Lower Back Injury
Lower back injury and pain in the lumbar region of the spine—the inward curving area at the base of the back—are among the most common forms of pain and injury among athletes and non-athletes alike. In fact, while athletes are subject to pain in this area as a result of sudden unnatural motion or trauma, many forms of lower back pain are also caused by a lack of exercise. Back spasm issues are one of the most common results of a sedentary lifestyle, or a lifestyle of relative stillness broken up by bouts of intense exercise that place strain on an out-of-condition body.
Bask spasm and lower back injury issues are equally common among men and women, and occur most often between the ages of 30 and 50, since this is the age group most likely to lead the lifestyle described above—a daily habit of stillness broken up by bursts of intense activity.
What Causes Lower Back Injury?
The lower back is a very complex area of intersection between the largest vertebrae (the lumbar vertebrae), the nerve center of the lower body, and the complex group of muscles that control movement in the core. Because these components of the lower back are all crucial to proper movement and sensitive to pain, it’s difficult to make broad generalizations about the source of individual back pain. In some cases, lower back injury may be caused by bone lesions or skeletal irregularities. In other cases, a back spasm may be the result of mild or severe irritation to the nerves or muscles.
The most common and easily treatable forms of back pain, especially in the age group defined above, usually result from strain, fatigue or mild trauma to the muscles of the lower back. This kind of pain usually appears after a long period of low activity or an unusually intense workout, and it generally clears up with self-applied treatments after just a few days. These treatments are discussed below.
Chronic back pain, the kind that doesn’t clear up in a few days, will require a diagnosis by a doctor. An MRI, a CT scan, a bone scan or a thermography scan can help a doctor gain more information about the bone, muscle, or nerve damage that may be causing this kind of pain. In this case, the course of treatment or necessary surgery will be very specific to the nature of the problem.
Treating a Pulled Back Muscle
If your back spasm or lower back injury fits any of the following descriptors, try the self-care remedies listed below. If not, or if your pain doesn’t respond to these remedies within 72 hours, make an appointment with a doctor.
1. Your pain is acute, not chronic. It’s something you feel right now, but not all the time.
2. You’ve recently undergone a long period of stillness (like a week spent glued to your desk chair or a long flight).
3. You’ve recently engaged in a burst of intense activity, or a more active workout than you’re used to.
4. You recently subjected your back to a sudden, unexpected jolting or twisting motion.
If your situation fits into the above scenarios, try applying these steps based loosely on the RICE principles that apply to muscle strains and sprains in general.
1. Press a cold bag or ice bag against the lower back at the area of pain. A bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel will usually work. Keep the ice in place for twenty minutes at a time, and do this for three to four hours each day. After about two days of this, use a heat lamp or heating pad instead of ice. This will warm and loosen the muscles and increase circulation to the area. (If you use a heating pad, don’t sleep on it.)
2. Rest can be an effective way to ease the pain of a strain muscle or back spasm, but in the case of back pain, rest should be used with care. Try not to rest in bed for more than a maximum of two days. This can actually make back pain worse, and it can also cause other problems, like blood clots in the legs, poor muscle tone, and even depression. After two days (maximum), get up.
3. Exercise. Unlike a strain in the muscles of an arm or leg, back pain usually responds better to activity than stillness. Get out of bed as soon as the pain allows and engage in very mild activities that don’t place additional strain or jolting on the back. These may include walking, swimming, gentle weight training, and yoga. Gentle, targeted stretching can have a very positive impact on a lower back injury or the pain of a back spasm.
If you engage in stretching and low impact activity to overcome the pain of a lower back injury, pay close attention to sensations in the area of tenderness. If the pain rises above the level of “mild”, or is still prevalent after fifteen minutes of exercise, stop. At this point, it may be wise to call to a doctor.
Preventing Lower Back Injury
If your lower back injury or back spasm seems to reoccur over and over again, the pain may be the result of a preventable situation or repeated activity. Focus on maintaining proper posture throughout the day, both sitting and standing. Pay attention to your body mechanics while lifting heavy objects, sitting still, or working the same part of the body over and over again (as in typing or hammering).
Back spasms can also be prevented by maintaining strong, balanced muscle condition in the lower back and core. When you work out, make sure you dedicate some time and attention every week to low impact weight training that strengthens the muscles of the back, hips, and abs. Consider bringing the strength building benefits of resistance and suspension training into your routine. For more information on how to do this, take a look at the training tab towards the top of the web site.