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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, which results in damaged tendons and muscles that spasm and feel sore.

What causes a lumbar strain?

Anatomy of spinal column with vertebrae
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Trauma can injure the tendons and muscles in the lower back. Pushing and pulling sports, such as weight lifting or football, can lead to 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 the risk for this injury.

What are the symptoms of a lumbar strain?

The following are the most common symptoms of a lumbar strain. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • 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 may resemble other conditions and medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is a lumbar strain diagnosed?

Diagnosis of a lumbar strain is usually confirmed with a complete medical history and physical examination.

Treatment for a lumbar strain

Specific treatment for a lumbar strain will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the injury

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, and therapies

  • Expectation for the course of the injury

  • 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

Contact your doctor immediately for the following:

  • Pain radiating down the leg

  • Pain that is accompanied by fever, weakness in the leg, or loss of control of the bladder or bowels