Lower Back Strain vs. Lower Back Pain

Senior men are in pain lower back pain
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It’s a beautiful day outside. You decide instead of sitting indoors and wasting away at some chores you have leftover from the week, you should go out and enjoy the day. As you pull yourself out of your chair or bed, you feel a sudden pain radiating from your back. Unfortunately, lower back pain is something that everyone in life has to deal with, sooner or later. One of the most common causes of back pain is low back strain, which can be acute or chronic.

You might be wondering, “How would I know if it is low back strain that is causing my back pain?” Low back strain can be defined as a pressure or spasm in any one or several muscles and ligaments in your back that hold the bones of your spinal column together and prevent it from shifting out of alignment.

It can be very easy to strain these groups of muscles, for example, just stretching your muscles too far can cause the tissue to tear minimally, which is known as “micro tears.”

While most of these tears heal on their own with time, the alignment of our back can become altered and set up an acute or chronic strain. This is mainly due to the fact that the lower back does not have any ribs for additional cross support as is the case in the center of the back.

Lower Back Strain Is Caused by Muscle Weakness

When muscles of the lower back become weak and may not be able to hold the lumbar bones in your lower spinal column correctly.

If those muscles weaken, the spine can become unstable causing low back pain. Some healthcare providers refer to this as deconditioning.

When the muscles and ligaments of the back get weak, the nerves from your spinal cord can become compressed if the bones collapse. This “accordion” type of effect can cause persistent pain which can be very troublesome for most people.

Some other common ways low back strain can occur is through a low impact motor vehicle accident, falling, extreme physical activity or exertion, bending and crouching too much, and lifting a heavy object that you may not be able to handle. Low back strain can also be caused by emotional stress, bad posture, being overweight or being out of shape. In addition sitting for long periods of time in one position, and even a severe cough could cause one to have low back strain, meaning that overall our backs are very vulnerable to strain.

Other Causes of Low Back Pain

Not all low back pain is caused by low back strain, however. Other causes for your low back pain can include “slipped” discs such as bulges or protruding discs, spinal fractures, pinched nerves, spinal arthritis, or even spinal malalignment also known as spondylolisthesis.

So what does low back strain feel like and what are the symptoms? Some common symptoms of low back strain are pain or stiffness in your back, noticing the pain gets worse when you are bending, stretching, coughing, or sneezing, and pain into your buttocks, legs, and occasionally down the back of your thigh.

It is important to note that symptoms of low back strain can be similar to other serious conditions. That is why it is important to speak with your doctor and get it checked out. If you find yourself feeling weakness in your legs, or you are having bowel and bladder problems, it could be a sign of nerve damage and this requires immediate medical attention.

Easy Treatment You Can Use at Home

So what are some treatments that are usually given for low back strain? Since low back strain can be painful and a depressing injury, there are some easy at home type remedies to help you cope with that pain.

The first technique your doctor may suggest is the easiest, which is to ice your back. Icing your back can reduce the pain and the swelling that occurs once you get your injury. Icing your back for 20 to 30 minutes for 3-4 hours every two to three days can help decrease your pain. It is also recommended that you use ice after working out to reduce swelling.

The next technique is another easy one, which is applying heat to your back. However, you should only apply heat to your back after icing it for 2-3 days first. The heat helps increase the blood flow to muscles of the back that may have been injured. You can use anything from a heating pad to a hot bottle of water, or just simply soak in your tub filled with hot water. The secret is not to have the heat too high or directly on the skin for too long in order to avoid a burn.

If the pain does not subside, then make sure to consult your doctor. Your doctor may be able to determine what could be the initial cause of the low back strain and prescribe you the proper medications or alternative treatments. In order to diagnose low back strain, your doctor will give you an exam and will probably require to you have a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), X-ray, or CT scan. These exams may be necessary if your pain does not subside or if the treatment is not helping.

The final technique is to see a physical therapist. They can help you build up your strength and get you to change some of your habits that may be causing the low back strain. By teaching people core strengthening and conditioning, the muscles of the back can be strengthened. Many other healthcare providers including osteopaths, chiropractors, and even acupuncturists can teach these exercises and use special techniques to improve people who suffer from low back pain.

All of these techniques are only suggestions and therefore, you should always talk to your doctor before attempting anything independently. We can fight back against low back pain, by understanding the causes and initial treatments for low back strain and muscle de-conditioning.

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