Physio 101: Lumbar Strain and the Importance of Exercise for Recovery

Over 80 percent of adults will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. One of the most common causes of this pain is lumbar strain.

Lumbar strain may come on suddenly after a trauma or over time where muscles are stressed repeatedly. You are at greater risk of lumbar strain if you are doing heavy lifting, sitting excessively, or have poor sleeping support. About 70 percent of mechanical low back pain is diagnosed as lumbar strain.

The lumbar vertebrae make up the low back section of the spinal column. Lumbar strain occurs when the muscles and tendons around this area are overstretched or torn, damaging tendons and causing the muscles around the lumbar vertebrae to spasm and feel sore. This isn’t usually dangerous, but it may be the source of the pain. 

Symptoms of lumbar strain manifest as point tenderness to the touch, muscle spasms, possible swelling around the affected area, and a decreased range of motion.

Treating Lumbar Strain Using Exercise

While there are a variety of treatments available, exercise is the most widely supported treatment for lumbar strain. A kinesiologist can tailor an exercise plan that specifically targets your lumbar region, working with you to more effectively target the strain.

Kinesiology tape may be used to support the low back throughout lumbar strain recovery. The tape works with nervous and lymphatic systems to reduce swelling and relieve pain in the injured muscles. Tape is carefully applied by one of our experienced kinesiologists to move with your back, continuing to provide support and extended relief while in motion.

When applied properly, kinesio tape supports the low back safely and comfortably without restricting your ability to exercise. You can wear each application for up to five days, so you’ll be ready to continue exercising at home.

Core stability and stretching exercises are especially important in lumbar strain rehabilitation programs. Flexibility exercises should be done at least five times a week. Strengthening exercises should be done three to four times each week. This targeted movement helps to stabilize and restore balance in your spine. 

Exercises typically progress from a beginner level to advanced. Your exercise program will include a variety of movements with different levels of resistance. The focus will be on increasing strength and flexibility in your lumbar muscles at a pace that is appropriate. Each program is specially designed to be compatible with your body and will progress through recovery with you.

We may encourage you to try some exercises in a pool if one is available to you. The warm water soothes your muscles, reducing pain and making exercises more comfortable. Hydrotherapy uses buoyancy to relieve pressure surrounding the lumbar strain while reducing stiffness and allowing your spine to move more freely. Because of the reduced stress on your joints, pairing hydrotherapy with exercise often accelerates recovery.

Following your recovery, we will recommend a preventative exercise program that will help you to prevent future strains. 

Manual Therapy for Lumbar Strain

Manual therapy techniques such as soft tissue massage or heat may be combined with your exercise program to support pain management. These can also be applied for short-term pain relief.

A soft tissue massage will apply pressure to strained muscles to increase blood flow and relieve tension. Mobilization techniques may be used to improve flexibility. 

Heat therapy increases circulation and reduces stiffness. Heat also stimulates sensory receptors in the lumbar region to decrease the transmission of pain signals and relieve some of your discomfort. 

Your physiotherapist will select the manual therapy that best supplements your exercise program.

We Want to Hear from You!

If you think you may be suffering from lumbar strain, we’d love to work with you! We’d also love to hear from you if you are interested in a lumbar strain prevention program. Access us through our online booking at or in-person at one of our locations at or contact one of our clinics at (833) U-R-HEARD.