Lower back pain is universal; just about everyone has suffered at least a stint or two where they can barely move, walk hunched over, can’t get up from a chair, and the other fun associated with lower back pain. Because the pain can be so severe and debilitating, people often believe a serious injury must have occurred to either one of the vertebrae or to a disc (the soft oval cushioning pads between the vertebrae). Otherwise, how can the pain be so intense?
The reality of most lower back pain is far less traumatic (although your nerves aren’t telling you that!), and that’s a good thing. Most lower back pain is caused by a torn or pulled muscle or ligament. These kinds of injuries can happen suddenly, or they can develop slowly over time from repetitive movements. One of these types of back injuries can occur when lifting a heavy object, a sudden movement, poor back posture, a sports injury, or even seemingly light lifting done at an improper angle. Back strains or sprains will usually heal themselves and don’t lead to chronic pain (as damage to the vertebrae and discs can), but they sure can be painful. Who hasn’t lifted something or made the most seemingly harmless move only to feel that twinge and the next thing you know you’re flat on the floor almost unable to move?
Ligament or muscle strains
Whether you’ve injured your muscle or a ligament isn’t important — the symptoms and treatment are the same. But for the record here’s the difference:
- A sprain happens from over-stretching and tearing ligaments. These are the connective tissues that connect the bones.
- A strain happens when a muscle is stretched too far and tears, damaging the muscle itself.
Common causes of sprains and strains:
- Lifting a heavy object
- Twisting while lifting
- Poor posture over time
- Sudden movements that overload the lower back (such as a fall)
- Sports injuries with twisting or force impact
When you strain a muscle or ligament
The muscles of the hips, pelvis, buttocks, and hamstrings all work together to assist the muscles of the lower back to support the lumbar spine. When these muscles or the ligaments in the area are injured, pain or tightness can be felt across the lower back and through the hips or buttocks.
Symptoms usually follow a pattern
Pain is most intense for the initial few hours and days. Certain movements such as bending forward or backward, or standing upright will be painful.
The pain continues for one to two weeks as the muscles or ligaments heal. Certain movements or positions such as standing for a long time or stiffness when getting up from sitting will continue.
The good thing about these injuries is that they usually heal themselves. It may take four to six weeks to fully heal, but you’ll feel progressively better.
If your pain isn’t getting better, however, you’re headed into the area of chronic pain and that can be caused by issues with the vertebrae, discs, and the nerves exiting the spinal column. That’s where Dr. Trujillo and the team at Summit Healthcare come into play. We have various strategies to help you manage your pain. If you hurt your back a few weeks ago, but the pain is still with you, give us a call at (928) 532-1605 and let’s see how we can help.