Back pain is often a common symptom of many disease conditions. The pain may range from simple or dull pain to sudden and sharp pain. If the pain continues for a few days it is acute pain, whereas if it continues for more than 3 months, it is considered as chronic pain. In most cases, back pain may resolve without any treatment; however if it persists for more than 3 days, medical intervention is recommended.
Back pain may be a common symptom in various conditions, including but not limited to:
- Kidney diseases
- Kidney and bladder infections
- Ovarian disorders
- Nerve root syndromes such as sciatica
- Herniated discs
- Spinal stenosis
- Musculoskeletal problems
- Spine injuries
However, certain conditions causing severe pain may require surgical treatment. Treating underlying conditions offer relief from back pain.
Causes of Back Strain
One of the common causes for back pain is low back strain. Low back strain or lumbar strain occurs when the muscle or the tendon in the lower back gets stretched or torn. It is caused by lifting heavy objects or overload, sitting or standing for a long time, or a direct blow over the area. Sports such as basketball, baseball, or golf that involve sudden twisting of the lower back can also lead to strain.
Risk Factors for Back Strain
Risk factors which can increase the risk of a back strain injury include:
- Low back curvature
- Weak abdominal muscles
- A forwardly tilted pelvis
Common symptoms of a back strain include but are not limited to:
- Low back pain that radiates down to the buttocks
- Inflammation of the soft tissues that surround the muscles
- Stiffness in the low back
- Restricted movements
- Inability to maintain correct posture
- Muscle spasms
- Pain which continues for a prolonged period
Your doctor will perform a physical examination and take a brief medical history to diagnose your condition. Other additional tests such as X-rays and MRI scan may be required to confirm the injury and ensure necessary treatment.
Conservative Treatment Methods
- Rest, Ice compression and Elevation (RICE) : You should take complete rest for one or two days, as more damage could result from putting pressure on the back. Prolonged bed rest should be avoided as it leads to loss of muscle strength and makes the muscles stiff which will aggravate pain and discomfort. Hence, bed rest should not be continued for more than 48 hours. Ice packs can be applied to the injury which will help to diminish swelling and pain. Ice should be applied over a towel to the affected area for 15-20 minutes four times a day for several days. Never place ice directly over the skin.
- Braces or a belt might be used to support the back during the healing process.
- Medications that may be prescribed include non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and inflammation. Other medicines, such as muscle relaxants control muscle spasms. These medicines often cause sedation; therefore, consult your doctor to discuss the potential side effects of muscle relaxants you are prescribed.
- Your doctor may also suggest a rehabilitation program. This consists of stretching and strengthening exercises, pelvic traction, gentle massages and ice or heat therapy to improve your condition. These treatments help to control the pain, strengthen the abdominal muscles, and also speed up the recovery which allows you to return to weight-bearing activities.
Preventing Back Strain
- Do warm-up exercises before the start of any physical activity or sports and take short breaks in between the activity.
- Ensure that you use correct lifting techniques such as squatting to lift a heavy object.
- Ensure that you maintain a proper posture while sitting and standing.
- If you are overweight or obese, it can strain the back muscles. Hence, it is advised that you lose some weight and maintain a healthy diet.
- Try to exercise everyday as it improves spine stability and also prevents extra stress on your back.