Lumbar Sprain/Strain

Stiffness or decrease in range of motion, pain in the back that worsens with movement, pain that often peaks immediately, most often from stretched ligaments and muscle spasms. Patients quite often express an inability to get out of bed or out of the position they’re in due to the pain. However the restrictions usually let up a bit, but not without pain.

chiropractic: Composite of lightning bolts striking woman's back stock photos

General Overview

A sprain is a stretch or tear in the ligament resulting from a sudden movement that causes the back to move into an extreme position. For example, in the rapid deceleration of a car crash, shoveling snow that’s heavier than expected, even sitting for too long (computer work or driving) can cause a stretch in the ligaments. Not all sprains are traumatic, but all sprains do involve strains of surrounding muscles (from injury or by splinting  muscle spasms) and tremendous pain.

The lumbar sprain seems to feel as if the pain is also at times difficult to localize. It seems to be present in the back, but at other times seems to pierce thru the body…into the ribcage or into the buttocks.  Sprains of this type also make the patient aware of postures that are incorrect as well as how poor their lifting/bending techniques were prior to the sprain. Often times the most comfortable position is with the best upright posture.

sprain, strain


The diagnosis of lumbar sprain is not difficult, but is most often derived from the mechanism of injury as described above. The examination of a patient with a severe lumbar sprain is difficult simply because the positions required for testing cannot always be assumed by the patient. When there is a typical C-shaped curve of the back when viewed from the side, that curve can become reduced, straightened or reversed. The subsequent subluxations of the vertebrae, stretching of the ligaments and protective contraction of the muscles generate a tremendous amount of pain. 

chiropractic: Rear view of woman with hands on back and sore spine stock photos

Chiropractic Treatment

One of the most common reasons for seeing a chiropractor is for this exact kind of injury. (Much research has proven that chiropractic care is the most effective form of treatment when compared to allopathic(medical doctor) methods of anti-inflammatory meds and pain killers.)  X-rays should be taken to help rule out any other underlying cause of the sprain/strain or for other contributory factors. Lumbar spine adjustments are the best remedy for removing these subluxations of the spine while helping reduce pain while restoring nerve function and range-of-motion. Physical therapy modalities are often utilized in conjunction with care in order to help facilitate the healing process, either by reducing inflammation or calming muscle spasms.  Depending on the condition, treatment and recovery times vary, ranging from 6 weeks to 6 months. Considering the involvement of the spine and nervous system, if the sprain is significant enough to cause a permanent problem, follow-up treatments may be recommended in order to help stabilize the affected area.