Lumbar Back Strain

What is lumbar back strain, and how is it treated?

Millions of people around the world suffer from lower back pain. If you have pain radiating in your lower back, you are not alone. It may be a lumbar strain. Lumbar strains are among one the most common causes of severe pain.

Our highly trained experts at OrthoNeuro have been assisting many to alleviate their low back pain for years. We are conveniently located throughout the Greater Columbus area. Schedule an appointment with us today!

But first, you may have some questions such as “What exactly is a lumbar strain?” and “How can a lumbar strain be treated?” You can find the answers below.

What Is Lumbar Strain?

Lumbar strain is a lower back injury that occurs when the muscles and tendons are damaged. Lumbar strains have a wide range of severity.

These muscle strains can range from stretching injuries to partial or complete tears. Once injured, these muscles and tendons can cause inflammation, soreness, difficulty moving, and even painful back spasms.

Brief Anatomy of Your Spine and Back Muscles

Everything in our back is connected, so having a little anatomy background can help us put things into perspective.

Your spinal column is made up of small bones. These are known as vertebrae, and they are stacked on top of each other.

Your spine is divided into three sections, and they are:

  1. Your cervical spine (which includes your neck) begins at the base of your skull and stops at your upper chest.  It contains 7 small vertebrae.
  2. Your thoracic spine begins in your upper chest (where your cervical spine ends) and ends in the middle of your back, connecting to your rib cage. It contains 12 vertebrae.
  3. Your lumbar spine is in your lower back and has 5 vertebrae. Since your lumbar vertebra carries an increased amount of your body’s weight, they are larger in size.

Between your vertebrae, you will find intervertebral disks. These disks serve as shock absorbers, and at the same time, allow your back to bend or flex. In particular, the disks consist of a thick outer ring of cartilage and an inner gel-like substance.

Your vertebrae protect your spinal cord and nerve roots that pass through the spinal canal. These are designed to branch out of your spinal column through the vertebral openings and carry messages between your brain and spinal cord and muscles.

These muscles, along with your tendons and ligaments, are fibrous cords of tissue that connect to your vertebrae and allow movement. They also support and stabilize your spine and upper body.

Your muscles, tendons, and ligaments all harmoniously work together. For example, when one of your muscles contracts, your tendon will pull on the bone it is connected to, which results in the movement of that body part.

Your ligaments connect your bones together and provide support to your joints. Because ligaments have an elastic structure, they can stretch and then return to their normal positions.

However, this stretching must be done within its limits so that you can have the ability to move without discomfort. If they are stretched too far, it can result in muscle strain.

What Causes Lumbar Strain?

Some of the causes of lumbar strain are as follows:

  • Overuse
  • Improper use
  • Trauma (from sports injuries, as well as everyday activities)

Additional risk factors include having:

Symptoms of Lumbar Strain

Below you will find some of the most common lumbar strain symptoms.

These symptoms include:

  • Spasms of your muscles, causing pain in your lower back that sometimes comes on suddenly
  • Your lower back feels sore to the touch
  • Loss of muscle function
  • Instability
  • Difficulty walking or standing
  • Weakness
  • Sudden onset of severe intermittent pain that settles down quickly or a persistent low-level pain that can last for weeks or even months

Seek medical treatment immediately if your muscle spasms or severe pain persists even after resting. It is vital to see a specialist for a proper diagnosis because symptoms of a lumbar strain can mirror other injuries and medical conditions.

How Is Lumbar Strain Diagnosed?

In addition to reviewing your complete medical history, your spine specialist will complete a physical exam.

During your exam, you may be asked to perform a range of motion tests and other exercises to identify which movements increase your pain and which seem to reduce your pain. Your specialist may put pressure on or near the injury to help identify any swelling, tenderness, or pain.

Diagnostic Imaging Used for Lumbar Strain

diagnostic test may be ordered to rule out any bone abnormalities, fractures, or other possible causes of your pain.

These diagnostic tests may include:

  • X-rays — which supply images of internal tissues and bones
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) — shows a detailed image of your organs and structures within your body
  • Computed Tomography Scan (CT/CAT scan) — which shows detailed images of your bones, muscles, and organs
  • Radionuclide Bone Scan — reveals your blood flow to the bone, as well as the activity of the cells inside your bone
  • Electromyogram (EMG) — used to evaluate your nerve and muscle function

How Is Lumbar Strain Treated?

Thankfully, some non-surgical treatment options can help relieve pain associated with lumbar strain.

These include:

  • Rest
  • Ice or heat source
  • Modified activities, including twisting, heavy lifting, bending, etc.
  • Stretching and strengthening exercises to strengthen your abdominal muscles
  • Anti-inflammatory medications to relieve any muscle spasms and control pain
  • Spinal injections
  • Physical therapy
  • Spinal manipulation therapy

Generally, these non-surgical treatments have helped many to reduce pain in their back muscles. However, in rare instances, surgery may be recommended if there happens to be a complete tear.

Lumbar Strain Recovery and Outcome

Regarding back injuries, it is important to remember that they will take time to heal. Lumbar strains can take days, weeks, or even months for a full recovery before you can be symptom-free.

Do not despair if you are not progressing in the time frame that you would like. The more patient you are, the less of a risk you have of re-injuring yourself.

How to Prevent Lumbar Strain

Fortunately, lumbar strain is preventable. You can prevent it by:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Stretching your hamstring regularly
  • Using good posture
  • Avoiding activities that require sudden twisting

Having a healthy back is a precious asset, so it’s a good idea to do everything you can to protect it. If you suspect you have a lumbar strain, contact OrthoNeuro right away. Our specialists in Columbus, OH are ready to help you alleviate your back pain today!

Make an Appointment with an OrthoNeuro Spine Surgeon Today!

If you have been experiencing lumbar back strain, schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified spine specialists at one of our 7 convenient locations throughout Greater Columbus.

The spine team at OrthoNeuro has helped thousands of patients with cervical radiculopathy return to an active and healthy lifestyle using various treatment options. We will evaluate your unique lifestyle and goals to determine which type of treatment is best for you. Call us or book an appointment online today!

Spine Care Specialists


“I recently had surgery on my lower back. I had heard that such surgery would result in pain and cause me difficulties in doing ordinary daily tasks but, I experienced no pain and was able to do normal activities at home and at church. Also, being a bee keeper, I was able to work the hives and extract the honey from most of the hives”

James B.