Muscle Strain
What is Muscle Strain?
The majority of episodes of acute back and neck pain are caused by a muscle or ligament strain. A strain is any injury to the muscle or ligament that causes pain and inflammation. Muscle strains usually occur during events such as lifting a heavy object, car accidents, a sudden twisting or bending movement, or a fall. Muscle strains can also occur with your normal daily activities if your spinal muscles have gotten out of shape. Poor posture can make your muscles more likely to become strained. Even though this doesn't sound like a serious injury, the back or neck pain can be very severe and last for several hours, several days or even a couple of weeks. When the muscles in the back are strained or torn, the area around the muscles can become inflamed. With inflammation the muscles in the back and neck can spasm and cause severe pain and difficulty moving.

Healing from acute muscle strain
Fortunately, muscle strains usually heal with time (a couple of days or weeks) because the muscles in the back and neck have a good blood supply to bring the necessary nutrients and proteins for healing to take place. However, an episode of low back pain that lasts for more than two weeks can lead to muscle weakness (since using the muscles hurts, the tendency is to avoid using them). This process leads to atrophy (muscle wasting or shrinking). The muscle wasting leads to further weakening, which causes more pain because the weak muscles have to work harder to hold up the spine.

Exercise and skeletal muscle relaxants help heal and prevent muscle strain
As a general rule, people who are active and well-conditioned are much less likely to suffer from back and neck pain due to muscle strain. While the spine muscles are used in everyday life, they do not get adequate exercise from daily activities and tend to weaken with age unless they are specifically exercised. Regular exercise stretches and strengthens the muscles so they are less likely to strain, tear or spasm. A complete exercise program for the spine should consist of the following:

Increases flexibility and range-of motion to prevent stiffness and avoid injury

Keeps the spine muscles strong so they are more efficient and less prone to injury

Aerobic Conditioning
Important for overall health and stamina