Back strain is a fairly broad category called “soft tissue injury,” which covers muscles, tendons and ligaments. About 80% of back and neck pain is muscle-related.
The stomach muscles, or abdominals, enable the back to bend forward. They also assist in lifting. The abdominals work with the buttock muscles to support the spine. The oblique muscles go around the side of the body to provide additional support to the spine.
Another type of strain relates to spinal ligaments that run in front and in back of the vertebral bodies. Tendons, which also connect muscles in the spine, can develop inflammation, or tendonitis.
Some people believe that part of what makes the back muscles
more prone to strain is that they are shorter than other big muscles
in the body. The muscles in our thighs that enable us to walk, run and
jump are longer and less prone to strain. It’s very unusual to
strain a thigh muscle.
Muscles in the back can strain or spasm and form a hard lump, like a
charley horse in the leg. Back muscle spasms can be caused by injury
and pain, whether the source is muscle strain, or a disc problem. A
spasm, defined as an involuntary convulsive contraction of muscle fibers,
can be excruciating. The muscle spasm can be steady or come in waves
of contractions. Your muscle is sending you a signal that it has been
pushed beyond its ability.
A symptom of muscle strain may be an excruciating spasm in the back that
is very painful.
Outlined below are some of the diagnostic tools that your physician may use to gain insight into your condition and determine the best treatment plan for your condition.
Surgery is never appropriate for muscle strain.
As with any muscle injury, it’s natural for an individual to stop moving the injured area and wait for it to heal. Ironically, this is counter-productive. Restricting movement causes the muscle to weaken , become less flexible, and receive less circulation. In fact, gentle stretching and exercise is the best way to resolve the injury by getting it moving and increasing circulation.
While someone may argue that the two words are different, that a sprain is a more serious injury than a strain, in reality, sprain and strain have evolved to mean essentially the same things to doctors and lawyers. Both words relate to an overworked muscle, ligament or tendon that is overstretched.
Some may argue that strain relates to stretching or tearing of muscles or tendons, while sprain relates to tearing of ligaments or tissues in a joint area. For example, if bones in a joint are forced beyond a comfortable range of motion, the joint may be sprained.
Another word that you may hear is “muscle spasm,” where a muscle locks up in an excruciating, hard lump.
Most people erroneously think that the more excruciating the pain, the
more likely that you herniated a disc. That is not the case at all. In
some cases a back spasm can knock you down to your knees. A person can
have excruciating pain, but if it is mostly in the low back, it’s
probably not a herniated disc. Typically, a herniated disc in your back
will radiate pain down into your leg, or pain will radiate down your
arm if you have a herniated disc in your neck.
Over the past 10 years, Dr. Mark Downey at Spine Group Alabama has been the preferred back pain specialist for patients from across Birmingham, Homewood, Tuscaloosa, Auburn, Hunstville and Montgomery. Those with back pain or neck pain often struggle to find a back doctor or spine center that can provide a second opinion for spine surgery and offer nonsurgical treatment for back pain, neck pain, scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and pain symptoms related to a herniated disc. Spine Group Alabama is a Birmingham-based spine center that provides spinal injections, with access to specialists in spine therapy, minimally invasive spine surgery and artificial disc replacement. Spine Group Alabama is the only spine center in the State of Alabama to be included in a national listing of spine centers of excellence by SpineCenterNetwork.com. To be included, a spine center must meet various credentialing criteria, including a non-surgical emphasis and philosophy of care; access to advanced capabilities in minimally invasive spine surgery and artificial disc replacement for motion preservation; and an investment in patient education. This includes providing symptom charts and a Home Remedy Book as a community service for back and neck pain sufferers in Alabama region. The spine center has an internal C-arm and injection suite that enables back and neck pain patients to have a pain-relieving spinal injection and go home within an hour. The spine center includes the expertise of Dr. Mark Downey, a physical medicine specialist who has practiced in Homewood, AL for more than 10 years and has performed thousands of spinal procedures to help patients recover from back and neck pain and get back to activity. Dr. Downey maintains one of the busiest spine practices and is proficient in cervical, thoracic and lumbar injections and kyphoplasty.