Back injuries happen all the time during the course of work, sports, or even everyday activities. In fact, it is estimated that the majority of people (80 percent) will experience a back injury at least once in their lives. Treating a pulled back muscle quickly and consistently is one of the keys to returning to normal activity as soon as possible.
Common Causes of a Pulled Back Muscle
Most pulled back muscles occur in the lower back when the muscles are strained or the ligaments are torn. This straining or tearing leads to inflammation and can also cause spasms that increase pain and make it difficult for you to do certain movements. A pulled back muscle can be caused by many things, but some of the most frequent contributors are:
- Falling or trauma from an accident
- Physical exertion that your body is not ready for
- Repeatedly bending or crouching
- Lifting heavy objects
- Twisting while throwing
- Overstretching when reaching
You don’t necessarily have to be doing something strenuous to suffer from a pulled back muscle, but typically you will know immediately when it happens, as the pain occurs suddenly and persists. Other symptoms may include stiffness in the back, pain in the legs, and pain that worsens with bending or stretching.
Common Treatments for a Pulled Back Muscle
Treating a pulled back muscle generally requires the same techniques as treating any other type of inflammation. This may include approaches such as:
- Traditional RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) therapy
- Pain medication
- Physical therapy
- Heat therapy
- Contrast therapy
Traditional RICE therapy can be improved with the use of a cold therapy system instead of ice packs and compression bandages. An integrated system that delivers consistent cold and active compression enhances the benefits of therapeutic cold and helps contribute to a faster recovery.
As with any other type of injury, it’s important to fully recover from a pulled back muscle before returning to normal activity. Attempting to do too much too soon can result in reinjury and prolong the recovery process.
Therapeutic Heat vs. Cold
Both heat and cold therapy offer benefits in recovering from a pulled back muscle, but only if they are used appropriately. Cold therapy may be used at any time in the recovery process and should generally be employed as soon as possible after the injury. The application of cold and active compression helps reduce pain and swelling and also contributes to faster healing. The faster you can apply cold after an injury, the less cell damage there will be, which means there will be less tissue repair required.
Heat, on the other hand, should only be applied at certain points in the recovery process, specifically after the inflammation process has stopped. Applying heat during the inflammatory response can actually contribute to additional swelling, because it causes blood flow to increase. After the inflammation has died down, this dilation of the blood vessels can be beneficial for bringing oxygenated blood and nutrients to healing tissues. Many people also find therapeutic heat to be relaxing and comforting.
Benefits of Contrast Therapy for Back Injuries
Therapeutic heat and cold can also be combined in a treatment called contrast therapy. By rapidly alternating between cold and heat, the body gets the benefits of therapeutic heat without the drawback of additional swelling. This is because the switch from heat to cold happens quickly enough to prevent the blood vessel dilation that contributes to excess swelling. This allows you to introduce heat to the healing process sooner but only through contrast therapy.
Some of the benefits of using contrast therapy to treat a pulled back muscle are:
- Faster healing
- Reduced pain
- Reduced swelling
- Medication-free option for treatment
To learn more about contrast therapy, cryotherapy, and heat therapy, check out our free infographic. Now you can get all three treatment options in one device. Next time you injure your back, ask your doctor about the Med4Elite system and how it can help you recover faster.