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Lumbar Strain (Weight Lifter's Back)

What is a lumbar strain?

A lumbar strain is an injury to the lower back. This causes damage to your tendons and muscles. They can spasm and feel sore.

What causes a lumbar strain?

Anatomy of the spinal column
Click image to enlarge

Trauma can injure the tendons and muscles in your lower back. Pushing and pulling sports, such as weight lifting or football, can cause a lumbar strain. In addition, sports that require sudden twisting of the lower back, such as in tennis, basketball, baseball, and golf, can lead to this injury. Certain risk factors, such as excessive lower back curvature, forward-tilted pelvis, weak back and/or abdominal muscles, and tight hamstrings, can increase your chances for this injury.

What are the symptoms of a lumbar strain?

Each person may have different symptoms. Some symptoms of lumbar strain are:

  • Sudden lower back pain

  • Spasms in the lower back that result in more severe pain

  • Lower back feels sore to the touch

The symptoms of a lumbar strain sometimes look like other conditions and medical problems. Always see your health care provider for a diagnosis.

How is a lumbar strain diagnosed?

Your health care provider will check your medical history and give you a physical examination.

Treatment for a lumbar strain

Your health care provider will figure out your treatment based on:

  • How old you are

  • Your overall health and medical history

  • How bad the injury is

  • How well you can handle specific medications, procedures, and therapies

  • How long the problem is expected to last

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Rest

  • Ice packs and compression applied to the back

  • Exercises (to strengthen the abdominal muscles)

  • Stretching and strengthening exercises (for the lower back as it heals)

  • Education regarding the use and wearing of appropriate protective equipment

  • Medications, such as anti-inflammatories 

When to seek urgent medical care

Call you health care provider right away if you have:

  • Pain radiating down the leg

  • Pain with a fever, weakness in the leg, or loss of control of the bladder or bowels

Online Medical Reviewer: Larson, Kim APRN, FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 10/29/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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