By: Dr. Kristin Spear, DPT
Ouch, I pulled my back out! Now what?
Usually a back muscle is “pulled” or strained from things like getting up too quickly or making a sharp turn. As soon as the injury occurs, apply a cold compress as soon as possible because this will help manage any swelling or inflammation to the area. After a few days with the injury, ice and heat can be alternated to both manage swelling and also increase circulation for quicker recovery.
If needed, take some rest after the injury to let the pain go down. However, don’t rest for too long (usually a day or so) or that can actually slow recovery! Once pain starts subsiding and activity can be resumed, gently add in some stretching to allow blood flow to circulate.
Then, once stretching has been incorporated, start adding in some back-strengthening exercises to your regiment. Chances are the initial injury happened because of some sort of underlying weakness in the supporting spinal muscles.
If your pain doesn’t go away after several days or if it starts getting worse, book an appointment with your physical therapist! Typically, an x-Ray/MRI doesn’t need to be performed prior to seeing a PT because they will be able to pick up on most things that may need further medical attention.
Exercise ideas for treatment of a pulled back:
-Single knee to chest stretch: Lie on the back with the knees bent and both heels on the floor, then place both hands behind one knee and pull it toward the chest, stretching the gluteus and piriformis muscles in the buttock.
-Double knee to chest stretch: Lying on the back, pull both knees to the chest while simultaneously flexing the head forward until a comfortable stretch is felt across the mid and low back.
-Cat/camel stretch: Get down on your hands and knees on the floor. Relax your head and allow it to droop. Round your back up toward the ceiling until you feel a nice stretch in your upper, middle, and lower back. Hold this stretch for as long as it feels comfortable, or about 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position with a flat back while you are on all fours. Let your back sway by pressing your stomach toward the floor. Lift your buttocks toward the ceiling. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times.
-Bridge: Lie on the ground with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. With your hands by your sides, press your feet into the floor as you slowly lift your buttocks off the ground until your body is in one straight line. Keep your shoulders on the floor. Lower back down. Rest for 1 minute. Repeat 15 times. Perform 3 sets.
-Drawing in maneuver: Lie on the ground with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Relax your hands by your sides. Take a deep breath in. Breathe out and pull your bellybutton into your spine, engaging your abdominal muscles without tilting your hips. Hold the contact for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
-Lying lateral leg raises: Lie on one side, keeping your lower leg slightly bent on the ground. Engage your core by drawing your bellybutton into your spine. Raise the top leg without moving the rest of your body. Hold for 2 seconds at the top. Repeat 10 times. Repeat on other side. Perform 3 sets on each side.