5 Ways to Quickly Heal Pulled Back Muscles

pulled back muscle

If you haven’t already, you probably will at some point experience a pulled back muscle.

It could happen during a game of golf, while cleaning the garage, or even on the dance floor.

A pulled back muscle occurs when the muscle is stretched too far, causing small tears within the muscle.

It may not sound like a serious injury, but the low back pain can be surprisingly severe.

Fortunately, pulled back muscles usually heal within days or weeks. One of the most common symptoms of a pulled back muscle is lower left side back pain.

While that pulled back muscle may seem to come on suddenly, chances are it was a long time coming.

“You could be ignoring some very important warning signs. Which means if you’re not in pain now, you might want to sit up and pay attention.”

Do you sit in a chair all day? Do you exercise incorrectly? Are you under tremendous stress? Are you dehydrated? Are you substantially overweight?

Did you honestly answer yes to one or more of those questions?

If so, then you’re at greater risk of muscle imbalances, trigger point pain, and at higher risk for injuries like a pulled back muscle.

But when you do experience pulled back muscles what do you do?

You probably reach for a bottle of painkillers and go lie down. But what should you really do?

Here are the five most important steps you can take now to help your body recover quickly from and treat a pulled back muscle:

1. Apply cold to the pulled back muscle

You should apply ice to your injury as soon as possible. The sooner you apply the ice the more it will help.

Use a cold pack, a zip lock bag of crushed ice, or even a bag of frozen vegetables in a pinch.

Apply the cold pack in a circular massaging motion to prevent the ice from resting in one place too long.

You can also place a thin towel between the compress and your skin to help prevent frostbite.

Ice can be applied up to 20 minutes at a time. Repeat over the course of the first few days, or after flare-ups.

The cold will cause nearby blood vessels to constrict and also help minimize swelling and painful inflammation.

The cold will stimulates your body to rush more oxygen-rich blood full of antibodies and vital nutrients to repair the injury and carry away waste products as it attempts to warm the area.

2. Apply heat to the pulled back muscle

Try applying heat directly after the ice. This is a powerful way to “double-shock” your back muscles out of the pain-spasm cycle.

Apply 20 minutes of ice followed by 20 minutes of heat and repeat up to three times.

This should provide some relief from even severe lower back pain.

There are many ways to apply heat, including a long hot shower, ultrasound, heating pad, and pain cream.

If you want the gold standard in heat for pain relief, try a far infrared heating pad, which produces heat that penetrates much deeper than the superficial heating a standard heating pad offers.

As heat is applied, your back muscles relax and circulation increases again as your body sends fresh blood supply to cool the area back to normal. Repeat heat treatments as necessary.

Learn more about the benefits of heat therapy.

3. Use natural anti-inflammatories

boswellia resin

Think twice before you reach for that bottle of painkillers. It might kill more than just your pain.

The truth is inflammation is a normal part of the healing process. The problem with inflammation is our bodies lose the ability to turn off the inflammatory response as we get older.

Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen can help with both pain and inflammation, but they also carry significant cardiac and digestive health risks.

A better approach is to replace what your body stops producing enough of as you age… specifically, systemic proteolytic enzymes.

These are the same enzymes your body uses to naturally quell inflammation once healing is complete and clean up excess scar tissue. By giving your body what it needs to heal instead of masking the symptoms, you both reduce painful inflammation and speed up actual recovery time.

4. Rest – but not too much

Don’t rest too long. A little couch time won’t hurt, but light activity speeds recovery, so avoid lying down for long periods of time.

Growing evidence shows there is little or no benefit to bed rest over staying active.

So use this rule of thumb: listen to your body.

Ultimately, your level of pain will determine your level of activity.

If a certain activity led to a pulled muscle don’t repeat it for at least a week.

For example, if your back pain started after lifting something heavy, avoid lifting heavy objects for at least a week while your back muscle heals.

