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Muscle Strain of the Lower Back

Muscle Strain: Description

Description | Symptoms | Causes | Treatments and Self-Help | Lifting Technique | Back Exercises | Orthotics | Back Braces

Spinal Column The lumbar region of the back is located between our lowest rib and the pelvis, or just behind our abdomen. It is also called the lower back.

The bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the lower back, or lumbar region, serve a number of important functions:

  • structural support for the lumbar spine
  • supporting and holding the weight of our body when we stand
  • acting as a hinge between the upper and lower body, allowing us to bend or rotate at the waist
  • protecting the spinal cord, and the nerves as they enter and leave the spinal column

Because the lower back is involved in almost every movement and activity we engage in, when it is "hurting", we are literally brought to a stand still. The most frequent causes of lower back pain are muscle strains and sprains.

Muscle Strain: Symptoms of Lower Back Muscle Strains & Sprains

Description | Symptoms | Causes | Treatments and Self-Help | Lifting Technique | Back Exercises | Orthotics | Back Braces

Muscles of the back

A muscle strain occurs when muscle fibers are abnormally stretched or torn. A sprain occurs when the ligaments, the tough bands of tissue that hold the vertebrae together, are torn from their attachments. It is difficult to differentiate a strain from a sprain, as both injuries usually show similar symptoms. Also, the treatment and prognosis for both strains and sprains is usually the same, therefore, a definitive diagnosis is not usually needed.

The symptoms of most lumbar strains and sprains are localized to the lower back region and buttocks, and do not radiate to the legs or upper back.


  • Early symptoms may include tightness in the lower back muscles with certain movements or prolonged standing. This feeling usually subsides quickly when the offending movements cease, or after sitting and resting for a short period. This is a "warning sign". If left unheeded, the real pain will usually begin.
  • As the symptoms take hold, one may experience:
    • Muscle spasms
    • Stiffness that does not subside quickly
    • Dull aching pains
    • Sharp pains that may "take one’s breath away" with certain movements
  • The onset of the actual pain is usually sudden, and aggravated by:
    • Specific movements relieved by rest
    • Certain positions, even when lying down, which are relieved by position changes.
  • The most severe pain usually lasts 48 to 72 hours and may be followed by days or weeks of diminishing pain. During this time, the back muscles are weak and can easily be re-injured.

Muscle Strain: Causes

Description | Symptoms | Causes | Treatments and Self-Help | Lifting Technique | Back Exercises | Orthotics | Back Braces

Most pain in the lower back is triggered by some combination of:

  • Weak lumbar back muscles
  • Overuse (excessively repetitive movements and activities)
  • Muscle strain
  • Injury to the muscles and ligaments that support the spine

The onset of pain can usually be traced to two or more of these causes. Precipitating activities need not be excessive and include activities such as gardening or sitting in front of a computer too long.

When the back is strained or sprained, muscles and ligaments are abnormally stretched or torn. This produces inflammation, swelling, pain and spasms in the soft tissues. Continued activity, even at a lessened pace, aggravates the injured structures, which in turn stretches or tears the healing tissues even more. This will cause the pain and muscles spasms to become more intense. This cycle continues until one just finally gives up and rests.

Many physicians feel:

  • Even after the back muscles and ligaments heal, they will never be the same...but will always be a bit weaker than normal. This makes it easier to re- injure the back in the future.
  • When repeated episodes of back strains and sprains occur, you are likely to use your back differently....trying to subconsciously prevent further injuries. This may make other parts of the back work harder or in unaccustomed ways, which could cause other back problems to occur.

These last two facts make prevention of further episodes of back injuries imperative. While this may seem easier said than done, we offer some treatments which have proven over time to be effective in helping to eliminate recurring episodes of lower back pain.

