Lower Back Muscles

Lower Back Muscles

Muscles are a specialized soft tissue, comprised of cells whose unique function is to contract or stretch. Muscles attach to various bones and allow for human motion. The lower back muscles are made up of several layers. They hold the body erect (upright), maintain posture and allow for motions of the trunk, including bending, and twisting. The different spinal muscles are play specialized roles:

  1. Extensors:  Made up of the erector spinae and gluteal muscles. They are attached to the spinal vertebrae and pelvis. Their function to allow us to stand, and to lift.
  2. Flexors:  These attach to the front of the spinal vertebrae. Their role is to bend or flex forward. In combination with the abdominal muscles they work to allow for lifting, and maintaining the normal arch of the lower back.
  3. Obliques: Located along the side of the spine, they function to allow rotation motion and maintain proper posture.

How do you keep them strong? In a word, exercise:  including stretching, yoga, Tai-chi, specific exercises targeting the core muscles, spinal stabilization exercises, and weight lifting.  Also having good a healthy dietary program helps.

How Can You Injure or Strain Them?

Muscle strain or injury can occur from a specific or repetitive activity which overloads the muscle tissues.  As a result of injury, either a specific event or over a period of time, the muscle fibers are overstretched, or overused and can tear, become inflamed, or both. Muscle pain is usually the sign of an inflammatory physiologic response. Low back strain may present as a dull, achy discomfort or tightness. More serious events present as intensified pain during movement, such as  getting out of bed or up from a seated position or during any normal movements. Radiating or tingling pain going into the legs may be due to disc disorder or nerve irritation rather than from the muscles.

What Are Common Treatments To Help Ease Soreness and Pain?

For acute muscle pain apply ice for 10-15 minutes at the injured site. As the pain subsides, usually in 2-3 days, alternate ice, followed by moist heat.  Begin light stretching exercises. Practice warm up and cool down before and after  running or other sports type exercise. As the sharp pain subsides consider conservative therapy including massage, physical therapy and chiropractic care. These  approaches also help in the acute stages. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen help reduce pain and inflammation, but have potentially serious side effects.  Taking it easy for a couple days is a good idea, but it is important to return to activities as soon as possible.  If you can’t, it’s time to get a professional opinion and advice.

What Are The Professional Treatment Options?

Massage, chiropractic, physical therapy and  acupuncture are good options that have been shown to be safe, with evidence of effectiveness.  In more serious injuries, pain medication and or surgery may become options, although recent treatment guidelines recommend trying the conservative options before using pain medication, such as opioids..

What Should I Expect?

Most injuries are short lived and respond to self-care and conservative care and management. However, some more serious traumatic muscle injuries, coupled with disc or nerve disorder, or more significant muscle tears may become chronic and require surgical intervention.

Moses Jacob, DC
Author: Moses Jacob, DC