Also, avoid sitting for too long. Long periods of sitting can tighten your muscles and cause lower back strain and back muscle pain.

When you sit and stand, use good posture, avoiding slumping in your head and shoulders.

5. Stretching and strengthening exercises

You’ll want to be very careful your first couple of days, but some light stretching can often reduce lower back pain from a pulled muscle by relieving tension. Include
both strengthening and stretching exercises.

Try this easy stretch while lying in bed. Gently raise your knees from the bed to your chest, then put a slight pressure on your knees for a light stretch in your lower back.

This stretch can help relieve muscle spasms in your back faster than waiting on them to resolve on their own. The stretch should not add to your pain, so again, remember to listen to your body.

How to prevent a pulled back muscle

Often you can avoid back pain by taking some simple protective steps.

Watch what you eat: 

Stay away from inflammatory foods, such as baked goods, processed foods, fruit juice, soda, sweetened cereals, and fast food. They make your body more sensitive to pain.

Keep fresh fruits and vegetables a main part of your diet.

Also eat foods rich in back pain-relieving Omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, sardines, and walnuts.

You need protein in your diet to help repair damaged tissue and to build and strengthen the muscle.

And don’t forget to drink plenty of water to hydrate tissues and organs and allow your body to regulate its temperature throughout the day.

Our 7-Day Meal Plan for Ultimate Pain Relief contains 28 delicious anti-inflammatory recipes that will reduce your chronic pain.

Download it for free right here.

Relieve stress:

Many people hold emotional stress in their muscles.

Frequent stress, anxiety, and tension can lead to tight muscles and muscle strains.

You may be able to prevent new or recurring back pain with simple techniques such as massage and meditation.

Studies show that massage is an effective way to reduce stress and relax tightened muscles.

And if you haven’t tried meditation, maybe you should.

As little as 10 minutes being still, breathing deep, and centering your thoughts can quiet both mind and body after a stressful day.

In fact, here’s how you can try stress-relieving meditation free.

Support Your Back:

What kind of support does your desk chair, car seat, or couch offer? Probably not enough.

Try using a back support cushion, or a back orthotic which cradles your pelvis and floats your spinal system to reduce all-day pressure buildup and automatically correct slouched sitting positions and promote good posture.

By improving your sitting posture you can relieve excess strain on back muscles that can make you prone to a pulled back muscle

Get effective strategies for treating and preventing back pain in The 7-Day Back Pain Cure. 

Download it for free right here.

Do you find this articles helpful? Sign-up for more back pain relief tips and exclusive offers using the form below. 

Filed Under: Back Pain
Written By: Updated:

Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT Pain Relief Expert, Post Rehab Specialist

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

Sign Up Now For LESS PAIN, MORE LIFE Our FREE E-Newsletter…

Kiss your pain goodbye when you sign up to receive our free, LIVE PAIN FREE email newsletter, which is always full of the latest and most powerful, pain relieving information from the world’s leading pain relief experts.

Sign Me Up!

We are 100% Anti-Spam Compliant

18 thoughts on “5 Ways to Quickly Heal Pulled Back Muscles”

  1. Peggy says:

    I pulled a muscle in my lower back on the right side two weeks ago and still have a lot of pain. I have used ice and heat, rub on relief, stretching and inversion table. Although it gets better as the day goes on, sleeping is causing the worse problem. Even though I sleep with a pillow under my legs every time I turn it really hurts and by morning I can barely move again and seems to be getting worse as time goes on and now hurts in my hip when I walk. Any other suggestions?

    1. MORRIS says:

      I pulled both sides of my back muscles. I had protruding disks. I started lose the back pain sytem and body straightening exercise and it helped tremendously. However i have to work bent over most of the day and the pulled muscle would always come back. I started gettin rid of inflammatory foods and my back hasn’t tightened up in a while.

  2. Bob says:

    “Stay away from inflammatory foods, such as baked goods, processed foods, fruit juice, soda, sweetened cereals, and fast food. They make your body more sensitive to pain.”

