Are you tired of dealing with nagging low back pain that just won't go away? Look no further!

This article will delve into the world of lumbar, or low back, strains. It will explore the anatomy involved, the causes and risk factors, and the symptoms you should look for.

You'll also discover the most effective treatment options, how to prevent future strains and the best ways to support your recovery.

So, let's get started and bid farewell to that pesky back pain once and for all!

Key Takeaways

  • Muscles involved in low back strain include the erector spinae and quadratus lumborum.
  • Lifting heavy objects incorrectly and engaging in activities like bending and twisting can increase the risk of lower back strain.
  • Common symptoms of low back strain include pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion.
  • Diagnosis of low back strain involves physical examination and imaging tests, which can help guide an effective treatment plan that may include conservative treatments and medications depending on the severity of the strain.

Low Back Anatomy Involved

The muscles that extend the lumbar spine, or low back, are the erector spinae and quadratus lumborum. These muscles also support and stabilize the spine, allowing for movement and proper posture.

When strained, these muscles or their tendons are overstretched and torn, resulting in discomfort and limited mobility.

What Causes a Lumbar Strain?

Poor posture, lifting with poor technique, high-impact activities, overuse through repetitive motions, and sudden twisting motions can all lead to increased stress on the muscles of your lower back. 

Obesity, smoking, poor core stability, and lack of exercise can weaken the supporting structures, making you more susceptible to low back strain. It is important to be mindful of these risk factors and take appropriate measures to prevent injury.

Symptoms of a Low Back Strain

Experiencing pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion are common symptoms of a strained lower back. When you strain your lower back, you may feel a sharp or dull pain that worsens with movement.

The affected muscles may go into spasm, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks. Additionally, you may notice a decreased range of motion, making it challenging to bend, twist, or lift objects.

These symptoms indicate the need for proper evaluation, pain management, and rehabilitation exercises to promote healing.

Diagnosing Lower Back Strains

To diagnose a strained lower back, a healthcare provider will perform a physical examination and, if indicated, order imaging tests such as an MRI or X-ray. This is done to help rule out more serious conditions and identify any structural abnormalities or damage to the tissues in your back.

During the exam, the healthcare provider will assess your range of motion, muscle strength, and any areas of tenderness. This comprehensive approach allows for an accurate diagnosis and helps guide the most effective treatment plan for your specific condition.

How Is A Low Back Strain Treated?

When it comes to treating low back strain, there are a couple of routes you can take.

However, one "old-school" approach has fallen out of favor: bed rest. Research from the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society has shown us that "resting until you feel better" is ineffective.

Modifying your activity levels to tolerance is now recommended within three days of injury.

Conservative treatments, such as physical therapy and chiropractic care, are becoming the standard for speeding up recovery. Conservative treatments focus on non-invasive methods to reduce pain and improve mobility.

In addition, strengthening exercises performed during active rehabilitation can help build confidence with day-to-day activities as your activity level increases.

Medications, such as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), may also be recommended by your MD to help manage your pain and inflammation. And in severe cases, prescription painkillers and muscle relaxants may be required.

How Can I Prevent Low Back Strains?

Improving your posture when sitting and standing reduces the stress on your back muscles over the course of the day.

Proper lifting mechanics ensure that your lower body does most of the lifting instead of your lower back.

Make an effort to sleep on your back or stomach. Use a pillow under or between your legs. Avoid stomach sleeping, as it puts pressure on the low back for hours at a time.

Regular exercise, such as strength training and a mobility routine, can help improve the stability and flexibility of your back, reducing the risk of strain.

Prognosis of Lumbar Strains

Muscle strains, like low back strains, can take anywhere from days to weeks to heal. Many factors will determine how quickly you recover. And remember, everyone heals at a different rate!

You can speed up your recovery process by following a personalized rehabilitation program recommended by a chiropractor or physical therapist.

Engaging in regular physical activity can help strengthen the muscles in your back, improve flexibility, and promote healing.

Remember to listen to your body and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts to avoid further injury.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I ice or heat my low back when it's strained?

Conventional wisdom says that ice can help numb the area, alleviating pain, although research suggests that prolonged icing can slow down the healing process. Conversely, heat helps to relax and soothe muscles, especially after the first 72 hours. Remember always to use a cloth or towel between the ice or heat source and your skin to prevent burns or frostbite.

Is it common for a low back strain to recur? If so, how often?

Yes, it's common for low back strains to recur, especially if the underlying causes, such as poor posture or lifting techniques, are not addressed. 

Are there any alternative therapies, like acupuncture or massage, that can help with low back strain?

Yes, many patients find relief from low back strain through alternative therapies. Acupuncture can help reduce pain and inflammation by targeting specific points in the body. Massage therapy, especially therapeutic or deep tissue massage, can help relax tight muscles, improve circulation, and promote healing. 

How do I know if my low back strain is severe enough to see a doctor?

If you experience pain that doesn't improve after a week of self-care, you should have it evaluated. Additionally, if the pain results from a traumatic event, like a fall or accident, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Can wearing a back brace or support belt help with low back strain?

A back brace or support belt can provide temporary support and help reduce strain on the lower back, especially during activities that might worsen the pain. However, they shouldn't be relied upon long-term as they can weaken muscles due to dependency. It's best to use them in conjunction with a comprehensive rehabilitation program.

Can stress or mental health issues exacerbate low back pain or strain?

Stress and mental health issues can contribute to muscle tension and exacerbate low back pain. Chronic stress can lead to prolonged muscle tension and increased pain perception. Addressing mental health and managing stress through techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, and counseling can be beneficial.

Are there any specific activities or sports that I should avoid if I'm prone to low back strains?

Activities that involve repetitive bending, lifting, or twisting can increase the risk of low back strains. Sports like golf, weightlifting, and certain gymnastic exercises can pose a risk without proper technique. However, most activities can be enjoyed safely with proper training, posture, and preventive measures. 


So there you have it, a comprehensive understanding of low back strain and how to prevent and manage it.

You can strengthen your back and maintain its resilience by implementing the proper treatment options, practicing good posture, and exercising regularly.

You can adjust your exercise routine by paying attention to discomfort or pain. Remember to incorporate rest days into your schedule to allow your body to recover and rebuild.

Following these guidelines will help you safely and effectively recover from a low back strain.

Carson Aune

Carson Aune

Chiropractor, CCSP®

Contact Me