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Stiffness, tenderness and pain.  Worse with movement, especially after resting. After warming up the pain and stiffness usually lessens, but pain will return once the muscle tires again. This will very depending on the level of damage the muscle or associated tendon has sustained and the amount of work you then ask it to do.

Muscle strains can be very painful although often the main symptom is stiffness.  Sometimes there is not much pain until the muscle is pressed when it will feel tender.  If there is an acute strain, pain will be felt immediately but often in less severe strains the pain is not felt until the following morning after injury. 


Acute muscle strain:Follow R.I.C.E protocol. Stop the activity, rest in a comfortable position, preferably lying down and apply ice or a cold pack for 10 minutes every hour for 6 hours to reduce internal bruising to the muscle. The muscle may tend to spasm for the first two or three days after injury.  Warm compresses can help to ease the spasms. Avoid over-working the muscles for several days but do try to continue with as near to normal activities particularly walking to keep the muscle actively healing.

Massage will help to clear the inflammation form the muscle and ease the tenderness but care must be taken not to further bruise the muscle.

Mild to moderate muscle strain:This is usually noticed the next day when there may be significant pain and stiffness on getting up in the morning. A warm shower or bath, especially with Epsom salts will help to ease the stiffness.

Healing Time

Significant muscle strains take 6 to eight weeks to heal, but most will be significantly better within a few days. 

However, in the case of poor posture or neglecting to avoid the activity or improve technique, muscle strains may become chronic.  Chiropractic treatment and rehabilitation can help to re-order and re-educate the muscles.

In the long term, good posture is maintained by increasing the muscular stability of the spine. The Chiropractor will identify muscles that have become over-stretched or shortened, weak or tense and can then teach a range of exercises and techniques that will help to stabilise the back, including improving abdominal, pelvic floor and back strength.

About Back Muscle Strains

This is the most common cause of back pain. It may involve the paravertebral muscles including the erector spinae and multifidus, the quadratus lumborum (side muscle) and/or the latissimus dorsi (big shoulder to back power) muscles.

The symptoms will vary slightly depending on whether there is more damage to the muscle belly or the tendon.  Injured tendons tend to be very tender(!) at their points of attachment to the bones - commonly the spinous processes, sacrum and rib attachments (lat dorsi).

The back feels stiff and sore, particularly after rest.  Muscle strain is usually caused by overuse or overloading a muscle.  When a muscle is stressed beyond its limits, injury occurs.  This can be thought of as the muscle injury threshold. This will very depending on the fitness of the muscle, your overall body health and the level of damage the muscle or associated tendon has sustained and the amount of work you then ask it to do.

A strained muscle has been overstretched or torn and as the body attempts repair, it becomes painful and inflammed.  It stiffens to avoid further injury and may go into spasm.

Weak muscles become strained more easily than strong muscles but any muscle can be overloaded if it is used in the wrong position. If a muscle is used in a stretched position or shortened position it is weaker and therefore more prone to injury.  Try this exercise:  Make a fist with your wrist straight.  Now bend your wrist forwards to shorten the muscles or backwards to lengthen the muscles.  Notice how your fist weakens.  This is the same with any muscle including your back muscles.  You can reduce your risk of injury by following good lifting practice and keeping good posture.

Causes of Strain

Falling or twisting suddenly can also sometimes cause strained back muscles.

Back muscles can also be irritated by spinal facet joint inflammation, usually as part of a Back Instability Syndrome.

Muscle strains may also be caused by overuse: either if they are held contracted in one position for too long or if they are used repeatedly (repetitive strain injuries or RSI). 

Poor posture is a common cause of back muscle strains as often the incorrect muscles are being used to hold the body in a poor position for long periods of time, most commonly when sitting.  This leads to some muscles being overstretched

andweakened (commonly the erector spinae or back muscles) and others being shortened and contracted (commonly the psoas muscles or hip flexor muscles) which causes an continuing cycle of poor posture and misuse of muscle groups and is also another cause of the Back Instability Syndrome.