How to Exercise with a Torn Back Muscle

Wooden doll leaning forward with hand on back - Image by Wolfgang Claussen from Pixabay

By Kate Feinberg Robins

How Do I Know I Have a Torn Back Muscle?

Here are some signs that your back pain might be due to a muscle tear:

  • You can remember the moment that it started hurting.  

  • You feel lopsided, with one side of your back much tighter than the other.

  • The pain gets worse when you try to use the muscle.

How Did it Happen?

Think back to that moment when your back started hurting. You might have torn a muscle if you:

  • stretched abruptly without warming up.

  • forced yourself to stretch further than you were ready for.

  • lifted too much weight suddenly and with poor form.

Any movement that causes a sudden strain may cause a muscle to tear.

How Can I Prevent it from Happening Again?

  • Always warm up before stretching. Make sure you’re doing the the right kind of stretching at the right time.

  • Stretch gently, giving your muscles plenty of warmth, breath, and time before deepening the stretch.

  • Practice proper form with resistance or small weights before increasing your weight load.

  • Give your torn muscle time to heal.

How Can I Exercise While Healing?

Pilates is great for injury recovery, because:

  • It’s low-impact and non-weight bearing.

  • It helps us center and align ourselves to avoid aggravating injuries.

Here are some tips for how to approach your Pilates practice while recovering:

  • Stick with Beginning classes.

  • Remind yourself to slow down and focus on form.

  • Do just five minutes at a time.

  • When your torn muscle hurts, move slowly and take deep breaths.

  • Keep your movements small. Even just visualizing muscle movements while lying still and breathing can train your muscles without aggravating them.

  • After five minutes, stop and rest.

  • If you're working with a pre-recorded class, come back to the same class to do another five minutes the next day.

It will take several days to get through a full pre-recorded class. That’s okay! Doing a full class before moving on will ensure that you strengthen and stretch in a balanced way. This is essential for injury recovery.

Torn muscles can take months to heal. If you push too hard too soon, you can aggravate the tear and be out for even longer.

Be patient with yourself. You will make it through!


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