Lower back pain is an ailment that affects a majority of adults at some point in their lifetime. Treatment for low back pain and lost labor due to low back pain costs up to 50 billion dollars annually in the United States. There are many different causes of back pain, including degeneration of intervertebral discs, compressed nerves, vertebral fractures, arthritis and muscle strain. One type of muscle strain that can cause lower back pain is called latissimus dorsi syndrome.
The latissimus dorsi muscles are attached to a large portion of the lower spine via a sheet of tissue called the thoracolumbar fascia. The large muscle comes up to the shoulder area and attaches to a groove on the humerus, or the upper arm bone. When the latissimus dorsi muscles are working properly, they serve to move the arm towards the body, rotate the arm bone inward and pull the arm backwards. The latissimus dorsi muscles also help to some degree with breathing; they are called “accessory breathing muscles” because they are not primary muscles associated with breathing but they can help with expanding and compressing the rib cage during breathing.
Latissimus dorsi syndrome is pain due to strain of the latissimus dorsi muscles. Because of the location of the muscles, the pain of latissimus dorsi syndrome can affect the lower back, the shoulders or both. Depending on the severity of the injury due to muscle overstretching or tearing, the pain may be a dull aching pain or a sharper, more severe pain. Abnormal tightness or soreness in the muscles can make it harder to move the arm in certain directions or make the hips uneven. Pain can be due to an acute injury of the latissimus dorsi muscle or chronic tightness that puts tension on the lower back.
Acute latissimus dorsi strain injuries can usually be treated at home with basic first aid measures. Avoiding the activities that caused the muscle injury can prevent the injury from becoming worse; bed rest has been shown to be less helpful than moving around but being careful, however. It may help to apply ice to the injury, take over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and gently stretch the back muscles. If pain persists or is overwhelming, or if low back pain is a chronic problem for you, see a doctor for additional pain management options. Prescription pain medication and physical therapy are some of the options that may help you control your low back pain.
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