What is Back Muscle Pain?

Back muscle pain, pulled back muscle, back muscle spasm, torn back muscle or back muscle strain are very common.

In fact, back muscle pain is the most common of all back pain. The good news is that it is also one of the quickest to heal and rehabilitate.

What Causes Back Muscle Pain?

Most causes of low back pain are muscle, ligament or joint related. Most commonly, these back injuries are caused by muscular strains, ligament sprains and joint dysfunction, particularly when pain arises suddenly during or following physical loading of your spine. Muscle fatigue, excessive loads, high speeds or poor lifting postures are the most common causes.

The causes of simple back pain are numerous but roughly fall into the following categories.

Back Muscle Strains

Muscle pain is the most common source of back pain. Muscle fatigue, excessive loads, poor lifting or sitting postures are the most common problems. 

Inefficient and weak back muscles that lack endurance or normal contraction timing can lead to poor joint stabilisation and subsequent injury to your back muscles, ligaments, joints or even spinal discs.

Poor Posture

Poor posture while sitting, standing and lifting at work can place unnecessary stress upon your spine. With muscle fatigue or overstretch, your ligaments and discs can stretch and this places spinal joints muscles and nerves under pain-causing pressure or strain, that results in back pain.

Ligament Sprains

Ligaments are the strong fibrous bands that limit the amount of movement available at each spinal level. Stretching ligaments too far or too quickly will tear them with subsequent bleeding into the surrounding tissues, causing swelling, muscular spasm and pain.

Awkward lifting, sports injuries and motor vehicle accidents are the common causes of ligament sprains. Just as in other regions of the body, physiotherapy hastens ligament healing and relieves pain so that you can enjoy life again as soon as possible.

What are Symptoms of Back Muscle Pain?

Back muscle pain symptoms may range from a mild ache to sudden debilitating back pain.

Typical back muscle pain symptoms include:

  • Localised back pain, with no radiation into your buttock or leg.
  • Back muscle tenderness and/or spasm.
  • Protective back stiffness.
  • Sudden back pain onset.

You will usually feels better when resting, and may find change of position painful.

Warning Signs of a more serious back injury

In these instances, or you have constant and severe back pain, please urgently consult your nearest hospital, doctor or physiotherapist.

Neurological signs:

  • Pins and Needles (paraesthesia)
  • Numbness (anaesthesia)
  • Leg muscle weakness
  • Altered reflexes
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Loss of control of bladder or bowels.

How is Back Muscle Pain Diagnosed?

Differentiating a back muscle strain from a ligament sprain can be difficult, as both injuries will show similar symptoms. In general, it doesn't significantly matter what you call the problem because the treatment and prognosis for both back muscular strains and ligament sprains is similar. Most spinal practitioners refer to both injuries as a category called a “Back Strain” or "Musculoligamentous Strain".

X-rays do not identify muscle or ligament injury. MRI scan is probably the best diagnostic test to specifically identify muscle or ligament structures that are injured and their extent of injury. CT scans may also assist in such cases.

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