Overstretching of the spinal ligaments, often involving the surrounding muscles and spinal structures. Small fractures of the vertebrae are often associated.
Treatment includes superficial moist heat and rest. If muscle spasm is present, muscle relaxants, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or both, may be prescribed. After the acute symptoms have subsided, strengthening and flexibility programs are prescribed.
If back pain develops after acute trauma, or if the patient has a known history of cancer, the patient should not be moved until the possibility of a fracture has been ruled out. Persons with a history of back pain and fever or back pain and injection drug use should be evaluated for spinal epidural abscess.