How Do You Know If Back Pain Is Muscular?

You might go to lift an object at work when all of a sudden, pain strikes in your low back. Or you might notice your back pain come on gradually over the course of a few days. Either way, it’s not ideal.

So, what’s going on? And how do you know if your back pain is muscular or not? In this article, we’re going to dive into muscular causes of back pain, the signs and symptoms of muscular back pain, and how physical therapy can help. Let’s take a look!

According to the World Health Organization, back pain affects about 60-70% of individuals in industrialized countries. These statistics tell us that about six to seven individuals out of every ten people will experience back pain at some point in their life. In other words, you aren’t alone.

Muscular causes of back pain include muscle strains and muscle spasms. Muscle strains happen when muscles that support or connect to the spine and nearby structures are pulled past their usual limits. In worse-case scenarios, this may result in a torn muscle.

On the other hand, muscle spasms may happen when a muscle or ligament gets torn in the low back. Both muscle strains and muscle spasms can occur due to overuse or injury, such as poor posture, lifting heavy objects, or performing an exercise the wrong way. Additionally, being overweight or not performing enough exercise can increase your risk of a muscle spasm or strain.

Muscular Back Pain Signs and Symptoms

So, how can you know for sure if your pain is muscular or not?

Usually, you’ll experience the following signs:

  • Your pain increases with movement.

  • You experience muscle spasms or cramps.

  • You struggle to stand up or sit up straight.

  • You experience pain when you bend or twist your torso.

Generally, muscular back pain won’t cause radiating or burning pain. If you have numbness or tingling down your legs combined with back pain, this is likely due to neural compressions, such as a slipped disc or a pinched nerve. However, muscular back pain can lead to a pinched nerve. Thus, it’s essential to get your pain checked out either way.

How Physical Therapy Can Help

A physical therapist can help diagnose and treat back pain and prevent future pain or injury. At your first visit, your physical therapist performs a thorough assessment, diagnosing your back pain as muscular or not. This initial assessment involves various questions regarding your pain levels and when the pain started and tests measuring your strengths and weaknesses.

From there, your physical therapist creates an appropriate treatment plan to include prescribed exercises, manual therapy techniques, massage, and other modalities. Movement is a vital part of your recovery. While you might feel tempted to rest or try to sleep it off, it’s best to move once the initial pain has subsided. Remaining active can help prevent the weakening of specific muscles, reducing your chances of experiencing pain again.

If you’re currently experiencing back pain, our team is ready to help. With a physical therapist, you can get back to your regular activities as soon and safely as possible. Contact us today for more information.

Can Chronic Back Pain Be Cured?

Can chronic back pain be cured?

I am not going to beat around the bush here when answering the question raised above. The resounding answer is YES! Below I am going to outline everything pertinent to explaining how we know the answer is YES, scientifically and emphatically. First off, however, I think it’s valuable to understand what pain is, whether it’s chronic pain in your back or elsewhere. “Pain is an output of the brain that is produced whenever the brain concludes that body tissue is in danger and action is required.” – Lorimer Moseley. There are three types of pain: Nociceptive pain. This is what most people think of when they think of pain. Nociceptive pain is from a mechanical, thermal or harmful chemical disturbance that results in tissue damage. Examples here would be smashing your finger with a hammer, a paper cut, or a big scrape on your knee from a fall. Neuropathic pain. This type of pain results from a lesion in the nervous system. An example would be a herniated disc in your neck. Pain from Central Sensitization. This type of pain is present when various areas of the brain “light up” when there is a PERCEPTION of danger. Pain serves as a protective mechanism, thus when our brain is concerned about the potential for damage, pain is produced. Pain DOES NOT always equal an injury or tissue damage. Central Pain is what happens when the pain has been present for many months or years (chronic). Often people that have had chronic back pain have had tests and imaging, which has ruled out concerns of something that would require surgery, or things that aren’t going away without other interventions (an example would be a cancerous lesion on the spinal cord or in the spine). So most people are left wondering “then why is my back hurting all the time?” Your pain is legitimate and very real, it’s just harder to address and understand the reasons why it’s there. Here is the first and most important word to understand when it comes to Central Pain – NEUROPLASTICITY. Neuroplasticity is a big word that describes the brain’s ability to modify, adapt or change over time. It’s one of the most amazing and important things we know about the brain, especially as it pertains to chronic pain. So, if we’re going to make positive changes in the brain (where all pain is generated), we first need to understand what influences the brain’s perceptions. Here is a short list, and there are many other things not listed that also influence it. Physical Health Sleep Stress Reactivity Attitudes and Beliefs Social Support Family Relationships Nutrition

In essence, what’s required to overcome chronic back pain is understanding many of the components that will have a positive influence on the brain’s perception of pain. Then we can begin addressing those items in order of importance and influence. If you have tight low back muscles that are contributing to pain and you’ve been stretching 2 times daily, religiously, that’s great! But, if you’re sleeping 2 hours a night, eat nothing but donuts and beer every meal, hate your work and are stressed out beyond belief, and don’t have high quality relationships that are supportive of you – AND you’re not addressing these issues – you will very likely continue to have chronic pain. Can your chronic back pain be cured? YES! But not without help, and not without a comprehensive approach that helps your brain see things differently and undergo positive changes. Get the help you need and deserve, and conquer your chronic back pain!

WPT Principles 2 | Get to the Root Cause

At WPT, we like to get to the root cause of problems.

Staying superficial in diagnosis leads to the application of band-aids, and band-aids don’t heal big wounds. Big wounds are often the source of many issues and these issues need to be addressed with big sutures so they can heal from the inside out.

This is why diagnosis matters. Whether we’re talking about diagnosing the cause of someone’s low back pain, or the reason WPT might be struggling in a particular department.

I’ll give you an example:

WPT does not do a great job at training and onboarding new hires.

WHY? Because Cliff hasn’t done a great job in this area.

WHY? Because Cliff is distracted by new problems he’s trying to solve.

WHY? Because he’s bad at follow up on procedures he’s already put in place, OR he hasn’t put any procedures in place at all.

WHY? Because he’s got a short attention span and a little baby squirrel brain in this category.

WHY? Because he’s good at envisioning the long term trajectory of the company, but he’s not a good day to day manager.

Although it can be hard for us as humans to admit these issues, sweeping them under the rug or applying a band-aid solution is only going to let the problem fester and addressing them head on is the best way to start and fix these issues.

The same goes for understanding someone’s physical ailment or issue. You might think your problem is in your elbow or hand if that’s where the pain is, but unless someone does a really comprehensive examination into things, you may miss the fact that that pain in your arm is actually coming from a pinch on a nerve in your upper back, and that’s where the treatment should be focused.

Diagnosis is super important, so we spend a lot of time trying to figure out what’s at the root of things and fix them for good!