Acute Vs Chronic Back Strain
Back strains can be acute or chronic. Acute back strains, occurring suddenly, usually results from improper lifting techniques. Chronic (long term) back strains results from repetitive movements of the back, such as bending and turning through your trunk. In some cases, chronic back strains may result from a past acute back strain that has not been given some time to heal.
What You Can Do
Mild back strains may be managed with simple home remedies, such as applying ice or heat packs, resting, and performing exercises.
- Stop your activity and rest
At the time you feel sudden discomfort or pain at your lower back, you should stop your activity and take some time to rest. Your body is telling you that something is wrong. Continuing your activity or work through your pain, especially those that require you to bend your back and lift heavy weights, may lead to further tissue damage. Avoid movements that worsen your symptoms, but do still continue performing simple tasks without adding stress to your back.
- Apply ice or heat (hot) pack
Put an ice pack on your injured back for 20 minutes. Remember to wrap the pack with towel before applying. Continue ice application every three to four hours for the first two to three days following your injury or until swelling subsides. Icing your injured back can help decrease your pain and minimize or prevent swelling. Avoid applying any form of heat for acute injuries or when swelling is still present.
Once your swelling has subsided, you can apply a hot moist pack. Make sure that you wrap the pack with towel first before applying on your back. Apply the hot pack for not more than 20 minutes at a time. If you are using a warm compress, you may need to change the towel every 5 minutes. Heat application relaxes tight muscles and improves blood flow to your injured muscles for faster healing.
Performing exercises play an important role in your full recovery from your back strain. Improving your back flexibility and strength may help prevent future back strains. A Physiotherapist can help you create a comprehensive exercise program based on your level of fitness and previous work activities.
Find out how you can stretch tight back muscles with simple back stretches presented at PhysicalTherapyNotes.com (Outside resource link).
When to Consult Your Doctor
Seek medical attention if
- Your symptoms worsen in spite of home treatments.
- You experience severe symptoms at the time of your injury.
- You experience numbness or pain that travels down your lower limb.
- You have constant back pain.
- You experience low back pain without traumatic or apparent cause.
- You are unsure of the severity of your injury.
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