Imagine this: You’ve already had a really bad day because someone scratched your car door with their car door, which wouldn’t have happened if you didn’t have to park in that crowded dentist’s parking lot to get your old filling fixed. When you get home, you’re finally happy to see your family after a long day at work and the dentist but your daughter is crying. So you squat down to the floor to pick her up. You grab her under her arms and start to stand . . . and a stinging pain radiates from your lower back. You almost drop your daughter because of the pain, and now both of you are crying. You’ve strained a lower back muscle. Now, this exact thing might not have happened to you, but we all know that back pain makes everything worse, especially when you’ve had a terrible day. We can’t help you with the first part of your day, but we can help you with what you do after the pain comes. So here is everything you need to know about your muscle strain and how to fix it at home (because after the day you’ve had, you shouldn’t have to go anywhere else). It’s easy:
What is a muscle strain?
Muscle strains are an injury to your muscle or tendon usually caused by straining to lift something or stressing a muscle by repeated movement. Minor muscle strains overstretch your muscle or tendon and can easily be treated at home, and major muscle strains might tear your muscle or tendon and should be treated by a doctor. We often refer to muscle strains as pulled muscles. And of course, they frequently occur in the lower back, but strains also occur in the neck, shoulder, and hamstrings, causing pain and immobility.
Symptoms of muscle strain
Often, you will know when you have received a muscle strain right when it happens because you will feel the pulling of the muscle. But here are some other symptoms to look for to know whether you have a muscle strain:
- Pain with mobility
- Muscle spasms and weakness
- Muscle cramps
Causes of muscle strain
There are two main causes of muscle strains: overstretching or overuse. Lifting something incorrectly, skipping a warm-up before a workout, falling down, or repeating one motion can cause muscle strains. To prevent muscle strains, warm up before a workout by gently stretching, lift objects correctly, and don’t overuse your muscles.
Treatment at home for muscle strain
The best, and easiest, way to treat a muscle strain at home is the R.I.C.E. way, which is rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Rest. Don’t do any physical activity that is painful. However, you shouldn’t avoid movement altogether. Some movement will help you heal faster.
Ice. Cold therapy can help reduce inflammation and can numb the pain. Use an ice pack for 15 to 20 minutes in intervals throughout the day.
Compression. If your muscle strain is on your back or your calf, you can help reduce swelling by wrapping your muscle. Make sure not to wrap it too tightly. Loosen the wrap if it causes more pain or numbness.
Elevation. Elevate the injury above your heart to reduce swelling. If your muscle strain is on your lower back, simply lie down and rest.
If treating your muscle strain at home doesn’t result in relief, see a doctor for help treating your major muscle strain.
Light stretching and exercising can also help heal your muscle strain because it increases blood flow to the area. Gently rolling the muscle with the Chirp Wheel can be a great way to help relieve pain that comes with muscle strain.
Harvard Health Publishing. (2018, December). Muscle Strain. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/muscle-strain-a-to-z
Mayo Clinic. (2019, April 27). Muscle strains. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/muscle-strains/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20450520
Mayo Clinic. (2019, April 27). Muscle strains. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/muscle-strains/symptoms-causes/syc-20450507
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (2020, April 9). Muscle strain treatment: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002116.htm
Morrison, W. (2018, January 11). Muscle strains. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/strains#causes
Nall, R. (2019, March 7). Muscle strain: Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324642#symptoms