- Step 1: Rest
The first step in the treatment of a lumbar muscle strain is to rest the back. This will allow the inflammation to subside and control the symptoms of muscle spasm. Bed rest should begin soon after injury, but should not continue beyond about 48 hours. While it is important to rest the injured muscles, it is just as important to not allow the muscle to become weak and stiff. Once the acute inflammation has subsided, some simple stretches an exercises should begin (see below).
- Step 2: Medications
Two groups of medications are especially helpful in treating the acute symptoms of a lumbar back strain. The first of these are anti-inflammatory medications. These medications help control the inflammation caused by the injury, and also help to reduce pain. There are many anti-inflammatory options, talk to your doctor about what medication is appropriate for you.
The second group of medications commonly prescribed for the treatment of lumbar strains are muscle relaxing medications. Again, there are several options that you may discuss with your doctor. These medications are often sedating, so they need to be used with care. For patients who have back spasm symptoms, these muscle relaxing mediations can be a very useful aspect of treatment.
- Step 3: Physical Therapy/Exercises
Proper conditioning is important to both avoid this type of problem and recover from this injury. By stretching and strengthening the back muscles, you will help control the inflammation and better condition the lumbar back muscles. The exercises should not be painful. Without some simple exercises, the low back muscles can become "deconditioned," or weak. When the low back muscles are deconditioned, it is very difficult to fully recover from low back injuries.
It is also important to understand that even if you are "in good shape," you may have weak low back muscles. When you have a low back muscle injury, you should perform specific exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles of the low back, hips and abdomen. These exercises are relatively simple, do not require special equipment, and can be performed at home.
- Step 4: Further Evaluation
If your symptoms continue to persist despite treatment, it is appropriate to return to your doctor for further evaluation. Other causes of back pain should be considered, and perhaps x-rays or other studies (MRI, CT scan, bone scan, laboratory studies) may be needed to make an accurate diagnosis.