Lumbar Sprain/Strain Defined

Also commonly referred to as the lower back, the lumbar spine consists of five strong backbones combined with joint capsules, tendons, muscles, and sensitive nerves. It is the lower part of the spine, resting between the ribs and the pelvis region.

The lumbar spine provides strong support for the weight of the body. It surrounds the spinal cord, offering the spine and the spinal nerve roots much-needed protection. The lumbar spine is also highly flexible, allowing for a wide range of motion. Different diseases, if not treated properly, can affect the lumbar spine, such as arthritis, lower back pain, and degenerative disc disease, among many others. Although strengthening exercises can help some patients resume normal physical activity, sometimes the muscle fibers and nerves are too damaged.

At Ehline Law, our spinal cord personal injury attorneys deliver injured victims the swift justice they deserve. If you suffered lumbar injuries from an accident that was not your fault, reach out to our experienced attorneys, as you may be eligible for compensation to cover physical therapy and even low level laser therapy with neurological surgeons and others.

What Does a Lumbar Spine Do?

The lumbar spine is made up of five strong bones in the lower back, and when compared to other parts of the spine, the lumbar spine bones are considerably larger and shaped more like a block. The lumbar spine offers stability to the back while also having muscles and ligaments attached to it.

Besides supporting most of the body weight, the lumbar spine is also the center of the body’s balance. The lumbar spine and all the components that attach to it assist us in walking, running, sitting, and other activities. And an injury can lead to low back pain, leg pain and neck pain. Even seemingly minor back injuries can worsen with light physical stress over time, even during normal activities.

These are some of the functions your lumbar spine assists with.

Supports Upper Body

The human body’s lumbar spine provides support to the cervical and thoracic spine, including the weight of the head. It connects to the pelvis and takes on most of the weight. The lumbar spine aids in lifting and carrying things. What’s interesting is that it is the center of balance, meaning it shifts some of the weight to the legs, allowing a person to stand or sit straight.

Allows Movements

The lumbar spine is highly flexible and, when combined with all the muscles surrounding it in the lower back, it allows us to move in all different directions: front, back, side, twists, and even full circles. The two vertebrae (backbones) at the end of the lumbar spine aid in most of the movement.

The lumbar spine also has nerves that connect to the lower part of the body, mostly the legs, and because of the nerves, the lumbar spine also controls leg movements while registering sensations.

Protects the Spine

The spinal cord is an important part of the human body as it connects the brain to the lower back, helping feel sensations and aiding in movement. To protect the spine, it is mostly surrounded by bones. The lumbar spine also acts as a protection for the spine, especially the end of the spinal cord, from where all the nerves descend.

Components of the Lumbar Spine

The lumbar spine consists of muscles, discs, ligaments, the spinal cord, nerves, and blood vessels.

Lumbar Spine Muscles

Lumbar muscles and abdominal muscles work together to assist you in moving your torso and lower back. Muscles and ligaments are both responsible for providing strength and stability to the lower back, allowing individuals to bend, move, and rotate.

The muscles attached to the lumbar spine include:

  • Latissimus dorsi: Starting at the bottom of the 6th thoracic vertebra, the latissimus dorsi is a triangular-shaped muscle that covers the entire span of the middle and lower back. A portion of it also attaches to the upper arms. Commonly referred to as “lats,” these assist in breathing, pulling up the body weight, and allow for a bit of side bend.
  • Iliopsoas: Responsible for holding and moving the hip joint, the iliopsoas is on each side of the body. It stabilizes the lower back during activities such as walking, running, or even sitting on a chair.
  • Paraspinals: Found along the length of the spine, the paraspinal are muscles that assist in extending, bending, and rotating. It also helps in maintaining an upright body posture.

Disks

The disks not only aid in absorbing shock but also bear the load from the spine, allowing movement between each vertebra. There are a total of five disks in the lumbar spine, and they can degenerate or herniate, resulting in lower back pain.

Ligaments

To keep the lumbar spine stable, ligaments help connect the bones, allowing for smooth spinal motion. It even absorbs the force from trauma.

Ligaments in the lumbar spine include the following:

  • Anterior longitudinal ligament: Extending down the front of the lumbar vertebrae, this ligament helps maintain stability and also restricts backward bending.
  • Posterior longitudinal ligament: Extending down the back of the lumbar vertebrae, the posterior longitudinal ligament helps restrict the forward bending of the lumbar spine.
  • Supraspinous ligament: Joining the tips of the vertebrae L1 to L3, the supraspinous ligament is the connecting tissue between the vertebrae, which limits forward bending.
  • Ligamentum flavum: These are a collection of ligaments that connect the ventral parts of the laminae of adjacent vertebrae. These are responsible for maintaining an upright posture, preventing hyperflexion, and ensuring that the vertebral column returns to normal after flexion.
  • Intertransverse ligament: Placed between the transverse processes of the spine, the intertransverse ligament limits lateral flexion of the spine.
  • Iliolumbar ligament: One of the three vertebropelvic ligaments, the iliolumbar ligament is a strong connective tissue that aids in stabilizing the lower lumbar spine, commonly known as the lumbosacral spine.

Spinal Cord

The spinal cord consists of nerve tissue that extends from the lower part of the brain to the L1 vertebrae. The spinal cord is responsible for carrying signals from the brain to the muscles.

