By Joshua Tucker
A Pulled Back Muscle can cause significant pain and limitation.
But a pulled muscle in the back isn't necessarily the same as a pulled neck muscle or pulled chest muscle.
The 'pulled' descriptor is still used, but for the most part, you don't pull a back muscle. Meaning, you don't rip and tear back muscles like you to chest muscles and other bigger structures like pulling a hamstring muscle.
Pulled back muscle symptoms can show up anywhere in the back, whether it be upper back, lower back, or mid back, and can include back muscles right along the spine, or farther out away from the spine.
I like to use the phrase 'tweaked a back muscle' instead of 'pulled a back muscle.
As described on the Pulled Chest Muscle Symptoms page, technically 'pulled muscle' means that there is a tear of at least 5% of the structure.
It's common to have pain, even debilitating pain, without any actual injury.
For a variety of reasons (including size of back muscles and the loads they're designed to carry) muscles of the back rarely actually tear.
Car accidents and high velocity impacts can cause back muscles to tear, but in those cases they don't get called 'pulled'.
Did I Pull A Muscle In My Back??
So, the question becomes, do you have a pulled back muscle, or did you just tweak a back muscle, or are you feeling muscle pain for some other reason (cramp, spasm, lack of oxygen in the muscle, hypertonicity, inflammation, etc)?
IMPORTANT QUESTION! Is your pain from a disc issue? Do you have a rib out? Just because you have pain in your back doesn't mean you tore a muscle in your back
Muscles Don't Tear
And just for the record, muscles themselves almost never tear. The rip happens at the weakest spots, which are where the muscle's tendon meets bone, and where the muscle blends into tendon.
So -maybe- you tore something. But most likely you either just 'tweaked' a muscle and it won't take much to make it happy again, or something else happened that really isn't a 'pulled' back muscle.
If you really have a pulled back muscle, then you were almost certainly under a fast and heavy load.
There was so much load, the muscles were pulling so hard, the force went somewhere and a rip/tear of some size happened.
Symptoms of a pulled back muscle include (sorry, some of these are obvious):
** Pain, in a specific spot and/or referred pain elsewhere.
** Pain on movement, including taking a deep breath.
** Decreased range of motion (twisting, bending down, extending up
Like I said, pretty obvious. That really is the extent of the symptoms. Depending on where exactly in the back you have pain the symptoms will vary some, but ultimately it's pain and limited movement.
Less obvious symptoms of a pulled back muscle:
** A Process of Inflammation that releases Pain Enhancing Chemical.
** A sharply increasing Pain Causing Dynamic that tightens muscles and increase inflammation.
You MUST understand the Pain Causing Dynamic and the Inflammation Process if you want to know why you hurt and how to stop hurting.
Those two topics are the main cause of your back pain, regardless of whether you fell off a roof or just bent over to pick something up off the floor.
You must also understand the Tendonitis dynamic. Because the dynamic that causes tendonitis kicks in directly after a pulled back muscle, if it wasn't already there to begin with.
See: What Is Tendonitis?
Maybe you actually tore a back muscle. Maybe not. Regardless, you have pain. And the primary cause of that pain is the pain enhancing chemical from the inflammation process. There are other factors, of course, but if you do what's necessary to get that chemical out and replace it with nutrient rich blood flow your pain levels will decrease.
So. This is how to treat a pulled back muscle:
1. Deep inhalations to expand the rib cage. Sounds boring and too simple, but it's actually very effective. When the body feels pain it tightens up and 'guards' what it think is the problem/injury site. What do you do when you hurt? You stop moving. That's bad for circulation (among other things). So. Deep inhalations. Expand the rib cage as much as possible. 10 times in a row. Then later, 10 times. Then later, 10 times. As often throughout the day as you're movitvated for. The more you do it, the more oxygen and blood you get to the unhappy muscles and surrounding tissue. Also, the lengthening and shortening of the structure (due to exaggerated breath/rib movement) helps keep muscles loose.
And the looser, the better.
2. Ice. Frozen Peas. Froze steak. Frozen water bottle. Whatever. See the How To Reduce Inflammation page to see why Icing my way helps reduce your pain. Don't do the 10-20 minutes on method. Put the cold on for 2ish minutes. Then again later. Then again later. Then again later. The more you do it, the more circulation you get and the more healthy your tissue will get. The healthier it is (full of oxygen and nutrition and new blood and less full of pain enhancing chemical, irritant, and metabolic waste) the less pain you'll have and the less defensive your protective nervous system will be.
Those are mandatory. If you want some optional activities to help fix your back pain:
A. Massage. Get in there and rub it somehow, anyhow. If it hurts, if it's tight, rub it. Repeatedly, over the course of the day and the week.
B. Ice Massage. Same as above.
C. See: Magnesium for Tendonitis
Fair Waring! Depending on how bad you hurt, it may take a couple days of self care to notice any benefit. Don't quit after the first ten minutes and declare it a failure. There's a lot going on under the surface of your skin, and you need the ongoingly push back against the negative factors of 'injury' to help your body heal itself.
Return to the top of this Pulled Back Muscle page.
Go to the main Pulled Muscle Symptoms page.
Go to the Tendonitis page.
Go to the www.TendonitisExpert.com homepage.