Muscle strains and lumbar sprains are the most common causes low back pain. A low back muscle strain occurs when the muscles of the back are abnormally stretched too far. 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 have similar symptoms. Many doctors refer to both injuries as a category called “musculoligamentous injuries” of the lumbar spine. 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.
Nearly everyone will experience low back pain at some point in their life; it is the second most common cause of missed days of work in the United States–only a common cold causes more missed work. Almost all of these low back injuries are due to injuries of the muscle or ligament. If you don’t know the cause of your back pain, you should have it evaluated by a doctor.
These muscles, ligaments, and bones all work together to provide control and strength for nearly all activities. The lumbar spine and its muscles are needed for most all movements and activities. For this reason, the lumbar spine is prone to injury, and when an injury has been sustained, people have difficulty performing many activities.
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