Predisposing Factors:
These are some risk factors that make one more susceptible to lower back strains and sprains:

  • Hereditary or congenital spinal defects, such as scoliosis. Scoliosis is an abnormal side to side curving of the spine. When the spine is not straight, the muscles of the back are not balanced. This may lead to chronic muscle strains and sprains.
  • Short Leg Syndrome: When one leg is shorter than the other, the body compensates by leaning towards the short side, trying to "make the leg longer." When this occurs, the muscles in the back are no longer balanced, and muscle strains and sprains may occur. (Click here to find out more about how a short leg can affect the back).
  • Pregnancy/weight gain
  • Traumatic injury to the back
  • Previous history of back pain
  • Being middle-aged increases the chances of muscle strains. This is due to decreased reduced strength, flexibility and conditioning that occur with aging.
  • Jobs and activities which expose individuals to long periods of sitting, lifting or pulling heavy objects, frequent bending and twisting movements, and frequent jarring motions (like riding on bumpy roads with no shock absorbers). There are many more repetitive activities that may cause back pain...however, the above are the more common ones.
  • Chronic coughing places a great deal of stress on the spine and attached muscles. This may eventually cause a strain or sprain of the muscles of the back.

Muscle Strain: Treatments, Self-Help and Exercises

Description | Symptoms | Causes | Treatments and Self-Help | Lifting Technique | Back Exercises | Orthotics | Back Braces

Treatment or Prevention: The old adage, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," is most apropos when trying to prevent the debilitating effects of lower back strains and sprains. If these strains and sprains are not prevented or treated in their earliest stages, they may produce such debilitating pain that only a complete life style change will relieve symptoms.

Short-Term Pain Relievers: These steps will help to provide you with short-term pain relief:

1. Protection. By gently limiting the movement of the strained or sprained muscles, healing will occur more quickly. This is best accomplished with the use of one of the following Back Braces. We have found these braces to be soft, comfortable, and uniquely effective. Our braces will help to reduce pain, swelling, and healing time! Not only are they effective in the treatment of lower back pains, but they are also recommend for preventing reoccurrence of this problem. These braces allows you to "jump-start" the healing process! For more information about our truly unique and comfortable braces click here.

2. Rest. Avoid weight-bearing activities whenever possible, and try to assume a position or posture that is not painful.

3. Avoid any activity that requires frequent bending.

4. For the first 72 hours after injuring the back muscles, apply ice to the lower back for 20 minutes every few hours. This will help to reduce inflammation and pain. If the ice becomes uncomfortable, discontinue its use immediately. Heat during this time may increase swelling and inflammation, and should usually be avoided.

5. Beginning on the 4th day, mild and comfortable moist heat may be applied to the strained back muscles. This will bring more blood to the area, and speed up healing. Use moist heat for 20 minutes every few hours. If the heat is uncomfortable, stop it immediately. Sometimes combining moist heat treatments, followed by ice packs, will not only hasten healing, but will help to reduce pain (try after the first 72 hours).

6. When the pain subsides, you should try a gradual return to activities, with the use of a brace which will protect, support, and stabilize the lumbar back region, such as our Back Braces. If you are careful, but the pain returns, we suggest that you seek medical care.

Long-Term Pain Relievers: The following remedies will help to provide you with long-term pain relief:

1. The use of one of our recommended Back Braces, especially in the early stages of "return to full activities," will help to prevent a reoccurrence of back pain and spasms. Our braces allow normal back movements, but help to prevent those excessive and abnormal movements that will strain and sprain the back muscles.

2. Modify your activities to reduce stress on the lower back. Here are two simple, yet effective changes you can make to help reduce your chances of suffering lower back pain again:

  • Sitting and standing in a slouched position may feel comfortable, but it is stressing some of the back muscles. Eventually, these muscles will go into spasm and become inflamed and painful. To prevent this from occurring, try to stand and sit straight with a natural curve in the lower back. We offer some very effective back cushions and seat supports that help relieve lower back stress and pain. To view these click here.
  • Change the way that you lift heavy or awkwardly shaped objects. Use your knees, not your back. For further information about one Lifting Technique click here.

3. Mobility and strengthening exercises for the lower back are important to help prevent further episodes of back pain. If the muscles are strong, they will have less tendency to succumb to an injury...strong muscles can fight off stress better than weaker muscles. Exercise should begin only after healing has occurred to the point that the exercises do not increase pain. Use good judgment when exercising: start slow, do not overdo, and stop if pain begins. Click here for some back exercises that may help you.

4. We have found that custom-made orthotics are effective in providing our body with shock absorption, and in helping to stabilize our feet and lower back.

