A strain occurs when the muscles or tendons are pulled beyond their capacity and/or torn and a sprain occurs when the same happens to a ligament. Strains and sprains are common causes of back pain, particularly in the lumbar spine, where simple over exertion or improper lifting are typically the cause. Depending on the nature of the strain or sprain, sufferers report symptoms of pain, swelling and/or spasms. Like sprains and strains to any region of the body, those occurring to the lower back are given a grade based on their severity:
Grade 1 strain: occurs on the muscle or tendons/sprain to the ligaments when there is minimal stretching of fibers.
Grade 2 strain: occurs on the muscle or tendons/sprain to the ligaments when there is significant damage to the fibers, including tearing.
Grade 3 strain: occurs on the muscle or tendons/sprain to the ligaments results in a complete rupture of fibers.
Treatment options for strains and sprains of the back are directly contingent upon their grade.
Bracing can be used to support the lower back muscles, ligaments, and tendons, limiting their mobility, thereby decreasing the probability of exacerbation.
Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can provide tremendous relief to the inflammation and pain associated with a back strain or sprain. While medication will relieve the symptoms, proper care must be taken to ensure the strain or sprain isn’t aggravated.
Following the rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) protocol, Genesis Orthopedics & Sports Medicine provides physical therapy for grade 1 and 2 sprains and strains with the objective of rehabilitating and strengthening the lower back.