    I would like to see a scientific reference provided for this claim.

  3. Steve says:


    As part of the global benefit of a blog it, allows individuals to ask some really good questions and then it allow us to give the best response we can, That said, here is the thing, we believe that book are a far better resource for the average individual as they are written in a way that people can understand the content and yes they give more then enough resources, so to answer you question, I suggest this web site and this book http://inflammationfactor.com/

    Further more this page on the site even ranks each food by how good or bad they are from an inflammation perspective… http://inflammationfactor.com/look-up-if-ratings/


  4. Martins daniel babatunde says:

    My pain is from the waistline through the tigh to my legs. I always pull muscles and my knees now hurt, when I bend down it hurt and painful to get up, I don’t know what to do.

  5. Admin says:

    Hi Martins daniel babatunde,

    A good step for you to take is to get a copy of our free back pain book. It will help you understand more about the back and possible causes of pain. It also details treatment options and pain relief for you to consider.


    Thank you
    (The Healthy Back Institute)

    1. Matt says:

      Hi Iv pulled a muscle just under my left shoulder blade from lifting heavy goods in work it hurts when I turn my head side to side when I put my chin to my chest it hurts wot do I do

  6. Joyce says:

    Looking for just one news article per page so I can read and either file under one topic
    for later referral to doctor or friend or to delete if not of interest to me or friends.

    Mainly as I have to cut down of which emails I receive, so one topics will have first choice
    to keep.

  7. Steve says:

    Joyce, I understand you point of view, and this is what I have done personally, I have set rules in my inbox to direct those emails that come to me, and they all go in different folders, I have folder for Health and Money and Sports and then I have also saved my most trusted sites and if I need any info I simply search those sites for the Info Im looking for…

    And that has help me keep my Inbox clean and still get all the good info I need


  8. Angela Xu says:

    Hi there, I had a boudge disc injury over a year now! I try to do some exercises to help me reduce body weight since I have bee off work for awhile! But, every time when I get on the treadmill or other gym exercises, after start about 10 mins my back pack comes back! I do get poor sleep! Time to time I also get annoying muscle strain from both sides around my waist area, the worse time is this happens every morning when I wake up (like right now)! Then, I need to quickly get up because the aching, and sit down for awhile to ease the pain! I know I’ve been put on weight, and I am not young anymore… but the pain keep stopping my excise limitation! Because the tiredness, it really affect my daily life! Recently, I had a car accident, it made me feel it really threatens and scares me! What shall I do now?

  9. Admin says:

    Hi Angela,

    Thank you for posting with your symptoms and questions. We believe that education is the number one step for anyone and key for dealing with backpain issues, so suggest as a good first step to help you, that you get a copy of our free back pain book -The 7 Day Back Pain Cure and read it through.

    It has information to understand back pain better and pain relief methods for you to consider. It also covers different treatment options. The book has a lot of other useful health related information you will find helpful as well when dealing with pain. Please read more about the 7 Day Back Pain Cure book and how it can help you via the link below


    Thank you
    Admin (The Healthy Back Institute)

    1. Shyrlene Weiner says:

      I have had sciatica since a few yrs.ago when I fell down 2 stairs backwards and suffered for a month taking epidurals..no help, Had surgery since it was a fracture on the sciatica. I have had for the past few months ..when I am sitting and have to get up my right leg makes me limp because of pain, The right side of lower back sometimes pains me and my right butt pains me sometimes when I sit or am lying down. Rheumatologist gave me metholoneprednisonal for 2 a day for 7 days, then 1 a day for two wks. did not help. he thks. its sciatica .wwill see surgeon just for a consultation very soon. What do you think? Shyrlene Weiner

  10. Neville Patterson says:

    Hi, my name is Neville Patterson and I sit on the chair for long hours. I have pain in my torso area that makes sitting down very difficult. I can not sit for more that ten minutes. When I sit more than ten minutes I feel so much pain as though sitting on rocks. The pain travels down my both legs and radiates and make my two feet restless every time. I feel as though sciatica nerve pain but I can still walk with out pain. I feel as though my flesh is eroding making my skin so soft. I have feel numbness in the nerves and it travels to every part of my body. I also have morning stiffness. I dont know what’s happening to me. Please need advise.

