Connect with a certified trainer for free

Invalid phone number
Something went wrong please try again.

Thank you for contacting us!

Check your phone’s messaging application for next steps.
We are here to help!

Lower Back Strain Injuries Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

A low back strain occurs when soft tissue connected to the vertebrae of the spine are stretched beyond their capacity. Back strains are common, especially among athletes.

Lower Back Strain Injuries Hero Image 2

A low back strain occurs when muscles or tendons, the fibrous cords that connect muscle to the vertebrae of the spine, get twisted, stretched, or torn. Back strains are common, especially among athletes. The muscles that make up the upper and lower back support the spine and can easily get stretched, overloaded, or twisted during physical activity. Back strains can range from mild to severe. With treatment, athletes are usually back in action within weeks.

What causes Lower Back Strain Injuries?

Spinal strain injuries often occur because muscles in the back are overloaded. This can happen due to overuse, overstretching, or a sudden twist of the muscle. A direct force to the muscles in the back due to a fall or sharp blow can also cause a strain. Chronic, repetitive activity can contribute to lower back strains.

Lower back spinal strain injuries are most common in these sports:

  • Racket sports (tennis, racket ball, squash)
  • Hockey
  • Football
  • Rugby
  • Basketball
  • Baseball
  • Weightlifting




Lower back spinal strain injuries often cause pain and weakness. This and other symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the strain. Common symptoms also include:

  • Pain that gets worse with movement
  • Tenderness
  • Muscle spasms
  • No radiation of the pain down the legs
  • No numbness or tingling in the legs
  • No weakness in the legs

When to see a doctor

If you experience symptoms of a lower back spinal strain injury that don’t resolve after a week or prevent you from doing your normal activities, you should see your doctor. You should also seek medical treatment if you experience radiating leg pain, as this symptom may suggest nerve damage.

Usually, a diagnosis can be made by taking a medical history and conducting a physical examination. Your doctor will want to examine your back and look for signs of a strain, such as inflammation and tenderness. An x-ray and/or MRI may be ordered to rule out other causes of your symptoms.

Non-operative treatment

Treatment of lower back strains usually involves non-surgical measures to allow injured muscles to heal properly. Conservative treatments include:

  • Rest from activities and sports that place strain on the back
  • Ice to reduce swelling
  • Heat to loosen up the muscles
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, to help relieve pain and inflammation
  • Muscle relaxant medications to reduce spasm
  • Physical therapy (such as stretching exercises and sports massage), especially for more severe strains

Try these exercises to help address your condition:

Below is a PDF of the Exercise Program

Lumbar Strain


After 24-48 hours, and after pain subsides, most athletes can start to get back to physical activity. Longer term bed rest may actually delay your recovery. Your doctor will advise you on a plan to get you back to a full recovery and return to play.