You've pulled your back, now what?

You’ve Pulled Your Back, Now What?

by Brandon Bowers, PT, DPT, Astym Cert.1 Comment

Something didn’t feel quite right. You were shoveling snow or helping a friend move a heavy couch, and there it went. Your lower back tightens up or seizes up on you. It was hard to move normally, and your back just felt “off.” You “pulled” your back; now what? Let’s first take a brief look at the anatomy of the lower back, then a couple of lower back injuries, followed by what to do next.

The lumbar region of the spine is the lower back and is made up of five vertebrae (spine bones). In between the spine bones are intervertebral discs. The discs are fluid-filled structures that allow for a normal range of motion of the spine and serve as shock absorbers as we live our lives. A collection of ligaments connects from one vertebrae to the next and provide stability to the back. Surrounding the spine are many muscles that help you move throughout the day.

When you “pull” your back, it is often related to a strained (pulled) muscle, muscle spasm, or disc herniation. All three are treatable injuries and can be addressed successfully with physical therapy. The faster you seek medical care, the quicker you will have an opportunity to start feeling better. Muscle strains involve the overstretch of the affected muscle. Muscle spasms involve the “over-tightening” of muscle, and disc herniations involve the shifting of one of the discs in the lower back. For most, the most intimidating of these diagnoses is the dreaded herniated disc or bulging disc. The terms herniated and bulging mean the same thing. The reality of herniated or bulging discs is they are common. Believe it or not, some people don’t even know they have a herniated disc because they don’t have any pain.1 On top of that, herniated discs can be successfully treated with physical therapy — your diagnosis doesn’t sound as intimidating as it was before, does it?2

Give your local Athletico clinic a call and request a free assessment. During your free assessment, you will work with one of our talented rehab professionals to determine what is going on with your back and what to do about it. If physical therapy is recommended, your therapist will work with you to reduce your pain, improve your strength, range of motion and function by developing a custom treatment plan to help you reach your goals.

Direct access is available in some form in all 50 states, allowing access to therapy services without seeing a physician prior. Direct access varies by state, and some insurance providers still require you to see a physician prior; it is important to verify state and insurance requirements ahead of time.

Request a Free Assessment

*Per federal guidelines, beneficiaries of plans such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, VHA and other federally funded plans are not eligible for free assessments.

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. Dydyk AM, Ngnitewe Massa R, Mesfin FB. Disc Herniation. 2022 Jan 18. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan–. PMID: 28722852.
2. Demirel A, Yorubulut M, Ergun N. Regression of lumbar disc herniation by physiotherapy. Does non-surgical spinal decompression therapy make a difference? Double-blind randomized controlled trial. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2017 Sep 22;30(5):1015-1022. doi: 10.3233/BMR-169581. PMID: 28505956.

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