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Failing to Quickly Resolve Back Pain
Creates a Vicious Cycle

By Elliot Caleira

Chronic back pain can debilitate and torment a person for life. There is nothing worse than having to grit your teeth simply to roll over or to get out of bed. Although a lot of back injuries and back pain can be prevented by keeping strong back muscles, even the strongest men can become incapacitated from a pulled back muscle. Pulled back muscles usually occur after a sudden impact, lifting excessive weight, or throwing an object if there is torsional twisting.

If you fail to treat these symptoms quickly, your body may contort itself to avoid the pain triggered by certain ranges of movement. The longer you let this go, the harder it becomes to retrain the muscles. They need to relax and return to their ordinary disposition. Physical therapists and chiropractors essentially retrain the musculoskeletal system to return to its natural alignment. Contorted muscles can cause bad posture that puts pressure on nerves and contorts other muscles. The cycle becomes progressively worse as chronic pain from pinched nerves becomes a reaction to avoid pain from the initial injury.

Symptoms of Pulled Back Muscles

There are three distinct sets of symptoms for the lower back, upper back and shoulders, and neck.

If the muscle is pulled in the neck, it may cause the following symptoms:

  • neck stiffness
  • limited range of neck motion
  • neck pain
  • upper back pain

Shoulder and upper back injuries may cause the following symptoms:

  • muscle spasms
  • pain from shoulder movement
  • stiffness
  • tightness and muscle knots
  • pains between shoulder blades/spine

Lower back injuries may cause the following symptoms:

  • aching pains in lower back
  • stiffness
  • pain that progresses with movement
  • pain that radiates into hip and leg regions
  • muscle spasms
  • limited range of motion

Diagnosing Back Injury Causes

There are several tests a doctor can order to determine the cause of your back pain...

  • Blood Tests - The tests may show you have an infection or other abnormal levels that are indicative of a disease causing the back pain.
  • Bone Scan - Your doctor will order this test only if he suspects you may have bone tumors or Osteoporosis-related compression fractures.
  • X-Ray - An X-Ray provides a limited range of information. It will only help your doctor determine whether your bones are straight, broken, or suffering from arthritis.
  • CT Scans/MRI - These are the preferred diagnostic tools for complex back injuries. The depth of the imaging allows the doctor to examine your entire musculoskeletal system in detail: nerves, tendons, blood vessels, muscles, bones, herniated disks, tissue, and ligaments.
  • EMG Tests - If your doctor believes that the pain is essentially nerve compression, the electromyography (EMG) test can be used to measure synaptic function of the nerves and to determine how well the muscles are responding.


An acute back injury may come about suddenly with sharp pains or dull aching pains. It can usually go away on its own after about three weeks of healing. Chronic back pain lasts much longer and typically requires professional help to resolve. Over-the-counter medicines such as Ibuprofen can be used for most back injuries that seem manageable and last less than three weeks. Ibuprofen will relieve pain and reduce muscle inflammation. Excessive bed rest can cause the muscles to atrophy (become weaker) and make them more prone to damage.

Doctors suggest that you continue to go about your daily routines as usual. Light duty exercises like walking, stretching, and things like carrying groceries, shouldn't be avoided simply out of fear. Limit yourself from engaging in activities that cause progressive acute pain. Stronger medications and therapies are often needed when the pain continues for longer than three weeks.

Elliot Caleira is a freelance writer in the self-mastery and health and wellness spaces. When he's not writing you'll find him cooking or teaching Portuguese classes. More articles by Elliot.

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