Lumbar Sprain and Strains

Lumbar sprains and strains are the most common causes of acute low back pain. Lumbar sprains result from torn ligaments and lumbar strains result from over stretched muscles. Sprains and strains can happen from overloading the spine gradually or all of the sudden such as during a fall, lifting a heavy object, or during sports.


Muscle spasms, limitations in range of motion, difficulty with daily activities

Diagnostic Testing

History and physical exam are most important to rule out any neurologic findings. Lumbar X-rays can identify structural causes of pain such as a tumors or fractures. Advanced imaging such as MR or CT may be necessary if there is delayed healing (i.e. past 2-3 months).


A short course of rest, anti-inflammatories, ice is helpful in the beginning. Muscle relaxers can also help with the muscle spasms. After a few days of rest, it is important to start moving again. Your doctor may recommend a trial of physical therapy to work on a stretching and strengthening program. Modalities such as ice, heat, massage, electrical stimulation and manual therapy can helpful.


Most of these heal in 1-2 months, but can be debilitating.