Back Sprains vs Strains: When To Seek Treatment

Sprains And Strains Can Cause You Back Pain

Back pain seems to be a rite of passage with age. Hours of sitting, weight issues, inflammation, and injuries are some of the reasons 8 in 10 Americans have back pain. When someone has chronic back pain, the scary thought of a spinal injury or condition comes to mind. But some are back sprains or strains. Knowing the difference and when to get medical help can make all the difference.

Am I sprained or strained?

Back sprains and strains sound similar. These two injuries even share similar symptoms. However, sprains and strains involve different parts of the back. The back is more than the spine. Several bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons help with flexibility and support. Unfortunately, these can become injured or overextended at any time. Identifying which is injured can help both patients and doctors administer the proper treatment.

Are you feeling a back sprain?

Back sprains are one of the most common complaints from people with back injuries. A sprain is an injury to a ligament. Ligaments are tissues that connect bone to bone and prevent overextension. Some popular ligaments include the ACL in the knee and the glenohumeral ligaments in the shoulder. The back also contains sacroiliac ligaments and iliolumbar ligaments. These pieces of tissue connect the spine to the pelvis. A sudden twist, poor posture, or weak muscles can cause back sprains.

What a strain!

Strains are a little different from sprains as the muscle is affected. The back contains several large muscles that support the spine and upper body. Tendons attach these muscles to the bones. A strain means the muscle is inflamed, overstretched, or even torn. Back strains often happen at the lower back but can happen elsewhere. Most cases are due to overexertion, physical injury, or twisting out of place. Strains can be pretty painful, and some activities like sports increase the risk of injury.

Strains and sprains feel the same

Sometimes the symptoms of sprains and strains feel eerily similar. When a sprain or strain happens, the body responds with inflammation to the area. Someone with either injury may feel localized pain, swelling, and tenderness for several days. With strains, contracting the muscle feels painful while sprains flare up when extending the back. Because the body needs to compensate for the injury, the surrounding muscles may spasm or become cramped.

Don’t go to the doctor’s just yet

Sprains and strains will benefit from a range of simple treatments. Resting the back and applying a cold pack can help. Using NSAIDs like ibuprofen or aspirin along with rest and cold therapy gives the body time to heal. After a few days, try light movement and stretching, monitoring the pain. Alternating with rest, medication, and light exercise should help with healing. In some cases, however, these treatment options aren’t enough.

Don’t ignore these treatment signs

Sprains and strains respond well to conservative treatment like rest and medication. However, if these fail to bring relief after 2-3 weeks, see a doctor immediately. Look for other symptoms like fever, weakness, and abdominal pain. A doctor will order a range of tests to confirm a sprain or strain. From there, treatment could include steroid injections, medications, or physical therapy. If these fail to bring long-term relief, surgery may be necessary to repair the damaged ligament or tendon.

Get treatment today

Both back sprains and back strains are painful and can limit movement. Most cases happen due to injuries, wear and tear, or overextensions. Each affects a different part of the back but may present similar symptoms. Start with non-surgical treatment and seek help if these fail.

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2021-06-04T16:56:21-05:00
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