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Low Back Strain And Sprain


A strain or sprain of the lumbar spine (lower spine) can cause the muscles or tissues to swell. Due to the swelling, pain and muscle spasms may occur.



Lower back pain is often caused by a strain or sprain of the lower back. The lower back is involved with lots of motion, twisting, and also must support the weight of the upper body so sprains or strains are common. Muscle fibers that are irregularly stretched or torn can cause a lumbar muscle strain. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that hold bones together. A lumbar sprain happens when ligaments get torn from their attachments. A lumbar sprain or strain can happen from an injury or may be due to overuse.



Symptoms of a low back strain or sprain include:

  • Pain in the lower back that may reach the buttocks but will not reach the legs
  • Restrictive range of motion in the lower back or stiffness
  • Difficulty holding a normal posture because of pain or stiffness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain that lasts for a maximum for 14 days



If pain in the lower back persists for more than one or two weeks, get a medical evaluation. The first person to reach out to is your primary care physician. If any of these symptoms are present alongside back pain, get immediate care: severe pain in the abdomen, unexplained fever, cannot control bladder or bowels.



Diagnostic testing is not normally needed unless pain has persisted for six weeks or more and has not improved with physical therapy. Be sure to rule out an underlying injury such as a disc injury. If pain and symptoms continue for more than six weeks and physical therapy has not helped reduce the pain or symptoms, an X-ray or MRI may be ordered by a doctor.



When experiencing pain in the back, avoid bed rest and stay active. Bed rest is not recommended as it can cause a decrease in muscle strength and increase muscle stiffness. If the pain is mild or moderate, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine may be used.

Physical therapy is often recommended by lower back pain. Physical therapy will be specifically designed for each patient. Pelvis traction, gentle massage, ice or heat therapy, ultrasound, electrical muscle stimulation, and stretch may be done in physical therapy. There are also holistic paths to decrease pain in the lower back. These options will include acupuncture, chiropractic care, yoga, and massage. Along with physical therapy, muscle relaxants and pain reducing medicine can be beneficial.



A patient is very likely to recover from a low back sprain or strain. Often 9/10 patients have a complete recovery within a month. It is recommended to do ice and heat therapy at home to decrease inflammation along with anti- inflammatory medications. If efforts are not made to treat and recover from a lower back strain or sprain, the injury may become chronic.

Some tips to decrease and prevent lower back pain from a lumbar sprain or sprain:

  • Core exercises to increase spine stability
  • Swimming
  • Stationary biking
  • Short walks
  • Lift and move objects with proper technique
  • Sit and stand with good posture
  • Do not smoke
  • Decrease stress
  • Keep a healthy weight


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