Oh My Aching Back

August 27

Question: What’s the difference between a strain and a sprain?

Answer: A strain is a muscle or tendon injury; a sprain is a ligament injury.

Back strain is when you pull your back muscles.

Simple strains are the most common cause of back pain, especially lower back pain. Muscle strain is often caused by overuse of a muscle or overloading a muscle. When a muscle is stressed beyond its limits, injury occurs.

A muscle strain (or pulled muscle) is an overstretched or torn muscle. With injury comes inflammation, which is part of the healing process. Inflammation causes pain and can also trigger muscle spasms. The severity of a muscle strain can range from mild to severe.

Strained back muscles can occur when the back is overloaded – such as when you lift a child or anything that’s really heavy. If your muscles are weak, they are more easily overloaded and can become injured. While any muscle can be overloaded, building your muscles helps them to become stronger so you don’t get injured when performing everyday tasks.

Poor lifting techniques as well as lifting objects that are too heavy can overload your back and cause strained back muscles. A fall or an accidental twisting of the back can also cause pulled back muscles.

You can strain your back muscles through overuse, too.

Back pain often occurs when a muscle contraction is held too long. Your body is made to move. When you hold one position too long, your back muscles become fatigued and strained. If you keep switching positions you are able to shift the workload to another group of muscles, preventing any one group of  muscles from becoming fatigued.

If you do too many repetitive movements, such as too many reps using weights, you can cause muscle strain from overuse. Increasing back exercises or weights too quickly can also cause back pain due to overuse injuries.

Poor posture is another main cause of back strain. The muscles are forced to work harder in order to support the spine, which leads to fatigue, strain, and back pain.

The lower back is most commonly strained, that’s because the lower back has to support the weight of the upper body, when standing or sitting.

The symptoms of back muscle strain.

Pulled back muscles include symptoms of back pain and muscle weakness and sometimes  back muscle spasms. The back pain may come on suddenly, but usually begin gradually.

The muscles begin to stiffen or spasm to cause you to reduce motion and prevent further injury. Muscle injuries cause inflammation. Inflammation is a part of the healing process, but may trigger muscle spasms. Muscle spasms may bother you for the first couple of days after an injury – when inflammation is at its worst. Though not serious, back muscle spasms can be painful. Inflammation also causes pain. So, that’s why your back aches when you strain your back muscles.

Healing time depends on the severity of the strain. Mild muscle strains usually heal within two weeks. Moderate muscle strains may take six to eight weeks to heal. Consult you physician if pain intensifies or lasts longer than normal.

When you begin rehabilitation, start slowly and increase movements daily. It’s important to get the blood flowing through the muscles, but you don’t want to do anything too fast and cause further injury to your back.

Give us your input by leaving a comment below:

~ Karen Ficarelli

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Posted In: Women's Health


  1. I love the theme of your site! Did you create this website design yourself? It’s perfect for this type of blog! Excellent job.

  2. Minnesota Elk River Lawyer on 01/29/2011 at 6:17 pm
  3. Thank you for sharing… this helps me be careful not to overuse my muscle next time. I like your cool site!

  4. EnglishTutor101 Rose on 02/11/2011 at 12:51 am

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