  • Increased shock absorption will reduce the jarring effect on the lower back muscles, and this will help to reduce muscle spasms and pain. Our custom-made orthotics are designed to absorb the shock created each time we step down, instead of allowing this shock to travel to our lower backs. These custom-made orthotics act much like the shock absorbers on an automobile.
  • Our feet are the foundation of our body. Just as with a building, when the foundation is not straight or it is weak, the building will not stand straight. When this occurs, extreme forces are placed on the building. If our feet are not straight, stable, or they are weak, the lower back will be subjected to abnormal forces. The back muscles will try to compensate and keep the body straight. This compensation will eventually cause the muscles to go into spasm and be painful. Our custom-made orthotics designed for the back will stabilize the feet, and provide the body with a proper foundation. When this occurs, back muscle spasms and pain are reduced. To find out more about our custom made orthotics for back pain, click here.

Muscle Strain: Proper Lifting Technique

Description | Symptoms | Causes | Treatments and Self-Help | Lifting Technique | Back Exercises | Orthotics | Back Braces

Improper lifting of objects is one of the most common causes of lower back strain and pain. If you can adhere to the following lifting technique, you may prevent many hours of debilitating back pain.

Proper Lifting Technique

  • Wear proper shoes.
  • Wear a lifting belt or back brace.
  • Stand close to the object you wish to lift.
  • Bend at the knees, not at the waist. Keep your back and neck straight so that your head and eyes are directed forward and not down.
  • Contract the stomach muscles, and hold the object close to your body.
  • Lift slowly by standing straight up (un-bending your knees). Allow your legs to carry the weight.
  • Use good common sense: if the object is too heavy for you, do not lift it by yourself!

Muscle Strain: Back Exercises

Description | Symptoms | Causes | Treatments and Self-Help | Lifting Technique | Back Exercises | Orthotics | Back Braces

Before starting any exercise program you should first consult with your doctor. Do only those exercises that do not cause pain. If you are in pain, then do not even begin an exercise program.

Press Up

The McKenzie Press-Up Exercise:

  • The McKenzie Press-Up Exercise helps to relieve stress and lower back pain.
  • Begin by laying flat on the ground (face down). When doing this exercise it is important to keep the hips and legs relaxed and in contact with the floor.
  • Keep your hands in line with your shoulders.
  • Inhale, then exhale and press up using the hands keeping the lower half of your body relaxed. Hold until you need to inhale, then move down, lay flat on the ground to rest, and repeat ten times.

Stop if Pain Occurs.

Knee to Chest

Knee to Chest Exercise:

  1. Lie on your back on a table or firm surface.
  2. Clasp your hands behind the thigh and pull your knee towards your chest.
  3. Keep the opposite leg flat on the surface of the table Maintain the position for 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.

Stop if Pain Occurs.

Pelvic Lift Pelvic Lift Exercise:
  1. Lie on your back on a flat surface, with your feet flat on the surface and your knees bent.
  2. Keep your legs together
  3. Cross your arms over your chest.
  4. Tilt your pelvis and push your low back to the floor.
  5. Then slowly lift your buttocks off the floor as far as possible without straining.
  6. Maintain this position for 5 seconds. Lower your buttocks to the floor Do not hold breath.

Stop if Pain Occurs.

Back Bend

Backward Bending Exercise:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Keep your knees as straight as possible.
  3. Place your hands on your back at your waist.
  4. Bend backwards at your waist keeping the knees as straight as possible.
  5. Hold for 5 seconds (or less, depending on comfort).Return slowly to the upright position.

Stop if Pain Occurs.

Side Bend Side Bending Exercise:

  1. Stand up straight with your arms at your sides and your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Bend your trunk to one side, by lowering your shoulder.
  3. Run your hand down the outside of your thigh.
  4. Hold for 5 seconds (or less, depending on comfort).
  5. Slowly straighten up. Repeat to the opposite side.

Stop if Pain Occurs.


Muscle Strain: Custom-Made Sports Orthotics for Back Pain

Description | Symptoms | Causes | Treatments and Self-Help | Lifting Technique | Back Exercises | Orthotics | Back Braces

Custom-Made Orthotics

$179.95 per pair

Click here to learn more
about how our orthotics
are custom-made for you.

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The advanced technology that is employed enables our orthotics to gently hold the feet in their neutral or normal position, thus stabilizing the feet and legs. This allows the feet to function as the efficient and stable foundation that our body needs; thus the feet, the knee, hip, and lower back are not subjected to abnormal stresses, and they function in their proper alignment. This reduces fatigue, muscle spasms, and pain throughout the entire body, not only the back.

