Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: October 6, 2022
Lumbar strains are one of the most common causes of low back discomfort, and while they aren’t the most serious type of back injury, you shouldn’t just assume that they will go away on their own. Like a number of other injuries, ignoring the problem and attempting to go on with your day like nothing is wrong can not only prolong symptoms, but it can actually make the underlying problem worse. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at lumbar strains and how to effectively treat them so that they don’t become permanent.
What Are Lumbar Strains?
A lumbar strain involves an injury to a soft tissue in the lower back. While the terms strain and sprain are oftentimes used interchangeably, there is actually a difference between the two. A sprain refers to the tearing or damage of a ligament, while a strain refers to the stretching, pulling or tearing of a muscle or tendon. So when we’re talking about lumbar strains, we’re referring to injuries to the muscles and tendons in your lower back.
Overstress is the most common cause of a lumbar strain, either in the acute or chronic sense. Overloading these muscles in a moment, like when you’re lifting weights or twisting your core to swing a golf club can lead to muscle or tendon damage. You can also overload these tissues with repetitive strain. If you run every day after work or you operate a machine press for your job, all this wear and tear will take its toll on your body.
Treating Lumbar Strains So They Don’t Linger
Most mild lumbar strains will fully heal within 1-3 weeks, but again, that will only happen if you actively treat the problem. If you ignore the problem, you’ll continue to put strain on an area that’s already weakened, and that can either contribute to prolonged inflammation and delayed healing, or it can overload the injured area. So what’s the best way to treat a lumbar strain? With a combination of the following treatments:
- Rest – You’ll want to avoid excessive physical activity for a while so that you can protect the weakened area. We’re not saying that you should lay in bed for a couple weeks, but you do want to avoid strenuous activity on your lower spine. Be mindful of your movements for the next couple of weeks.
- Anti-Inflammatory Medications – Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications can help to alleviate discomfort in your lower back and expedite some of the repair processes that needs to take place in your lower back.
- Hot/Cold Packs – Ice and heat can be a great way to help control inflammation, increase blood flow and control fluid movement in and out of your lower back, which can aid in your recovery.
- Physical Therapy – Physical therapy is arguably the most important treatment on this list, because if you do the first three things, you’ll notice a decrease in symptoms, but if you don’t do physical therapy, your lumbar muscles and tendons may never get back to a pre-injury level of strength. That may not be a problem during your average day, but it could lead to discomfort after 18 holes on the golf course or a long day on your feet. If your lower back never gets back to full strength, it will take less stress to bring on symptoms in the future, and this can lead to recurrent injuries or the feeling that your back pain has become chronic.
If you protect your spine and then work to strengthen it with physical therapy, you should be giving yourself a good chance to put that lumbar strain behind you for good. But if problems linger or you want professional help overcoming a spine injury, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi and the team at The Midwest Spine & Brain Institute today at (651) 430-3800.