Conditions & Treatments

Lumbar Strain (Weight Lifter's Back)

A lumbar strain is an injury to the lower back, which results in damaged tendons and muscles that spasm and feel sore.

Lumbar Strain (Weight Lifter's Back)

What is a lumbar strain?

A lumbar strain is an injury to the lower back. This causes damage to your tendons and muscles. They can spasm and feel sore.

What causes a lumbar strain?

Anatomy of the spinal column
Click image to enlarge

Trauma can injure the tendons and muscles in your lower back. Pushing and pulling sports, such as weight lifting or football, can cause a lumbar strain. In addition, sports that require sudden twisting of the lower back, such as in tennis, basketball, baseball, and golf, can lead to this injury. Certain risk factors, such as excessive lower back curvature, forward-tilted pelvis, weak back and/or abdominal muscles, and tight hamstrings, can increase your chances for this injury.

What are the symptoms of a lumbar strain?

Each person may have different symptoms. Some symptoms of lumbar strain are:

  • Sudden lower back pain

  • Spasms in the lower back that result in more severe pain

  • Lower back feels sore to the touch

The symptoms of a lumbar strain sometimes look like other conditions and medical problems. Always see your health care provider for a diagnosis.

How is a lumbar strain diagnosed?

Your health care provider will check your medical history and give you a physical examination.

Treatment for a lumbar strain

Your health care provider will figure out your treatment based on:

  • How old you are

  • Your overall health and medical history

  • How bad the injury is

  • How well you can handle specific medications, procedures, and therapies

  • How long the problem is expected to last

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Rest

  • Ice packs and compression applied to the back

  • Exercises (to strengthen the abdominal muscles)

  • Stretching and strengthening exercises (for the lower back as it heals)

  • Education regarding the use and wearing of appropriate protective equipment

  • Medications, such as anti-inflammatories 

When to seek urgent medical care

Call you health care provider right away if you have:

  • Pain radiating down the leg

  • Pain with a fever, weakness in the leg, or loss of control of the bladder or bowels

Treatment Programs


Massachusetts General Hospital understands that a variety of factors influence patients' health care decisions. That's just one reason why we're dedicated to ensuring patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. Because a single option might not serve all patients, we offer a wide range of coordinated treatments and related services across the hospital. Patients should consult with their primary care doctor or other qualified health care provider for medical advice and diagnosis information.

Select a treatment program for more information:



Imaging

  • Pediatric Imaging
    The Pediatric Imaging Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging specializes in ensuring the safety and comfort of child patients while providing the latest technology and the expertise of specialized pediatric radiologists.
  • Neuroendovascular Program
    Working as part of the Vascular Center, the interventional specialists of the Neuroendovascular Program perform minimally invasive, image-guided treatments for conditions including stroke and cerebral aneurysm. These same interventionalists also use minimally invasive techniques to treat non-vascular conditions including herniated disc and vertebral fractures. In addition, our specialty-trained radiologists use the latest imaging technologies to provide diagnostic exams for a full range of neurological conditions.
  • Bone and Joint Imaging and Intervention
    The Bone and Joint Imaging and Intervention Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging offers state-of-the-art diagnostic exams including MRI and CT, interpretation by specialty-trained radiologists, and image-guided procedures for the bones, joints, and spine.
MassGeneral Hospital for Children

  • Pediatric Orthopaedics
    The MassGeneral Hospital for Children Orthopaedics Service provides clinical care to infants, children and adolescents, from birth to college age, for the entire spectrum of musculoskeletal problems.
Department of Orthopaedics

  • Spine Service
    Our Harvard Spine doctors use non-operative therapies as well as advanced surgical techniques to treat scoliosis, spinal disorders, and spinal deformities and injuries helping their patients can get back to doing the things they love.
  • Sports Medicine Service
    Our Boston Sports Medicine team provides comprehensive treatment and rehabilitation for sports-related injuries from recreational, amateur and professional sports. Our Harvard faculty specialize in ACL, MCL and meniscus injuries in athletes and non-athletes.

The following related clinical trials and research studies are currently seeking participants at Massachusetts General Hospital. Search for clinical trials and studies in another area of interest.

View all departments

Departments and Centers at Mass General have a reputation for excellence in patient care. View a list of all departments.