Back Injury : Acute Back Strain or Sprain

This refers to a tearing or pulling injury to the muscles or ligaments that support the back and spine. Any tearing injury to a muscle is referred to as a strain. The same kind of injury to the ligaments (which hold each vertebra together) is referred to as a sprain. Both injuries can produce pain that generally intensifies slowly over the first 24 hours.

Severe sprains, where ligaments rupture, can lead to instability of the vertebra. In this case, the vertebra shift from their normal positions, resulting in a spinal cord injury. This could only occur when tremendous force has been applied to the spine (motor vehicle accident, or a fall). Most acute back strains and sprains occur as the result of lifting, straining, stooping or twisting.

Common symptoms include pain in the muscles located along the sides of the spine. Pain will increase with movement. Stiffness with pain makes sitting up, stooping, or bending forward almost almost impossible.

Evaluation will include examination for any nerve involvement. Spine x-rays help rule out fracture or malalignment. Degenerative arthritis may also appear on bone x-rays.


* Aspirin or anti-inflammatories for pain (e.g. Motrin, Naprosyn)

* Bedrest on a firm mattress, in a position of comfort.

* Moist heat can help reduce the symptom of stiffness (and spasm) if applied 24 hours AFTER the injury. Early application to an acute strain can increase swelling and pain. Use cold compresses in the first 24 hours.

Any persistence of symptoms after several days should prompt the patient to seek IMMEDIATE medical attention. Patients with symptoms of numbness, tingling, back pain radiating down one leg, or weakness to an extremity need prompt PHYSICIAN evaluation.

With an acute strain, your doctor will likely prescribe a pain medication, anti-inflammatory agent, and a muscle relaxant. Excuse from work is common, also restrictions on lifting (light duty). Recovery ranges from 6-8 weeks. Weight loss will be advised where appropriate. Exercises to strengthen the abdominal muscles (after the acute strain has healed) can help decrease stress placed on the lower back and prevent reinjury.

Additional tips on preventing backache can be found under chronic back pain and strain.

12 Hip Dislocation
12 Hip Fracture
12 Insect Stings and Spider Bites
12 Human and Animal Bites
12 Shoulder Injury Fracture
12 Toxic Inhalations and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
12 Facial Injury Jaw Fracture and Dislocation
12 Kidney Injury
12 Knee Injury General Considerations
12 Knee Injury Contusion
12 Knee Injury Fracture
12 Knee Injury Sprain
12 Stab Wounds
12 Leg Injury Fractures and Contusions
12 Leg Injury Shin Splints
12 Lightning Injury
12 Oral and Tongue Injuries
12 Nasal Fracture or Contusion
12 Neck Injury General Considerations
12 Neck Injury Fracture
12 Neck Injury Spinal Cord Injury
12 Pelvic Bone Fracture
12 Puncture Wounds
12 Chest Injury Rib Fracture
12 Back Injury Sacrococcygeal Injury
12 Scorpion Bites
12 Abrasion Injuries
12 Shoulder Injury Clavicle Fracture
12 Shoulder Injury Strains and Sprains
12 Snakebite
12 Neck Injury Spinal Cord Injury
12 Abdominal Injury Ruptured Spleen
12 Foot Injury Toe Fracture and Sprain
12 Vaginal or Vulvar Injury
12 Drowning and Near Drowning


Abdominal Injury
Abdominal Injury: Contusion
Animal Bites
Ankle Fracture
Ankle Injury
Ankle Injury: Contusion
Ankle Sprain
Back Injury
Back Injury : Sacrococcygeal Injury
Back Strain
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Chemical Burns
Chest Injuries
Chest Injury: Aortic Rupture
Chest Injury: Hemothorax
Chest Injury: Myocardial Contusion
Chest Injury : Pneumothorax
Chest Injury: Pulmonary Contusion
Chronic Back Pain
Clavicle Fracture
Compression Fractures
Decompression Sickness
Disc Disease
Gunshot Wounds
Hand Injury: Fingertip Amputations
Head Injury
Liver Injury
Marine Stings
Muscle Strains
Rib Fracture
Ruptured Spleen
Shoulder Injury: A-C Separation
Spider Bites
Spinal Cord Injury
Sternum Fracture
Testicular Injury
Wrist Injury
hi Scuba Related Injuries
i Hand Injury Finger Amputaion
de Lecerations
de Cold Injury and Hypothermia
dd Dental Injury
xs Facial Injury
sdf Neck Injury
e Shoulder Injury Dislocation
e Ear Injury
ed Elbow Injury
de Elbow Injury Fracture
dfe Elbow Injury Nursemaids
ee Electrical Injury
de Eye Injury
ed Facial Injury General Considerations
fr Facial Injury Contusion
ed Hand Injury Finger Sprains
ded Fingernail and Toenail Injuries
dd Hand Injury Fractures
23 Head Injury Skull Fracture and Concussion
44 Chest Injury Myocardial Contusion
fde Heat Illness
ed Hest Injury Hemothorax
y Back Injury Disc Disease
;l High Altitude Illness

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