How to Treat a Torn Back Muscle

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A torn or pulled back muscle is often caused by overusing or overloading your back, perhaps by lifting something heavy improperly or repetitive movement. Back pain, weakness, inflammation or spasms typically indicate a strained back muscle. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, begin treating the area immediately. Although it’s smart to visit a doctor to check for more serious injuries to your back, you can take care of most torn back muscles yourself.

How to Treat a Torn Back Muscle
(Roman Rozenblyum/Demand Media)

Things You'll Need

  • Aspirin, Aleve, Motrin or other NSAID
  • Ice/cold pack
  • Warm pack or heating pad
Step 1

Take an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug). Non-prescription NSAIDs, including aspirin, Aleve or Motrin, can help reduce the pain and swelling of a back injury.

Roman Rozenblyum/Demand Media
Step 2

Apply an ice or cold pack to the injured area for 20 minutes at a time at least every three to four hours while awake for 72 hours after the injury. Cold-treating the area will decrease swelling and pain. Be sure to wrap ice with plastic wrap or a towel; applying ice directly to the skin may cause frostbite. Avoid applying heat for the first 48 to 72 hours after the injury, as it could increase swelling.

Roman Rozenblyum/Demand Media
Step 3

Make sure to switch positions every 30 minutes while you’re awake to avoid stiffness, which, in turn, will cause more pain.

Roman Rozenblyum/Demand Media
Step 4

Sleep in a position that does not aggravate your back injury. If back pain is interrupting your sleep, try lying on your back with your knees bent and supported by pillows, on your side with your knees and hips bent with a pillow in between your legs, or on your stomach.

Roman Rozenblyum/Demand Media
Step 5

Apply heat to the torn muscle once the swelling has subsided. Heating the affected area with a warm pack, heating pad or warm baths will help relieve back pain, increase blood circulation and loosen tight back muscles.

Roman Rozenblyum/Demand Media
Step 6

Begin exercising again soon after the injury to prevent stiffness. Take short walks (about three to five minutes in length) every couple of hours to keep your strength. Also, try pelvic tilt exercises to stretch your lower back. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Contract your ab muscles slowly while pressing your lower back to the floor and hold this position for 10 seconds. Then, slowly relax your muscles. Stop exercising immediately if you experience back pain.

Roman Rozenblyum/Demand Media

Tips & Warnings

  • Avoid too much bed rest. Although helpful when dealing with torn muscles in other regions of the body, bed rest can aggravate your condition.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if your back pain does not improve after one to two weeks or becomes more severe. Also, leg numbness or a loss of control of the bladder or bowels indicates a more serious problem that should be checked out by a doctor.

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