Lumbar sprain

A lumbar sprain is a diagnosis used to describe an injury in the lower back. The strict definition of sprain is the elongation with or without tearing of a ligament. However, it is rare for only one ligament to be damaged. Thus, we will refer to a lumbar sprain as an injury to soft tissues, such as ligaments, muscles, and/or tendons.

The causes are multiple. A lumbar sprain may occur as a result of sudden movements in sport or work, a trauma or a fall. A person is at a greater risk if there is lumbar instability, poor posture, or extreme stress on a weak lumbar spine caused by repetitive movements, with or without a load.

Lumbar sprain is characterized by an alteration of normal functioning of the spine. The three identification criteria are asymmetry or modification of the posture, limitation of movements and tissue alterations.

Signs and symptoms

The sprain can produce various short and long-term signs and symptoms that will be the focus of physiotherapy treatments. Pain is the main symptom and it is the one that physiotherapists try to relieve as quickly as possible. Other features of the sprain may be referred pain in the buttock or thigh, morning stiffness, difficulty leaning forward and most importantly, getting up.

You may also notice an increase in pain after effort, walking or maintaining the same position. It should be noted that changing your position and resting on your back generally improve the symptoms. Immediately after the accident, it is advisable to apply ice on the painful area, to rest and to avoid lifting weights.


Some medications may be prescribed by your doctor: analgesics for pain relief, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants. Medication can help relieve symptoms, but it is rarely enough on its own to recover and prevent recurrence. Later during the recovery, the application of heat could be indicated. Also, a program of lumbar strengthening and stabilization exercises, stretching and neural mobilization should be undertaken along with manual techniques of myofascial release and joint mobilizations.

In order to get recommendations and an exercise program adapted to your condition, please consult your physiotherapist. It should be noted that lumbar pain, or lower back pain, can also be caused by damage to structures other than soft tissues, such as discs, facet joints and nerves. It is important to consult a physiotherapist, who can eliminate the presence of more problematic structure affections and refer you to a doctor if necessary.