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What is a lumbar sprain?

Dr Hélène Huot

A lumbar sprain is defined as an injury to one or more ligaments in the lower back. It can have different degrees of severity, including stretching and partial or complete tearing, and implies a lesion of the soft tissues, such as ligaments, muscles and tendons.


Lumbar sprains are often caused by a trauma, a fall or an improper movement. Some people are more at risk than others for this type of condition, including those who are known to have lumbar instability or poor posture. People who put intense strain on their lumbar spine during their activities are also much more likely to suffer from a lumbar sprain during their lifetime.

Several other causes can explain lumbar sprains, including physical inactivity, pregnancy, excess weight and an unhealthy lifestyle.


The main symptoms of a lumbar sprain are localized pain in the lower back. Occasionally, this pain spreads to the buttocks or thighs, leading to much greater discomfort. People who suffer from lumbar sprain have significant mobility problems, whether they are standing up after sitting, or are leaning forward.

Other common symptoms include stiffness when getting up in the morning and increased pain during exercise.

Diagnosis and treatment

To diagnose a lumbar sprain, the doctor will first do a physical assessment and ask the patient questions about their pain. Generally, no further examination is necessary to diagnose a lumbar sprain, unless the pain persists for many weeks. However, the doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication for the patient if the pain is too severe, and advise the patient to rest in order to avoid worsening the situation.

Physiotherapy and osteopathy, along with chiropractic and massage therapy, may also be good options to relieve pain associated with a lumbar sprain.

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Dr Hélène Huot