4ab18a35-dc00-44fa-847e-6af47cbc058fMuscle strains and lumbar sprains are the most common causes of low back pain. A low back muscle strain occurs when the muscle fibers are abnormally stretched or torn. A lumbar sprain occurs when the ligaments, the tough bands of tissue that hold bones together, are torn from their attachments. Differentiating a strain from a sprain can be difficult, as both injuries will show similar symptoms. In general, it doesn’t matter what you call the problem because the treatment and prognosis for both back strains and sprains is the same.

What are the symptoms of a low back injury?
Most lumbar muscle strains and sprains cause symptoms isolated to the low back, usually they do not cause problems in the legs like some other spine conditions. The most common symptoms of a lumbar strain or sprain are:

•Pain around the low back and upper buttocks

•Low back muscle spasm

•Pain associated with activities, and generally relieved with rest

What causes these symptoms of low back pain and spasm?
When the lumbar spine is strained or sprained, inflammation of the soft-tissues results. This inflammation causes pain and can cause muscle spasm. People are often surprised at how painful and debilitating a lumbar strain or sprain can be–these are not small injuries. They often force patients to remain in bed for a day or two, and can cause intermittent symptoms for weeks. That said, over 90% of patients are completely recovered from an episode of lumbar muscle strain or sprain within one month.

Why do some patients tend to have low back strains and sprains more often?
Good question! We do know some factors that tend to influence the development of this type of problem, but often these symptoms strike in unexpected situations. Most commonly, patients who develop a lumbar strain or sprain are doing an activity that places their back at risk. This may be a sudden forceful movement, lifting a heavy object, or twisting the back in an unusual manner. Knowing how to properly lift can help to prevent many back injuries.

Some well known factors that contribute to low back pain include:

•Poor conditioning

•Obesity

•Smoking

•Improper use/lifting technique