Lumbar Spine Nerves

The five vertebrae have five pairs of spinal nerves branching off from them. These nerves extend from their respective vertebrae to the lower back, merging with other nerves to help control pain signals and aid in lower limb movement.

  • L1 spinal nerve: It’s responsible for registering sensations and feelings in the genital area and also assists in the movement of the hip muscles.
  • L2, L3, and L4 spinal nerves: It’s responsible for registering sensation in the thighs (frontal) and the lower leg (inner side). They also assist in knee and hip muscle movement.
  • L5 spinal nerve: It’s responsible for registering any sensations in the lower leg (outer side) and the foot (upper part). The L5 spinal nerve also controls movement in the hips, knees, feet, and toes.
  • The sciatic nerve: Consisting of different nerves, including the L4, L5, and other sacral nerves, the sciatic nerve extends from the buttocks and goes down to the back of the thighs before ending at the sole. It is the largest nerve in the body and is responsible for connecting the spinal cord with the thigh, leg, and foot muscles.

Blood Vessels

The lumbar spine consists of blood vessels that provide blood and nutrients to the muscles, ligaments, and spine in the lumbar region.

What is a Lumbar Strain?

Strains are typically defined as tears of the muscle-tendon unit, which means that a lumbar strain is a tear in the muscles and tendons that make up the lumbar spine. The damaged tendons and muscles can experience spasms, resulting in soreness, pain and need for medical intervention and diagnostic procedures.

Causes of Lumbar Strains and Sprains

Lumbar strains and sprains are a type of injury to the lower back. These occur because of sudden forceful movements, causing the muscles to contract. Lumbar strain usually happens because of the overuse, force, or stretching of the tendons and muscles around the lumbar spine.

Lumbar strains and sprains are common among people who play sports. Lifting weights, playing football, basketball, tennis, or any other sport that requires physical activity (movements) can cause lumbar strain.

For example, the constant lifting of weights can put a lot of stress on the tendons and muscles surrounding the spine, resulting in a tear. A repetitive movement in the game of golf where the person uses their lower back to swing the golf club can also cause a lumbar strain. A physical examination of many back strains and sprains can often diagnose a need for additional physical medicine and rehabilitation for a full recovery. So don’t ignore low back injuries and don’t assume a massage or rest will heal everything.

A healthy individual is at a lower risk of a lumbar strain than those with the following risk factors:

  • Weak back
  • Swelling
  • Numbness
  • Tight hamstrings
  • Lower back curvature.

Symptoms of Lumbar Strain

Symptoms of a lumbar strain can vary from person to person. However, some of the most common symptoms of lumbar strain include:

Sometimes, the symptoms may also resemble other medical problems, so it is best to always speak to your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

How to Diagnose Lumbar Strain

From the symptoms, you may be able to tell whether you have a lumbar strain or not, but at times, these symptoms may also resemble other conditions.

It is best to get a proper medical examination done, and some of the tests that help diagnose lumbar strain are as follows:

  • X-ray: This is one of the most common types of medical tests conducted by healthcare providers. An X-ray is most commonly used to assess broken bones, but it has other uses as well. Since it is a penetrating form of high-energy radiation, it can produce images of the internal body on the film, including bones, organs, and tissues.
  • CT Scan: This is a medical imaging technique that produces detailed internal images of the body. A CT scan combines multiple X-ray images taken from different angles and uses computer processing to slice up the bones, tissues, and organs for detailed review by medical professionals.
  • MRI: Also commonly referred to as magnetic resonance imaging, MRI is an advanced form of medical imaging technique that forms images of the anatomy and physiological processes of the body. Unlike CT scans, MRI provides better contrast in images of soft tissue.
  • Radionuclide bone scan: Also known as bone scintigraphy, the radionuclide bone scan is a nuclear medicine imaging technique for the bone. It can help diagnose various bone conditions such as cancer, inflammation, and more by taking pictures of the blood flow and cell activity in the bones.
  • EMG: Electromyography uses an electromyograph to help identify and record electrical signals produced by the skeletal muscles. It can assist medical professionals to reveal nerve dysfunction, muscle dysfunction, and nerve-to-muscle coordination problems.

Treating Lumbar Muscle Strains

Depending on your age, health, medical history, the severity of the injury, tolerance towards medication, and treatment preferences, a healthcare provider may be able to provide you with a treatment for your muscle strain injuries.

Lumbar muscle strain usually occurs simultaneously with muscle spasms. In many cases, doctors recommend the following:

  • Taking bed rest
  • Using ice or heat packs
  • Exercises for improving core strength
  • Anti-inflammatory medications or spinal injections to reduce pain.

Acute low back pain from muscle strains and even tingling shoulders can last up to four weeks and is painful. Doctors typically recommend muscle relaxants to ease the pain. To reduce chronic low back pain, medical professionals advise doing regular exercise, yoga, or even tai-chi. There are also other forms of non-pharmacologic approaches that medical professionals recommend for reducing chronic low back pain.

Some of these complications include physical medicine, psychotherapy, spinal manipulation, and electromyogram biofeedback. Muscle relaxants and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and diclofenac can ease chronic pain.

An injury can cause an injured victim’s life to spiral out of control. If you have suffered lumbar injuries and require aggressive legal representation to recover compensation for your loss, contact us at +(833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation in your catastrophic injury case.

Citations:

Top Notch American Injury Lawyer, Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline

Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.

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