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Easing Strained Back Pain: What You Need to Know

Experts estimate that 4 out of 5 American adults have back pain at some time in their lives. Back strain is responsible for at least some of those instances. 

At ALON Family Health, our medical team, under the direction of Rolando Perez, MD, sees many patients each year who have back pain. Our goal is always to help them return to normal activity as quickly as possible, and help them get through the injury with as little pain as possible.

Most back pain injuries are acute, meaning they last six weeks or less, although it’s possible for you to develop chronic back pain. 

Soft tissue injury

There are two separate, but closely related, common soft tissue injuries in your back. One is a muscle strain, which happens when your muscles are damaged or torn. The other is a back sprain, which happens when the ligaments that connect your bones are stretched or torn. 

Regardless of whether you have a sprain or a strain, the result is pain. The pain may develop slowly, or it may be sudden. Strains and sprains have the same symptoms and treatments. 

Causes of back strain and sprain

You can hurt the soft tissues of your back in a number of ways. If you lift something heavy and twist at the same time, you could hurt yourself. If you’re out of shape and you lift something heavy, you could strain your back. 

A sudden movement, such as a fall can lead to a strained back, but so could poor posture over a long period of time. If your job or hobby requires crouching for long periods of time, you’re at risk of straining your back. 

Treating back strain

Unfortunately, there aren’t many medical interventions that work effectively for back pain. Your muscles need to heal, and it’s important to find the balance of rest and gentle activity to help that happen. 

Too much rest, particularly bed rest, can actually make your muscles weaker and slower to heal. But you also don’t want to do strenuous activities or anything that will hurt your back, nor do you want to return to sports too soon. 

We may suggest a program of stretches and exercises to help you strengthen your back as it heals, and that may prevent your back pain from becoming a chronic problem. 

In the first few days, we may suggest that you take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), depending on your medical history. NSAIDs include products such as ibuprofen and naproxen. They can help reduce inflammation and pain. 

You may also find that applying ice in the hours immediately after injury helps. Ice reduces inflammation and can ease your pain. Apply ice for 10-20 minutes at a time for best results. 

After about 48 hours post-injury, begin using heat. Heat improves your circulation and is useful just before movement or activity. You may want to use a heating pad for 10 minutes before you get out of bed in the morning, for example. 

Short walks throughout the day can ease muscle stiffness and pain, too. You may not be up for an hour-long speed walk, but a walk of 3-5 minutes might help. 

Our staff may recommend a brace or other supportive device or give you a referral to physical therapy. Both bracing and physical therapy can help you gain strength slowly and with support so that you avoid future back strain. 

If you suspect you’ve strained your back, schedule an appointment with us at ALON Family Health in San Antonio, Texas. Once we’ve ruled out any other potential causes of your pain, we’ll give you advice specific to your situation. 

We offer telehealth visits, as well as in-person visits, and you can schedule your appointment by phone or online.

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