Low Back Sprain
Lumbar Facet Sprain
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Low back joint sprains (Lumbar facet Sprain) is a very common injury that some osteopaths deal with every day.

What is a facet joint?
Our body is full of joints that help us move and the spine in our low back has little joints within it called "facet joints". These joints run all the way up the spine and are orientated to help guide the motion of our back in all movements. Facet joints are about the size of our fingertips and each joint is surrounded by a joint capsule.

Some studies have revealed that these joints are more sensitive to pain than others (which may explain the high incidence of injury). Anyone who has experienced an in-grown toenail or splinter may understand how something so small can cause so much pain or discomfort.

Causes of a Low Back Joint Sprain

  • Most commonly it is caused by gradual chronic mechanical overloading of the supportive structures of the low back (including muscle, fascia, ligaments and facet joints). This can lead to muscle fatigue and micro-trauma of these tissues causing low or high grade inflammation in areas of strain (in regards to a low back sprain there will be an overloading of the facet joint). This can happen from minutes to days to weeks etc.
  • Most commonly caused by poor and sustained/excessive poor postures or repetitive strain.
  • Commonly presents in those spending extended periods of sitting and working on desks and computers.
  • Pregnancy and recent weight gain.
  • Sedentary lifestyle and obesity
  • Long history of general poor posture
  • A history of other conditions or injuries that may have been poorly managed which can cause compensatory postural changes. For example poor rehabilitation of a knee injury or foot injury may cause you to walk/run awkwardly which may affect your back.
  • Trauma such as sleeping awkwardly, a fall, heavy lifting, or whiplash
  • Pre-existing conditions such as some arthritic conditions or degenerative diseases.


  • Sharp ache in the back especially with certain movements.
  • Low Back stiffness
  • Can wake up with back stiffness
  • May experience constant back pain (commonly dull)
  • Muscle spasm in the back and gluteal region that may by tender to touch
  • Dull achy pain may last for weeks (in some cases months).
  • Pain may refer to back or front of the leg..

Diagnosis Treatment
Your osteopath will commonly be able to diagnose this through a thorough history and physical examination. You will also be screened for any conditions that may require referral to a specialist. In some cases imaging such as X-Ray/MRI/CT scan may be ordered to rule out any other causes of the back pain. Treatment is based on examination findings and is based on relieving pressure and pain through sprained joint to reduce swelling and enhance blood flow.

Self Management

  • Ice is beneficial in the first 24-48 hours (3 sets of 10 minutes on 10 minutes off - 2 or 3 times per day)
  • Heat after the first 24-48 hours (20 minutes on 20 minutes off 2 or 3 times per day)
  • A short course of anti-inflammatory/pain reliever/analgesics medication as prescribed by your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Back and lower limb stretching and strengthening (as prescribed by your osteopath).
  • Ergonomics, Postural Training and Lifestyle changes (your osteopath will help with advice based on your past medical history and general questioning)
  • Introducing a core stability program through Pilates, Yoga or Personal Training may reduce recurrence and/or enhance recovery from your injury.
  • Click Here for stretches for The Low Back and Pelvis
  • Click Here for Strengthening for The Low Back and Pelvis