Neck and Back Injury

January 25, 2011

Lower Back Injury

Filed under: Lower Back Injury — publisher @ 2:45 pm  Tagged , ,

The lower back refers to the part of your back between the rib cage and the pelvis. It is made up of the lumbar spine and soft tissue (muscles, tendons, and ligaments) attached to the lumbar spine. The lumbar spine is made up of 5 hard bones (vertebrae) and sponge-like soft discs (intervertebral discs). The intervertebral discs allow the spine to bend or flex, and act as cushion and shock absorbers to the vertebrae.

The lower back carries most of our upper body weight, and it is very vulnerable to injuries. The common types of lower back injury (sometimes called low back injury or lumbar injury) are as follows.


A strain means an overstretched or torn muscle or tendon. Tendons are fibrous tissue that connects muscle to bone. Strains are often caused by twisting or pulling muscles or tendons and can happen suddenly or gradually over a long period of time. Muscle and tendon strains are common lower back injuries/lumbar injuries. Symptoms of muscle strains include pain, muscle spasms, swelling, and difficulty moving the injured muscle.


Sprains are also a common type of lower back injury/lumbar injury. A sprain means an overstretched or torn ligament. A ligament is a band of tissue that connects bones at a joint. Sprains are often caused by falling, twisting, or getting hit. Symptoms of sprains include pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty moving the joint. Some people may feel a pop or tear when a sprain happens.

Herniated Discs

Another common type of lower back injury/lumbar injury is herniated discs. Herniated discs are also known as bulging discs, compressed discs, ruptured discs, or slipped discs. An intervertebral disc is made up of a thick outer ring of cartilage called annulus and a jelly-like inner substance called nucleus pulposus. A herniated disc happens when the inner nucleus pulposus pushes through the outer annulus, causing the disc to slip out of place or rupture. Herniated discs can put pressure on the spinal nerves and cause pain. Herniated discs are most common in the lumbar spine.

Symptoms of herniated discs in the lower back include back pain that spreads to the buttocks and legs, tingling, numbness, and muscle spasms or weakness.

Treatments for herniated discs in the lower back include rest, pain and anti-inflammatory medicines, physical therapy, and surgery. Minimally invasive spine surgery has been proven effective in treating herniated discs in the lumbar region.

Fractured Vertebrae

Fractured vertebrae are among the most common types of sports-related lower back injury/lumbar injury. Children and adolescents who are active in sports are vulnerable to this type of lower back injury. Elderly people are also at risk for this type of lower back injury because of weakened bones.

Vertebral fractures (also known as spinal fractures) can be classified in different ways. Physicians tend to classify vertebral fractures according to the patterns of the fractures and whether or not the spinal cord is injured. This type of classification can help the physicians choose the appropriate treatments for the specific injury. The following are the main types of vertebral fractures classified according to fracture patterns.

  • Flexion fractures. Flexion fractures include compression fractures and axial burst fractures. A compression fracture refers to a spinal injury in which the front (anterior) part of a vertebra breaks and loses height, whereas the back (anterior) part of the vertebra does not. Compression fractures usually do not affect the stability of the spine and rarely involve the spinal cord. An axial burst fracture refers to a condition in which multiple parts of a vertebra crack and the vertebra loses height on both the front and the back sides. Unlike compression fractures, axial burst fractures can cause spinal cord injury.
  • Extension fractures. Extension fractures are also known as distraction fractures or chance fractures. An extension fracture happens when a vertebra is literally pulled apart. This type of fracture mostly happens in accidents such as a car collision in which the driver’s pelvis stays still while his or her upper body moves violently forward.
  • Rotation fractures. Rotation fractures can be further classified into transverse process fractures and fracture-dislocation. Transverse fractures are generally caused by rotation or extreme sideways (lateral) bending. This type of fracture usually does not affect the stability of the spine. Fracture-dislocation occurs when a fractured vertebra slides away from an adjacent vertebra. This type of lower back injury/lumbar injury occurs mostly at the base of the spine, usually the fifth lumbar vertebra in the lower back. Fracture-dislocation often causes serious spinal cord compression and makes the spine unstable.

Symptoms of fractured vertebrae in the lumbar region include pain that usually spreads across the lower back, muscle spasms that stiffen the back and tighten the hamstring muscles, numbness, tingling, and bowel or bladder dysfunction.

Common causes of fractured vertebrae include motor vehicle accidents, falls from substantial heights, sports (especially those involving head-on collision), and weakened bones caused by osteoporosis or tumors.

Treatments for fractured vertebrae include rest, pain and anti-inflammatory medicines, physical therapy, surgery, and sometimes a brace.

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