Back Sprain and Strain

The term ‘sprain’ is different from ‘strain’. When a person gets a sprain from a motor vehicle accident, one or more of its ligaments that connect two or more muscles are torn, damaged or overstretched. On the other hand, a strain is because of a torn or overly stretched muscle or tendon. Aside from neck strain or whiplash, back sprain and strain can both occur in minor traffic injuries.3


A sprain happens when a ligament is affected due to impact and a strain occurs when a muscle or tendon is injured. The most common sprains associated with road injuries are neck strain or whiplash, back strain, cervical strain and sprains to other parts of the body, when wearing braces during recovery, or being subjected to a St. Louis car crash.

Back strain and sprain happen at the moment of impact and are due to the overstretching of muscles or ligament in the back and spine. Damage to intervertabral discs and spinal tissue can also happen in severe cases. 1


Sprain and strain share the same symptoms such as pain, swelling, stiffness or poor flexibility on the affected area. Skin discoloration may also be present.

Differentiation of sprain and strain is generally not needed in minor cases, unless pain has been present for more than two weeks and the inflammation has not improved as estimated. In case of severe cases, it is important to exclude underlying causes such as a fracture or undetected disc herniation or injury. 2 According to WHO, only 2.4% of all reported traffic-related injuries are due to sprain or strain.4


Basic first-aid procedures can be done in cases of sprain or strain. Apply an ice bag or an ice wrapped in cloth directly on the affected area of the skin for 10-15 minutes per hour on the first day. For the next 3 consecutive days, it can be applied every 3 to 4 hours. This will reduce inflammation and swelling. After 3 days, alternating cold or heat compress may be helpful in the healing process.

Reduce movement on the affected area when pain is still present. Bed rest is recommended for the first 3 days in cases of severe back strain and sprain.  Prolonged bed rest can weaken the strength of the affected muscles and/or ligaments.2

Prescribed pain relievers and muscle relaxants can help in recovery. Aspirin should not be given to children.

Physical therapy and medical assistance is required in severe cases. Their guidance will help you regain the normal range of motion and strength of the affected area. Stretching exercises, crunches, gentle massage, and ultrasound may be included in the therapy. More than 90% of persons with back sprain and strain usually recover within a month.1


When driving, traffic regulations must be conformed to at all times. 4 Always wear a seatbelt when riding in a car and maintain a proper posture when sitting. Performing proper stretching exercises and crunches can prevent further back sprain or strain. Also, maintaining a stress-free lifestyle may reduce muscle tension. Smoking is also not advised as it may cause atherosclerosis or hardening of arteries that supply blood to the muscles and therefore promote potential risk for a more severe back pain. Normal weight should also be maintained in view of the fact that overweight individuals are also at more risk for lower back injuries.2

If you have sustained a back sprain or strain as the result of a Missouri truck accident, St. Louis car accident, or other automobile accident, contact St. Louis injury lawyer Chris Dixon to discuss reimbursement for you injury.


1 American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Lower Back Sprain and Strain. 5550 Meadowbrook Drive – Rolling Meadows, IL. Last accessed November 2011. Conditions%20and%20Treatments/Low%20Back%20Strain%20and%20Sprain.aspx

2 MedLine Plus. Sprains and Strains. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. U.S. National Library of Medicine 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD. Last accessed November 2011.

3 National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease (NIAMS). Sprains and Strains. Information Clearinghouse. National Institutes of Health. 1 AMS Circle Bethesda,  MD. Last accessed November 2011. Strains/sprains_and_strains_ff.asp

4 World Health Organization. Road traffic injuries publications and resources. Geneva. 2004. Last accessed November 2011.

Christopher Dixon

Personal Injury Attorney at The Dixon Injury Firm
Christopher R. Dixon is the managing attorney and founder of The Dixon Injury Firm. The Dixon Injury Firm has helped injury victims recover over $35,000,000 through verdicts, settlements and judgments. Chris is recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association, and among their Top 40 Under 40 Trial Attorneys. Recognized as a Lifetime Member of Million Dollar Advocates Forum, Chris aggressively fights for those injured through the careless, negligent and intentional conduct of others. Call today for a FREE consultation by calling 314-409-7060 or toll-free 855-402-7274.

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