Lumbar Spine Sprain


A lumbar strain is a strain to the zygopophyseal joints commonly also known as the facet joints.

These joints articulate at the back of the spine preventing excessive extension or rotational movements. Each facet joint has cartilage on their surface to protect the joint and strong connective tissue wraps around each of the joints. During movements of the spine stretching and compressive forces act on these joints.  If the forces are more than the joint can handle you may damage either the cartilage protecting the joints or the membrane surrounding the joints. This is known as a lumbar facet joint sprain.

Risk factors of a lumbar strain include:

  • Sustaining a position of  poor posture.
  • Not warming up properly.
  • Just after a break where you have cooled down and not taken time to warm up properly.
  • At the end of the day/game where you are tired, you use poor technique and your core stabilisers fail to work effectively to stabilise your back.
  • When you become lazy and fail to follow correct manual handling protocol.

Typically the mechanism of injury for a lumbar strain includes a twisting motion. This can be combined with a flexion, side flexion or extension movement.

With treatment the majority of facet joint sprains heal within a couple of weeks, however in particularly bad cases it may take significantly longer especially if the aggravating activity is continued and correct treatment protocol is not followed.


Symptoms include:

  • Sudden onset of back pain.
  • Pain and stiffness in the lower back, particularly at the end of the day or first thing the next morning.
  • Discomfort on one side of the spine
  • Pain especially aggravated with trunk rotation and extension.
  • Muscle spasm around the area of sprain.
  • Pain may be referred into the buttocks or legs.


Treatments include:

  • Reducing muscle spasm.
  • Taping for support.
  • Mobilisations and manipulative techniques to restore movement to your spine.
  • Using the correct exercises to ensure you restore your movement.
  • Strengthening of the lower back and core.
  • Ensuring correct manual handling or biomechanics are followed.