Pulled a muscle in your back? What does this mean and what to do about it?

pulled muscle physiotherapist ryan michell

How do I know if I have a pulled muscle?

It is relatively easy to tell if you have pulled a muscle. A pulled muscle will be sore in the middle or ‘the belly’ of the muscle, usually in a defined ‘pin point’ area.

What is a pulled muscle?
A pulled muscle is called a muscle strain, this means that there are fibres of the muscle that have been injured. Most muscle strain injuries are very small, around a few millimetres wide, and in more serious cases can be larger.

You are more likely to pull a muscle when the muscle has been fatigued previously, when the muscle is not warmed up properly before movement, and if the muscle cannot handle the stress of the movement.

How do you get a pulled muscle?

Normally it will happen in a movement using the muscle that is sudden or outside your usual movements. It can hurt instantly after the pulling movement, or take a little while to feel the pain after you have cooled down from a bout of activity.

How does a pulled muscle heal?

A pulled muscle can take between 4 weeks to 3 months to heal, depending on the size of the muscle strain. This does not necessarily mean you will experience pain throughout the healing process. The good news is that this process can be accelerated with specific loading through exercises to reduce pain and promote strong scar tissue formation that regains muscle strength.

How to reduce pain from a pulled muscle, and regain previous strength after a pulled muscle?

To heal and return to your previous strength the fastest, specific loading by exercises should be completed as soon as possible. Depending on your ability to use the muscle and how much pain you are experiencing, different levels of loading exercises should be applied. Having a therapist you trust to assess your injury and provide you with a specific plan is important to offer you the specific advice you will need for your specific injury. In some cases, beginning exercises early can cut the recovery and return to activity/ sport time in half.

How to stop a muscle from being pulled?

Risk factor for a muscle strain injuries include sudden movements outside your normal activities, lack of strength or doing too much activity too soon.  If you’re going to start playing a sport or want to achieve an activity goal e.g. Running a marathon, then having a graduated training/ exercise plan to get there will not only prevent injury, it will help you achieve your goal.

There is no 100 % guaranteed way of stopping a muscle from being pulled, but you can focus your energy on reducing your risk of injury. Preventative training, or ‘prehab’, is common place in many professional sporting leagues as it can prevent the occurrence of a pulling a hamstring by up to 50%. This has been proven with high level evidence for hamstrings strains and this information can be generalised for other muscles. 

Written by:
Ryan Michell,
Proactive Health + Movement


Back Pain
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