Low Back Pain – Muscle Strain?

This is the third consecutive post on Low Back Pain, and I will have a follow-up to this one in a couple of days.  Likely, more will be posted in the future too.  The reason for all of the attention is that back pain is by far one of the most common reasons people visit a medical professional. To name all of the underlying causes and possibilities of low back pain would be nearly impossible.  A list of the just the mechanical pathologies most often seen in PT can include:

  • Overuse
  • Weakness
  • Inflexibility
  • Instability
  • Muscular imbalance
  • Poor motor pattern
  • Leg length discrepancies
  • Pelvic asymmetries
  • Hip pathology
  • Poor biomechanics with walk/jog/run/exercise
  • A number of foot or leg abnormalities that puts increased stresses up the kinetic chain…all the way to the low back. 

Of course there are underlying conditions that are not caused by (but can be influenced by) positioning and motion.  Some of these can include:

  • Stenosis
  • Sciatica
  • Disc involvement – discussed in a previous post 

Internal tissues can also cause low back pain, but these are not my area of expertise, so when in doubt please seek medical guidance:

  • Stomach pains
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Hernias
  • Kidney infections
  • Ulcers

Ok, that is a lengthy intro, but I wanted to first acknowledge the many mechanical possibilities.  Now, I only want focus on the top several incidences that I see as a physical therapist.  The purpose of this 2-part post is to assert that NOTHING can take the place of an examination from a medical professional; however, this blog series can help to serve as general guidelines. 

One of the primary examples of mechanical low back pain that I see and treat in the clinic is a muscle strain.  We have all felt like we “overdid it” at some point in time and our low backs bore the brunt of that blunder.  A muscle strain can range anywhere from feeling like a simple ache that is nagging – to an intense, sharp pain that is so great a person cannot move: walk, sit, bend, lie down.  Everything hurts and even feels “out of place.”  Patients are often very surprised at how much pain muscle tissue can actually produce.  It is amazing how readily this condition can be treated with guided stretches & soft tissue mobilization, instead of muscle relaxors and pain pills that never address the underlying problem in the first place.  Muscles are primarily response organs and react to the stresses each person places upon them.  As such, muscles can grab, spasm, and hold on causing intense pain.  Similarly, if a muscle can grab or spasm in response to too much strain, they can be relaxed with stretches and soft tissue mobilization to ease. 

Let me leave you with a stretch just to get moving and hopefully some early relief. 

Moving in the correct pattern, as the stretch seen here, is far superior to rest and immobilization for treating a muscle strain.

Stay tuned for a follow-up to this post, further addressing muscle strains and what you can do to get moving again.