Diagnosis: Back Sprain

 In Exercise and Health

Back Sprain


A back sprain is a small tear of a muscle or ligament in the back. The most common area for a back sprain to occur is in the lower back but sprains can also occur in the mid-region of the back. A sprain will worsen with movement and may have a lot of muscular spasm (uncontrollable muscle contractions) around the region. A patient with a back sprain will also have pain when standing for a long time and difficulty bending over (Micheli, 2011).

A back sprain is a small tear of a muscle or ligament in the back. #performbetter @pogophysio Click To Tweet


Twisting and pulling a muscle or tendon can cause what is referred to as a sprain. Sprains can also be caused by an instance of poor lifting form overworking the muscles and ligaments causing them to attain small tears. Sprains can also come from sudden twists that force the joints of the spine out of their normal position. Lots of other factors can increase the risk/cause a muscle sprain in patients, these include:

  • Being inflexible and tight in particular muscles especially the hamstrings
  • Having weak core stability muscles like the abdominals
  • Having excessive rounding of the lower back whilst performing activities
  • Participating in sports that involve lots of pulling and pushing, for example weight lifting or rugby.

(Marshall & Michael, 2016)


Sprains and strains can be diagnosed in clinic by a physiotherapist. The physiotherapist will consider the history of the injury and the event that may have caused it. Tests will then be performed to rule out other injuries of the spine, in severe cases of back sprains, scans may be taken to rule out more severe pathologies like bulging discs and fractures.


The treatment of back sprains is gradual and is very effective when it involves rehabilitation and prevention of recurrence. Treatment will normally start with pain treatments as the sprain is very tender in the early stages. Pain treatments involve the use of ice and heat, anti-inflammatory creams and medications, gentle massage and manual therapy is also useful as well as rest from any moderately painful activity (mild pain is normal and shouldn’t be avoided). Too much rest and activity avoidance is detrimental, so as soon as the sprain will tolerate, the patient is encouraged to return to their normal activities. Whilst returning to activities, the patient will be given advice about ergonomics, exercises and other strategies to prevent the injury from recurring. Some very important things to prevent recurrence include:

  • Strengthening the back muscles and the abdominals to provide more spinal stability
  • Learning how to effectively brace while lifting objects
  • Exercising regularly, keeping healthy, flexible and strong.

(Gottlieb, 2016)

Daniel O’Connor
Student Physiotherapist


Marshall, D. & Michael, T. (2016). What Causes Low Back Pain?. Pain, 142(2), 11-12.

Micheli, L. (2011). Encyclopedia of sports medicine (p. 57). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications.

Gottlieb, A. (2016). Physiotherapy in Back Sprains. Journal Of Bone And Joint Surgery, 5(2), 339.

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