all of your activities once you are pain free, have full range of motion and experience full strength.
Surgery as a Last Resort
If home remedies and physical therapy don't make your injury better, you might have a more serious lower back strain. It's possible to have a complete tear in your muscle, which would require surgery and a longer recovery period. It's important that you see a doctor if your symptoms don't get better to rule out this more serious condition.