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What is Back Strain?

Article Details
  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 April 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Back strain is the result of an injury to the muscles or tendons located near the spine. Muscles in the upper and lower back can become strained when a person tries to lift a heavy object, moves suddenly or awkwardly, overexerts his or her body, or experiences an isolated muscle spasm. Depending on the severity of the back strain, there are many different home remedies, drugs, therapies, and medical treatments available to relieve symptoms and prevent future problems. Most strains are relieved in less than two weeks with sufficient rest, mild stretching and exercise, and over-the-counter pain medications.

A person can experience a back strain when he or she attempts to lift an object that is too heavy. Trying to lift a heavy object puts excessive pressure on the muscles of the lower back, frequently leading to soreness and strains. Back strain is especially likely if an individual does not use the proper technique to pick something off of the ground. Back muscles and tendons are placed in jeopardy when a person bends over improperly, tries to jerk an object upwards, or does not engage his or her legs in the lift.

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Back problems can also result from overexerting muscles through repetitive lifting, athletics, or manual labor. Individuals are especially susceptible to back strains if they do not stretch thoroughly before activities or take enough breaks to allow their muscles to recuperate. Many athletes and dancers experience strains when they make sudden, awkward movements that cause their back muscles to jerk, such as reaching for a ball or quickly changing dance steps. Once an individual suffers a back injury, recurring muscle spasms can cause additional problems.

The severity of the back strain can range from mild discomfort to completely debilitating. Most strains result in dull pain in the muscles, inflammation, tightness in the tendons and joints, and a limited range of motion. Mild back strains can usually be treated at home by resting, alternating between heat and ice pack applications, wrapping the back with a supportive bandage, and engaging in low impact stretching and exercising. People often find additional relief by taking over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, as directed on the bottle. Individuals usually start feeling better after a couple of days, but a complete recovery may take up to two weeks.

Severe back strains or ones that do not respond to home treatments necessitate a trip to the doctor's office. A physician can conduct a physical examination and prescribe the appropriate treatment. He or she might prescribe high-strength pain relievers, arrange for physical therapy sessions, or suggest surgery to fix more serious conditions, such as a torn muscle or nerve damage.

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