Cold & Heat Therapy Treatments for a Pulled Back Muscle

11th May 2018

Posted by Sara Zuboff on

Cold & Heat Therapy Treatments for a Pulled Back Muscle

Back injuries are one of the most common ailments treated in physical therapy and can be caused by various situations. The cost of treatment for patients with low back pain in the United States is $240 billion annually. Not only can a back injury, like a pulled muscle, be extremely uncomfortable for our patients, but it can also lead to a loss of work, inability to exercise, reduced ability to perform daily tasks and difficulty sleeping.

Some of the most common symptoms of a pulled back muscle include:

  • Acute pain
  • Radiating pain down the leg
  • Unexpected muscle spasms
  • Inability to move in full range of motion (i.e. Touching toes, twisting to the side, etc.)

Fortunately, if a patient recognizes the early signs of a pulled back muscle, they can seek physical therapy treatment to prevent the injury from worsening. Unfortunately, for patients who do not seek treatment, they are setting themselves up for recurrent injuries and increased recovery times. Not only will treating a pulled back muscle immediately help reduce the amount of recovery time needed, but it will also help lessen burgeoning medical costs, more invasive medical procedures and lost work time.

Common Symptoms of a Pulled Back Muscle

A pulled muscle is another way to say the muscle has been strained. When a strain occurs in a muscle in the back, the fibers in one or more of the overlapping muscles that support the spine are either overused or overstretched. It may be tempting for our patients with back strain to suffer through it, but it’s important patients understand that if left untreated, a pulled muscle can lead to additional damage like painful tearing which requires a longer recovery.

Some of the most common symptoms for patients to be aware and seek treatment for include:

  • Swelling in the low back
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tenderness with palpation
  • Cramping in the muscles of the low back
  • Pain that can be described as intense, sharp or dull
  • Pain with certain movements (tying shoes, sitting down, etc.)
  • Tightness or overall stiffness in the muscles
  • Pain relief when sitting and/or lying down

One of the most common indicators of a pulled back muscle is if a patient complains of pain and/or stiffness upon waking, but as the body becomes warm with movement and activity, symptoms begin to lessen to a dull ache and mild stiffness.

What is also typical is the reduced ability to perform certain tasks: whether as part of day-to-day actions like standing up or in performing job tasks as in picking up boxes. These symptoms in combination should signal to the patient they are suffering from back strain. It’s important they don’t ignore these aches and pains, so they do not become worse and lead to increased pain, loss of functional ability and more invasive treatment options or recovery.

The good news for patients is, when diagnosed and treated early, a pulled back muscle can be improved significantly with a short amount of treatment time.

Effectively Treating Back Strain

In most cases, back strain or pulled back muscles can be treated efficiently with physical therapy. One of the benefits to working with a physical therapist, is it offers patients an alternative to oral pain medication and gives them access to information and training to help reduce the risk of recurrent pain and strain.

The Best Physical Therapy Modalities to Treat a Pulled Back Muscle

Cold Therapy

Cold therapy is a popular modality used in both first aid and in physical therapy, because it can help efficiently reduce local swelling and it also decreases triggered pain without the use of medication. Ice packs are an easy way to apply cold therapy. When used in the early phase of rehabilitation, cold therapy helps limit inflammation both as a result of the injury and that which may be triggered with therapeutic exercise during a session.

In addition to ice packs, practitioners can use cold compression therapy to help treat back strain. Cold compression therapy is a more effective form of cold therapy because the device uses an active temperature exchange unit that maintains an even, cool temperature for the duration of the treatment. What’s more, combined with pneumatic compression, practitioners can maximize treatment time by addressing any localized edema in the same treatment. Additionally, Game Ready offers a full range of ergonomic wraps with a mid-body back wrap perfect for treating low back strain in a wide range of patient populations.

Heat Therapy

Once acute inflammation has been reduced, practitioners can switch to heat therapy, which remains one of the most effective modalities to help relieve pain, reduce muscle spasms and improve local circulation to injured areas. The use of heat therapy is beneficial after the initial inflammatory response has subsided in order to avoid increased swelling. Practitioners have a few great modalities to choose from to apply heat therapy. Hot packs are one of the most popular ways to apply moist heat. Not only will moist heat help reduce pain, it will help increase range of motion, helping prepare patients for functional movement training.

While moist heat is used often when treating back strain, dry heat also offers practitioners many benefits. A study published in The Pain Clinic found that pulsed shortwave diathermy was beneficial in reduce low back pain. For example, a shortwave Diathermy machine is a great choice because it offers many therapeutic benefits, including:

  • Reduced pain
  • Decreased muscle spasms
  • Improved stiffness
  • Increased range of motion
  • Stimulated blood flow and circulation

In addition to the therapeutic benefits, shortwave diathermy offers a major benefit to practitioners, namely the ability to treat patients with heat therapy unattended. The Intelect Shortwave Diathermy device was specifically designed for safe, unattended use. This frees up the practitioner to finish up patient notes or set up the next intended modality without wasting precious treatment time.

Contact Us Today

We can help your practice find the latest and most innovative modalities to effectively treat your patients with a pulled back muscle. Contact us today and we’ll direct you to the right therapeutic device or equipment to effectively treat back strain. Call us today at 1-801-770-3328.