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 Definition An injury to the ligaments (sprain) or muscles (strain) of the lower portion of the back
Details Sprains or strains of the lower back are extremely common. The symptoms of pain, spasm and stiffness are related to stretching or tearing of the soft tissue of the back--muscles, ligaments, joints.
Causes Low back sprains or strains can be caused by a single episode of lifting a heavy object or can be due to repeated small injuries to the back.
Diagnosis Typically, the pain and spasm begin either immediately after an injury or develop within the 24 hours. The pain is made worse by activity and usually improves with rest. The pain is also isolated to the lower back and does not radiate to the legs. Initially, unless a warning sign is present, no xrays will be taken. If symptoms worsen, an MRI Scan, CT Scan or Bone Scan may be ordered.

Warning Signs: weakness in legs, age over 50, history of cancer, pain for over 4 weeks, significant weight loss, fevers or chills
Treatment Nonoperative: Initially, icing and rest coupled with anti-inflammatory medication are important to relieve pain and spasm. This should be followed by education about proper lifting techniques and a back rehabilitation program. Stretching and strengthening of back, leg and abdominal muscles are important components of this rehabilitation program.

Operative: Very rarely, surgery is indicated for low back pain. Surgery should be reserved for patients with severe, unrelenting back pain that has failed to respond to nonoperative measures.

Some low sprains or strains can be avoided by maintaining excellent strength and flexilibility of the back, leg and abdominal muscles. Staying in good aerobic shape by walking, riding a bike, jogging or swimming also helps keep the back fit. Finally, learning proper lifting techniques may prevent some back injuries.