Our orthotics will also provide semi-flexible support to the arch by "giving" to absorb the shock of each step, rather than our foot, knee, and lower back (the orthotic acts in the same way that a shock absorber does on an automobile). When our weight is removed from the orthotic, the arch returns to its original height since the material we use has a built-in "memory."

Finally, by providing increased padding and support for the balls of the feet using materials that mimic the action of our own fatty pads, our orthotics will not only provide comfort, but will also help to prevent stress fractures, joint pain, and callus pain. Order a pair of our Custom-Made Orthotics for Back Pain here.

Due to the thin, comfortable "space age" materials we use in constructing our custom-made orthotics, you usually do not need a bigger size shoe to accommodate these othotics. They should fit in your present shoes.

Back Braces: Impacto Air Temp Advantage Back Brace

Impacto | Rolyan Positive Support | Bioflex Magnetic | Rolyan® Workhard


Price: $119.95

Order yours now from


We recommend this uniquely effect back brace because:

  1. It provides effective and comfortable support to the back.
  2. Allows easy application of cold compression or moist heat to painful back muscles.
  3. Promotes healing by allowing the back muscles to rest.
  4. Side panels are easily adjusted to ensure a perfect fit.

We feel that this brace provides exceptional lower back and abdominal support. Helps reduce muscular back discomfort and promotes proper curvature of lower back. Adjustable side panels provide excellent fit. Comes with inter-changeable air support chambers, cold compression or moist heat chambers. 5¾" plastic support stays with non-slip strips on outer strap. Latex free.

To determine size, measure hip circumference.

Back Braces: Rolyan Positive Support Lumbo Sacral Orthosis

Impacto | Rolyan Positive Support | Bioflex Magnetic | Rolyan® Workhard

Rolyan Positive Support Lumbo Sacral Orthosis

Price: $59.95

Order yours now from

This orthotisis (brace) provides exceptional lower back support to help reduce or avoid muscle spasms and pain. Includes a padded Polyform® heat moldable insert. This insert can be heated in warm water and inserted into the braces pocket. After allowing it to cool a bit, you put the brace on, and the insert will mold to the back, providing you with a nearly custom fit. This is a very comfortable, elastic binder with hook-and-loop closure. Latex free.

To determine size, measure hip circumference.

Back Braces: Bioflex Magnetic Deluxe Lumbar Support

Impacto | Rolyan Positive Support | Bioflex Magnetic | Rolyan® Workhard

Bioflex Magnetic Deluxe

Price: $59.95

Order yours now from

We recommend this uniquely effect lumbar support because:

  • This brace is a deluxe orthopedic support for the back that energizes while it supports the lumbar region (lower back).
  • It is made with 9 strategically placed concentric medical grade magnets.
  • In some studies, BIOflex Magnets have clinically improved circulation, accelerated healing, and enhanced pain relief.
  • It has been shown in some research studies that magnetic fields attract and repel charged particles in the blood, creating movement and heat. This process causes the blood vessels to dilate, increasing circulation, thus accelerating the natural healing process.
  • This is a very comfortable back brace, made of 1/8" nylon-backed neoprene with a CoolMax® lining which will dissipate body heat.
  • Eight inch steel spring stays, and an additional 2" elastic belt provide added support.
  • Latex free. Color of brace is Black.
  • Care Instructions: Hand wash with mild detergent and lay flat to dry.

To determine size, measure hip circumference.

Back Braces: Rolyan® Workhard Back Supports

Impacto | Rolyan Positive Support | Bioflex Magnetic | Rolyan® Workhard

Rolyan® Workhard Back Supports

Order yours now from

This back brace is extremely comfortable to wear, and it will provide your lower back with the protection and pain relief you need! To ensure comfort, this brace is made with slip-resistant strips that help prevent it from riding up the back. There are two models:

  • Light-Duty Model has a mesh back for increased comfort.
  • Heavy-Duty Model is constructed for extra durability.

Both models are made with:

  • Double overlapping waist straps which provide extra lumbar and abdominal support.
  • Easily adjusted shoulder straps.

This brace contains Latex.

To determine size, measure hip circumference.

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