Back strain happens to both athletes and non-athletes all the time. In fact, it's one of the most common medical complaints that doctors encounter. Because one in four adults has experienced low back pain at least once in their lifetime, chances are you are one of them. Athletic trainers and physical therapists deal with back strain treatment all the time, and there's no reason you can't take advantage of their knowledge to help reduce your own pain and discomfort.

Whether you have sustained an athletic injury or strained your back doing a household chore, if you are concerned that it is more than a muscle strain, you should seek medical attention immediately. If you have a run-of-the-mill back strain, there are steps you can take at home to speed up your recovery.

Back Strain Treatment for Athletes and Average Joes

Some of the most common back strain treatment approaches that athletes use to reduce pain and swelling include:

  • NSAIDs - Immediately following a back strain injury it is usually a good idea to take an anti-inflammatory medication to help reduce swelling and control pain. Taking steps to mitigate swelling is an important part of a fast recovery because excess swelling can actually hinder the healing process.

  • Cold therapy - Cryotherapy is a widely accepted back strain treatment option, especially in the first few days after the injury was sustained. The main benefits of applying therapeutic cold include decreased swelling, less pain, and a reduction in cellular metabolism. This slowing of cellular regeneration helps speed up the healing process while also preventing secondary tissue growth. While cold therapy alone can be beneficial, cold therapy and active compression systems are more effective at alleviating pain and speeding recovery.

  • Spinal manipulation and massage - Chiropractic techniques have been shown to help reduce pain in acute back strain injuries. Soft tissue manipulation is also beneficial because it helps loosen the taut muscles surrounding the spine.

  • Heat therapy - Many athletes find that the application of heat helps reduce pain and improve mobility after a back strain treatment. Although this approach can be helpful in the later phases of the recovery process, it is important not to apply heat in the first few days after the injury. The application of heat causes vasodilation, which can contribute to additional swelling in the early stages of the inflammatory response.

  • Exercise - Athletes know that injury prevention is the key to a long, healthy season. You can apply the same philosophy in your own life by taking preventive measures when it comes to your back health. Regular stretching and strengthening exercises for the muscles surrounding the spine will help prevent the over-stretching that leads to back strain. These types of exercises are also often prescribed during back strain recovery. Work closely with a physical therapist to learn the appropriate exercises and ask what you can do to prevent future injury.

It is important to remember that back strain injuries can occur in all types of sports, including those that have little or no physical impact. In fact, 90% of all reported golf injuries are related to the back and neck. The same goes for household activities. You don't have to sustain a fall to injure your back; simply over-stretching while reaching for an object can strain your back muscles. Regardless of how you got the injury, fast and effective treatment is critical if you want to accelerate the healing process.

Many professional athletic trainers use the Game Ready cold and active compression system to apply therapeutic cold to injuries. Did you know that this innovative system is available to the general public as well? You can find a provider near you and schedule sessions, or rent a system to use at home. Including Game Ready as part of your back strain treatment plan is an excellent way to get back in the game (or back to normal, pain-free life) faster.