Back strains and sprains are common injuries. In fact, 80 percent of people experience back pain at least once in their lives. Often the body heals back sprains and strains on its own. Every back pain, however, should be taken seriously, as back sprains and strains can involve or lead to more serious medical issues.
What Are Back Sprains and Strains
In everyday language, “sprain” and “strain” are used to describe a variety of pains. In the medical field, though, they have precise definitions. A sprain occurs when a ligament, which connects bones to other bones, is overstretched or torn. A strain results when a muscle or tendon, which attaches muscle to bone, is overstretched or torn. Thus, back sprains occur when a ligament in your back is extended too far, and back strains occur when a muscle or tendon is stressed too much.
Although back sprains and strains are technically different injuries, they are very similar. In fact, sometimes it’s difficult to make an exact diagnosis between a back sprain and back strain. Both injuries result in inflamed soft tissue that causes pain, and muscle spasms often accompany both conditions.
Symptoms of Back Sprains and Strains
Back strains and sprains often are painful, although the type and severity of the pain can vary. Patients may experience anything from a dull ache or burning that is tolerable to a debilitating sharp or stabbing pain. Since the pain is soft-tissue related, it may increase or decrease when in certain positions or making particular movements.
Although pain from a back sprain or strain can be severe, the pain is limited to the back. Pain that extends throughout your arms or legs does not arise from a back strain or sprain, and may be a sign of a spinal or neurological issue. Any pain that goes from your back to one or more limbs should be evaluated and treated by a neurosurgeon. Don't delay treatment because you think the pain is from a minor strain or sprain. A spinal problem can become more severe and require spinal surgery.
Treatment of Back Sprains and Strains
With proper treatment, 90 percent of patients see a complete recovery. The appropriate course of treatment depends on the location and severity of the back sprain or strain. In all cases, you should seek the advice of a neurosurgeon whenever you have a serious back injury so the doctor can rule out spinal and neurological problems. Assuming an injury doesn’t involve skeletal or neurological issues, treatment for a back sprain or strain might include:
Learning coping skills
If you’re suffering from a back injury, make sure to see a medical professional for proper and prompt treatment. You can make an appointment with our neurosurgeon, Dr. Kelly Kiehm. He’s currently accepting new patients.