Pulled muscle? Probability says... Probably not.
Did you really "pull a muscle" in your low back?
A pulled muscle is a common diagnosis we hear in the clinic as patients offer the diagnosis they've previously been given to account for their low back pain symptoms.
When we review the research literature regarding the primary spinal structures that most often cause low back pain, muscles actually rank quite low on the list. Think about it, muscles hurt when you move in directions that use those muscles. Anyone with a torn rotator cuff knows this as soon as they go to move their shoulder. How can it be then that patients often report their back pain is better when they walk? Walking is a complex movement that uses all the muscles of the back; if walking makes it better, it's pretty unlikely a muscle injury is at the root of their issue.
So what is most likely causing a patient's lower back pain? For patients under the age of 55, the most common source of lower back pain is lumbar discs. Lumbar discs when problematic are commonly referred to as "bulging discs." Lower back pain is attributable to lumbar disc pain in approximately 40% of lower back pain cases. The hallmark clinical features of a lumbar disc injury are somewhat different than other types of lower back pain, and so is how they should be treated.
If you have been told you "pulled a muscle" in your low back and experience improvement in your pain when you walk, it might be time for a second opinion, particularly if you aren't improving with the treatment you are receiving. A correct diagnosis always leads to the soundest treatment.
As chiropractors at the Radix Pain & Rehabilitation Centre, we pride ourselves on our spinal diagnostic skills. We are happy to review your lower back pain and help determine whether there's a little bit more than a pulled muscle going on!