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Sprains and strains account for the majority of back pain. A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon that happens when the muscle/tendon is twisted, pulled, or torn. A sprain is the stretching or tearing of a ligament that happens when the joint endures excessive movement.

These injuries are the most common causes of back pain. They can occur from long-term misuse or overuse, or be the result of a single incident of heavy lifting or improper movement. There are several things that can increase your risk of a back sprain or strain: curving the lower back excessively, being overweight, and having weak muscles in the back, abdomen, and/or hamstrings.


  • Muscle cramping or spasms
  • Decreased function and range of motion in the joint (when walking, bending forward/sideways, or standing straight)
  • Pain that worsens when you move


Your doctor will ask you various questions to obtain a detailed family and personal medical history to rule out any other possible conditions. Usually, a review of the symptoms and when the symptoms started, along with how the injury occurred and any activities that you took part in, will tell the doctor exactly what happened.

If you experience weakness or loss of function, an X-Ray may be ordered to rule out any spinal fractures or herniated discs.


Symptoms usually improve after 2 weeks, with rest and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen. Depending on the severity of your sprain/strain, you may be instructed to use ice packs and compression during the first 24 to 48 hours.

After about 2 days, you should return to normal activities but avoid the specific movement that caused the injury in the first place. Prolonged bed rest is not recommended for healing sprains/strains, as it will simply prolong your symptoms and halt the healing process.

For a comprehensive evaluation from the experts at Brain2Spine Institute, call 727-828-8400.

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