Lumbar Back Strain: Understanding and Managing a Common, Painful Injury
I want to provide you with the important information you need to understand these common spine problems, the ones that patients most often ask me about. While specific medical advice about your problem should come directly from your healthcare professional, here is the next big concern in our list of ten spine problems that patients often ask about:
LUMBAR SPRAIN AND STRAIN:
Lumbar strain or sprain refers to an injury affecting the muscles, ligaments, or tendons in the lower back region, specifically the lumbar spine. These injuries are common and often result from overuse, improper lifting, sudden twisting, or traumatic events. Here's information on diagnosis and treatment:
There are many potential causes of a lower back or lumbar strain:
Lumbar back strain is often caused by overuse or injury to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the lower back. Common causes include:
Individual factors, such as genetics, overall fitness and health, and pre-existing conditions, can influence susceptibility to lumbar strain. Additionally, a combination of factors may contribute to the risk of lower back injury. Understanding and practicing good body mechanics, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and body weight, and incorporating exercises to strengthen the core muscles can help reduce the risk of lumbar strain. Also, there are just some activities that carry a high risk of back injury and lumbar strain. Whether it's at home or on the job, activities that involve repetitive bending, lifting, and twisting, particularly with heavy weights, will eventually cause a lumbar strain.
So, What causes the pain??
The pain experienced after a lumbar strain is primarily attributed to the inflammation and damage to the soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, and tendons, in the lower back. Several factors contribute to the development of pain in lumbar strain:
It's important to note that the severity of pain can vary based on the extent and location of the injury, individual pain thresholds, and the presence of any underlying conditions such as arthritis. Proper treatment and management, including rest, physical therapy, and pain medications, can aid in the recovery process and alleviate discomfort.
A common component of any lumbar strain is the muscle spasm that follows the muscle injury - that can be intense and disabling, and can last alot longer than you'd expect. None the less, that aspect will get better over time. If pain persists or worsens, there may be a more extensive injury or damage to other tissues, and it's time to seek additional medical advice for further evaluation and intervention.
Lumbar spine strains can typically be managed through conservative, non-surgical treatments. These treatments focus on reducing pain, inflammation, and promoting the natural healing of the injured tissues. Return to full activity, work, and recreation is the norm, but takes time and usually requires a course of active physical rehabilitation and exercise. Common non-surgical approaches include:
Surgery is rarely required for lumbar strains, and surgical treatment is generally considered only when conservative treatments fail, and the patient demonstrates evidence of a more severe associated or underlying injury such as a fracture or severe disc injury. These conditions may cause severe pain, neurological symptoms (such as persistent numbness or weakness), or show evidence of a structural instability that requires surgical correction.
Surgical options may include procedures such as discectomy (removal of part of a herniated disc), spinal fusion, or decompression surgery. However, surgery comes with its own risks and recovery periods, and it is usually considered a last resort when conservative measures are not effective.
It's important for individuals experiencing lumbar strain to consult with a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation and to determine the most appropriate course of treatment based on their specific condition. In the majority of cases, non-surgical approaches prove effective in relieving pain and promoting recovery.
There are several kinds of healthcare professionals who can provide appropriate care and guidance after a lumbar soft-tissue injury. The choice of healthcare provider may depend on the severity of your symptoms and the specialists available in your area, but should also take into account your own personal feelings about which kind of care you want to start with. Here are some professionals you may consider consulting:
It's crucial to communicate openly with your healthcare provider, providing details about your symptoms, medical history, and any relevant activities or events leading to the lumbar strain. Based on the evaluation, the healthcare provider will guide you through an appropriate treatment plan, which may include a combination of therapies or referrals to specialists.
It can take quite a while for a lumbar strain or sprain to completely heal, and the pain can be intense and disabling. Because these injuries primarily involve muscles and soft tissues that can heal and repair, you have a great chance of getting back to normal, with enough time. Getting back to activity and health is always the goal, but it can take some time and alot of effort to get there.
Because these injuries often occur at work or as the result of an accident, there is often a secondary issue of who's at fault, and who will pay, and that intensifies everything about the healing process. So, be patient, remember that your health care providers are on your side, and don't get depressed when it takes longer than you expected to get back to your old self!
I'm Dr. Rob McLain. I've been taking care of back and neck pain patients for more than 30 years. I'm a spine surgeon. But one of my most important jobs is...