A low back strain or sprain is a common injury, but it can still have some nasty effects, including causing pain and inhibiting mobility. And misdiagnosing a strain can lead to even worse injuries. Here are answers to five of the most important questions regarding this back problem:
- What Is a Low Back Strain or Sprain?
A low back strain occurs when the muscle fibers in the lumbar region are torn or otherwise damaged. This generally happens because the muscle is stretched too far, when a person moves, twists or bends. This may occur with a sudden movement (acute onset) or because of gradual overuse (chronic injury). If a similar injury occurs to the ligaments of the area, that is called a sprain.
- When Is Low Back Pain Dangerous?
Low back strains are the most common cause of pain in that region. It is important, however, not to mistake the signs of this relatively low-risk injury for spinal injury symptoms. A strain or sprain may result in stiffness, limited motion, pain that radiates into the buttocks and muscle spasms. If, however, pain radiates into the legs or persists for more than two weeks, then it is likely a more serious injury has occurred. At that point, a patient should visit a doctor, chiropractor or physical therapist for evaluation. An x-ray or MRI may be taken to assist in diagnosis.
- What is the Prognosis for Low Back Strains?
The good news is that most people are able to completely recover from strains and sprains within a month if they seek proper treatment. However, it’s worth noting that minor strains, if left untreated, can lead to more serious injuries.
- What Is the Treatment for Low Back Pain?
If the injury is indeed a simple strain, then a short period of rest is recommended (no more than three days, so as to prevent muscle atrophy). Pain is normally managed with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. Treatment for back pain can also be provided by chiropractors, massage therapists or physical therapists. If the injury involves more extensive damage to the spine itself, then spinal injury treatment can take the form of everything between chiropractic adjustments and surgery, depending on the severity of the problem.
- How Can Back Strains Be Prevented?
One of the easiest ways to prevent muscle strains in the back is to strengthen the abdominal muscles; this will prevent the back muscles from overcompensating. Maintaining a healthy weight and being conscious of good posture can also reduce lower back stress.
Have you suffered from a low back strain or sprain before? Share your experience in the comments.