An introduction to back strain
Your back consists of an intricate mash of muscles, tendons, ligaments and other tissues, providing support and allowing flexibility of the spine. It is susceptible to injury because these muscles are involved in almost every movement you perform. A back strain occurs if one or more of these muscles is injured or overstretched and the muscle fibres tear.
It is important to remember that not all back injuries are back strains, and some back injuries are more serious than others. It is vital to understand what type of back injury you have in order to treat it in the most effective way.
Back strain, back pain or lumbago?
As the back is an integral part of your mobility, any pain or discomfort is immediately obvious. Your back can be injured or affected in a huge number of ways. Some of the most common complaints include:
- Back muscle strain – this is when the muscle fibres are torn. It is most likely to happen where a muscle meets a tendon. It tends to result in a localised area of the back, often occurring if you have moved or jerked your back in an unusual manner. In general, back strains are mild conditions as distinct from back pain which can be more severe or chronic
- Back pain – many people complain of having back pain. This can affect both the upper back and lower back. Often, the cause or trigger is difficult to determine. The problem is common among the industrialised Western population and is often caused by bad posture and lack of exercise. Back pain can affect your spinal nerves, which may lead to pain further down your legs and arms.
- Lumbago – this word is not so often used today. In general, the term is used to describe pain in the lower back or low back pain.
What are the causes of back strain?
Your back is a strong but complex structure which is affected badly if put under the wrong type of stress. It is easy to strain your back from simply moving the wrong way. Back strain can be caused by lifting a heavy object badly, such as curving or twisting your back. The correct way to lift is to squat down to the height of the object and keep your back straight.
Many people also strain their back by falling, or even just stumbling. The reflex action which many people make to try to save themselves as they trip can strain their back.
Bad posture or being overweight significantly increases your chances of encountering back strain, as this puts extra pressure on the muscles and other structures in your back.
What are the symptoms of back strain?
The symptoms of back strain can range from a mild ache to severe pain. Most people notice when they have strained their back almost immediately as they will feel a sudden twinge or surge of pain in the injured area. It is likely to be painful to move the back in certain directions, and pain or stiffness can restrict mobility or even walking. Back strain tends to affect a localised area of pain, which can be tender to touch.
There are certain symptoms which may be indications of a more serious problem, with which you should visit a doctor. These include:
- Tingling in your legs or arms
- Pain which extends down your leg
- Increased pain when you cough or bend forward
What treatments are there for back strain?
The type of treatment you will need very much depends on the type of problem you will have. If you have a mild back strain, then the best treatment is to keep moving, although not straining your back, and take anti-inflammatories or pain killers. The herb arnica has been used for years to treat muscle strains as it has anti-inflammatory and pain killing properties. It can be found in licensed herbal products such as Atrogel arnica gel.
If you are experiencing a severe back strain or have been feeling discomfort for several months, it is important to seek medical advice for an effective treatment plan.