What is Lumbar Strain?

A lumbar strain is the most common cause of back pain. A strain refers to the abnormal stretching or irritation of a muscle, tendon, ligament, or disc.  The pain can be from a lumbar muscle strain alone or more commonly due to a strain of more than one of the structures listed above. Low back strains often result from activities such as heavy lifting or falling which exert excessive physical stress on the lower back.  They can also be chronic and cause back pain that lasts for months to years.

Lumbar Strain Causes

Low back strains often occur as a result of:

  • Excessive flexion (bending forward)

  • Excessive extension (bending backward)

  • Twisting

  • Sudden contraction of a muscle or tendon

  • Heavy lifting or improper lifting

  • Fall

  • Inadequate warm up before exercise

Lumbar Strain Symptoms

Symptoms of a low back strain include:

  • Sharp back pain that may radiate to the buttocks or legs and is aggravated by movement

  • Swelling

  • Stiffness in the lower back

  • Muscle cramping or spasms

  • Tenderness over the affected region

Lumbar Strain Diagnosis

An accurate diagnosis and an effective treatment plan are required for successful lower back strain treatment.  Your doctor will arrive at a diagnosis and rule out dangerous causes of back pain such a fracture, tumor, or infection based on your medical history and the physical and neurological examination findings. Your doctor will also test your reflexes, muscle strength, and sensory perception. Diagnostic imaging tests such as X-rays may also be performed to rule out dangerous causes of back pain before initiating lower back strain treatment.

Lumbar Strain Treatment

Lumbar strain treatment does not require spinal surgery and can effectively be treated with non-surgical methods.  Lower back strain treatment includes activity modification, ice application, anti-inflammatory and pain medications, muscle relaxants, bracing, physical therapy, chiropractic manipulation, and acupuncture. To enhance the success of your lumbar strain treatment, two or more treatment modalities are often recommended in combination.


Some of the preventive measures that can help prevent low back strain, especially in chronic cases, include:

  • Abstinence from smoking

  • Maintenance of a healthy body weight

  • Regular aerobic exercise

  • A healthy well balanced diet

  • Regular stretching and strengthening with lumbar strain exercises

  • Proper lifting technique

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