Back pain rest or stretch?
April 25, 2014 9:08 PM   Subscribe

Pulled a muscle in my lower back. Should I rest or stretch/exercise it?

So flipping the mattress on the bed today was done without my leg power, apparently, as I pulled a muscle in my lower back. It's somewhat uncomfortable sitting down and walking. I wonder what the best plan is: laying down (which makes the pain go away), or doing my regular thing and keep stretching that muscle?
posted by zardoz to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Unless it's causing it to spasm, going about your regular business is best. My experience when this happens is that sometimes I can walk around okay for a while, but then the other muscles which apparently are compensating get tired and if I don't lie down it will start spasming. So I lie down for a bit, and relax and rest it, but when I feel like it's as relaxed/rested as it's getting, I get back up again.

NSAIDs also can help. I had good results with naproxen sodium, but different people get different results.
posted by aubilenon at 9:20 PM on April 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

I've gotten instant relief for this from a good acupuncturist, if you know one.

Otherwise, my solution is exercise or a hot hot shower - and then stretch and/or apply pressure like crazy to the painful spot.

I've gone to massage therapists and had really bad luck with that.

This said, if you know a great Shiatsu or Setei therapist, that would be an ace solution!

Strangely, meditation apps with binaural beats focusing on relaxation might help, too.

Lately I am hot on Surf City Apps LLC for meditation apps. Works for iphone, I don't know if they do Android, but I hope so!
posted by jbenben at 10:20 PM on April 25, 2014

I went through a fairly severe bout of back pain, after several years of no problems since a herniated disc about seven years ago. The doctor I saw back then (who helped tremendously through steroid shots in my spine and physical therapy) wasn't able to see me any time soon. So I did some research and found the McKenzie back exercises.

I went from useless to moderate pain to back to normal over the course of a month, and improvement was rapid from each stage. The advice is the same as above - if you can move, do so.
posted by shinynewnick at 10:56 PM on April 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: If the injured muscle feels inflamed and swollen, rest and ice it. This doesn't mean you can't also gently stretch it.

Once it feels less swollen (depending on the strain, it could be a day or two), stretch and strengthen mindfully.

I used to struggle with lower back pain. A physio recommended doing squats (strengthening the gluteus). It worked in something like 3 workouts, as the strengthened muscles gave relief to the back.

Also, if you can maintain them with some ease, planks are great for realigning the back and strengthening the abs, again, giving some relief. Just remember that your priority is managing back pain, not scoring awesome abs. In other words, don't overstrain yourself.

Finally, I also love acupuncture for muscle pain.
posted by Milau at 5:46 AM on April 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Generally it's best to use the muscles a little, if you can. If the pain is severe or if making yourself sit up/walk seems to be causing it to get worse instead of better, then obviously you should stop – however it's better for the muscle and the healing process if you can maintain some gentle activity.

Painkillers are good here too. As aubilenon said in the first answer, the pain you get from throwing your back out is in large part due to the injured muscles spasming and clamping down on themselves. Normally this would just be a sort of automatic guarding behavior to protect the painful area, but when you throw your back out the spasms themselves cause pain, which creates a self-reinforcing feedback loop that is very hard to break. Taking some painkillers (I recommend a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen/paracetamol, as the effects are cumulative and they don't interact) will help to break the pain/spasm cycle. If you can drop the pain enough that your lower back doesn't clamp down so hard, it will hurt less to begin with. This is a rare case in which treating the symptom also helps to attack the root problem.
posted by Scientist at 8:35 PM on April 26, 2014

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