  11. Admin says:

    Hi Neville,
    Thank you for explaining your symptoms. Please get yourself a copy of our Free book the 7 Day Back Pain Cure. We believe that education is the number one step for anyone and key for dealing with backpain issues, so suggest as a good first step to help you understand and start to consider your options.

    The book has information to understand back pain/sciatica and discusses pain relief methods. It also covers different treatment options for you to consider. It has other useful health related information you will find helpful as well when dealing with pain. Please read more about the 7 Day Back Pain Cure book and how it can help you via the link below


    Our Best Wishes, Thank you
    Admin (The Healthy Back Institute)

  12. NISHANT SEHGAL says:


    Really liked reading your post. It’s a source of good information to non-medical people who are suffering from low back pain. Immediate application of alternative heat and cold therapy is giving superb results to the patients. I also feel that taking too much of rest after the pulled back muscle, prolongs the pain and discomfort.

    As, I am a physical therapist, I would like to add that before starting with any of the stretching or strengthening exercise, patient must visit a physical therapist and get examined in order to have better results. It is proved in literature that there are contraindications to various exercises which can be only judged by physical examination.

    I hope you would appreciate my views.


  13. Nishant, We are not opposed to anyone going to see a Physical Therapist but we encourage everyone to educate one’s self about all matter of having to do with one’s health and while there are some contraindications to physical activity (specifically post surgical and or condition related) most other wise healthy adults can engage in specific and targeted stretches and exercises.

    And yes it is best to consult one’s, physician before starting any new physical endeavor but not everyone needs to see a Physical Therapist too, there are lots of different options people can use, (There are highly trained Personal Trainers who do a great job there are courses and programs people can teach one’s now a-days)

    Point is, surround you self with the best professions you can find and never stop learning all you can about your health.


  14. Allen Michael says:

    Thanks for sharing this very informative post. I agree that pain killers shouldn’t be the first option when you have back pains, and while there’s need for rest, it shouldn’t be too much. I agree that stretching your muscles is a good exercise as well.

  15. Anjela says:

    My physical therapist was more helpful in aiding my recovery than all the neurologists I saw, sad to say, I had been going to neurologists each month for multiple sclerosis and I could do the same exam myself- the following the finger, the pushing down on his hands, the pin sticking- the tests for balance- walking a straight line etc and then, I managed through my GP to get a prescription for physical therapy as I was holding my neck muscles rigid due to balance problems. Which, in turn, was making my balance worse.
    Each time I went to the neurologist I left in despair, crying my eyes out as it never seemed like I was getting anywhere- It’s the largest neurology group in Norwalk CT and the same old hard seats and stark lighting hurt my eyes even. The music was loud and not sure why they had music on in an office that deals with people who are already discombobulated, to begin with.
    My first appointment with Darien Physical Therapy and the therapist Dave who was so in tune with his patients. He immediately noticed my eyes were sensitive to the lights and he turned them way down- That would never happen in my neurologist’s office.
    His room was all geared to a calmness and he was so gentle in his therapy as I was a wreck and so out of shape in my muscles. He took a great deal of time getting to know my areas of strength and weakness and building up my stamina. Initially, I was barely able to walk due to my lack of equilibrium- and he gave me exercises to regain what I had lost and it truly was a miracle. So, in my opinion, Drs are good if one is bleeding to death or in a crisis- neurologists (the ones I have seen) other than giving one a diagnosis and medicating but nothing else-If you can’t tolerate the meds then you are wasting your time But the invaluable work I did with my Physical therapist allowed me to blossom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *