Acute Lumbar Pain: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

The lower back is also known as the lumbar spine. It is made of five bones called vertebrae that look like blocks. These are attached to a triangle shaped bone called the sacrum at the lower end of the spine. These bones have cartilage cushions between them which are called discs. The spine has muscles in four round columns around it and is supported by ligaments which are attached to the bones. If these muscles and ligaments are injured the resulting pain is usually called an acute lumbar strain.

Sometimes, while lifting weights or in case of a sudden twisting motion of the lower back, the ligaments and the muscles attached to the lumbar bone are strained and injured. This leads to painful stiffening of the back muscles and often muscle spasms and surface pain of the overlying skin. If the ligaments are injured it is called an acute lumbar strain.

The treatment for an acute lumbar strain usually begins with a short period of diminished activity; not moving around too much, gently massaging the area of pain and applying heating pads. Sometimes a cold pack alternating with heating pads is helpful. Over the counter pain relieving medicines like Ibuprofen or Tylenol may be taken to relieve the deep muscular or even the outer surface pain or sensitivity.

If there are symptoms like nausea, fever, severe pain, weakness or numbness in the legs, problems with bladder and bowel control, then immediate medical attention would be required.

If the pain is not relieved even after 4 -5 days or worsens, it is advisable to consult a health professional, who would be able to check and gauge the cause and severity of the problem.

Most adults will suffer from temporary pain in the lower back sometime during their lives. This is often due to bad posture or improper lifting technique but may be associated with obesity, weak lower back and core abdominal muscles.  It is well worthwhile participating in preventive core strengthening exercises (such as Pilates, Yoga, swimming or water aerobics) to protect the back from injuries.

About Doug Roberts MD

Board certified practicing rheumatologist and founder of
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