How to Treat a Pulled Back Muscle

Rest, ice and heat can help treat a sore back.
Rest, ice and heat can help treat a sore back. (Image: bare back image by Robert Calvillo from

Pulled back muscles can cause pain and some intense soreness. It can also make it hard for you to move. Rest, ice then heat are the tools to use to start treatments, along with over-the-counter pain relievers.

Things You'll Need

  • Ice pack
  • Heat pack
  • Ibuprofen

After you muscle has been pulled, first rest immediately after. In the past, doctors used to prescribe bed rest for too long, which actually is not the best way for the muscle to heal. Resting your muscles for a day or two, however, is beneficial.

For the first two to three days to reduce inflammation, apply an ice pack for 15 to 20 minutes, once three to four hours (except when sleeping). If the muscle feels irritated from the ice, apply for less time and/or wrap the ice pack in a towel so the cold is not so intense.

After three to four days have passed, use only heat, for 15 to 20 minutes at a a time.

Also take ibuprofen for the first few days to reduce inflammation and ease pain. Do not overlap dosages and do not take more than the recommended dosage on the package.

After the first two days of taking it easy on the back and resting, gently do small back and torso stretches. Also try lying on your back, with your knees in, and rock back and forth gently to increase some circulation to the area.

Tips & Warnings

  • Avoid lifting any objects until your back is better. Also, avoid any sharp movements using the torso.
  • If you are unsure what injury you have sustained, your injury seems severe, you believe you may have injured a disc, and/or you feel tingling, numbness or severe pain, see a doctor immediately. Do not self-treat.
  • Do not apply heat or cold if you suffer from circulation issues without consulting your physician.

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