Your lower back is in considerable discomfort and hijacking your life, limiting your movements and your ability to move freely. There are many roads that lead to lower back pain and we’re going to focus on one of the more common ones here — a strain in your lower back.
As spine experts, the team here at Texas Spine Consultants, including Michael Hennessy, MD, Robert Viere, MD, Andrew Park, MD, Chester Donnally, MD, and Heidi Lee, MD, understand the many problems that can develop in your lower back. To help you better narrow down the cause of your lower back pain, we want to take this opportunity to review the telltale signs of a lower back strain.
A quick look at the anatomy of your lower back
Strain is the word we use to describe what happens when you stretch muscles or tendons too far, causing tears and inflammation in the damaged tissue. When it comes to lower back strains, it’s typically one of these three muscle groups that are affected:
1. Extensor muscles
These muscles are attached to the back of your spine and enable critical functions like standing and lifting and play no small role in supporting your spine.
2. Flexor muscles
These muscles, which include your abdominal muscles, are attached to the front of your spine and aid in flexing, forward bending, lifting, and arching your lower back.
3. Oblique muscles
On either side of your spine you have oblique muscles, which help you rotate and maintain your posture.
While strains in your lower back can involve any of these muscle groups, they most often occur in your extensor muscles as a result of lifting.
Signs of a muscle strain in your lower back
One of the first symptoms of a muscle strain that gets your attention is pain. This pain often occurs immediately after you strain the muscles in your lower back and is most intense during the first few days.
The pain can flare with certain movements, such as sitting, standing, or bending over, depending upon the location of the strain.
Making matters a little more uncomfortable, you can also develop muscle spasms, which can add considerably to your existing pain.
The pain can also radiate as far as your buttocks, but not beyond. If you’re experiencing pain that radiates down into your legs, the likely culprit is a herniated disc in your lumbar spine and not a muscle strain. (For more information on the signs of a herniated disc, click here.)
Outside of pain, your lower back may feel stiff and/or tight, which is due to the inflammation in your muscles.
The pain and stiffness that come with a lower back strain can last several days, several weeks, or more, depending upon the degree of the strain.
Treating a muscle strain
When it comes to treating muscle strains, it’s typically best to give the damaged muscles in your back time and space to heal. We can do our part to help you manage the pain and we can also monitor your strain to ensure that you don’t push your back too early or too hard.
Physical therapy can also play a valuable role in helping your damaged muscles to heal correctly and strongly.
If you’d like to learn more about how to navigate a muscle strain in your lower back, please contact one of our offices in Addison or Plano, Texas, to set up an appointment.