What causes sudden back pain when I turn to the right and bend slightly?

Seven years ago I had a left mastectomy due to breast cancer… I was in the bathroom, turned to the right and bend ever so slightly to throw something away in the waste basket, and BAM!! Excruciating sudden back pain and terrible  spasm in my lower left back.

I ran and laid down on the living room floor. It took 6 weeks of healing, I couldn’t lay down, move, or straighten up, I was bent way over the left due to the tightness in my lower left back area. Since then, I have had 9 more occurrences. All I do is turn to the right and bend down, hardly any movement, and wow!

I feel a strain and then the pain and tightness starts. I immediately ice it, put the back heat wraps on, and take anti-inflammatory meds, and just when I think it is better, there I go again and turn to the right, and bend over just a little, and it starts to spasm again! I can’t live like this anymore with this overwhelming low back pain that comes from such simple and subtle movements.  I have had an x-ray and it showed nothing just a little arthritis but I think I need to have an MRI. I have no pain in my legs, just at the bottom of my spine, and lower back above the butt cheek.

Would an MRI show any tearing of the muscle? I have had 10 episodes in 7 years, and am so afraid to even move anymore.  Do you think I really tore that muscle and has not since healed, and that is why I keep injuring it? What could be done for a torn muscle, and am I going to have to suffer like this the rest of my life?

I appreciate your comments and help, Thank you and have a great day!


You ask if I think you have a torn muscle that is causing our lower left sudden back pain, and how it will respond in the future.  Since I cannot answer your questions without first having examined you, I can only offer general possibilities to explain what you are experiencing.

Sudden back pain from a lumbar facet syndrome

As you explain it, your problem started shortly after surgery seven years ago, and has always been triggered by a right rotation and flexion of the lumbar spine.  With the distinct limitation of needing more information about your symptoms and the ability to examine you directly, I speculate that your problem is a facet syndrome started by a lower back injury that occurred as a result of your surgery while you were under sedation.  The key reason I think this is your problem is your explanation that you have sudden back pain associated with turning and bending, and long healing time .  This is a classic way for a facet syndrome to occur.  You also mention you have “a little arthritis.”   Well, spinal arthritis does not have to be great or extensive to cause a lot of pain; and when you add it to a case of a lumbar facet syndrome it can easily explain the kind of problem you have been having with the unexpected and sudden back pain that hits you when you twist and bend at the same time.

Sudden back pain is common in a facet syndrome when a person twists and bends at the same time.It is common for facet syndromes to be missed since the symptoms and findings can be easily confused with simple lumbar strain or sprain injuries.  I will guess that on x-ray your lumbar spine reveals asymmetry of the lumbar facets (a somewhat common finding that makes the low back unstable and susceptible to the history of easy and somewhat frequent exacerbations you report.

You will have to enter into a program of low back exercises to strengthen the low back muscles, and learn how to avoid the tendency to rotate and flex the lumbar spine as you do by simply learning to move your feet to turn to your right.  From my considerable experience treating this kind of problem I find that it responds well during an acute episode to direct needle acupuncture to the Bladder meridian at the level of lumbar facet involvement.  DL