Have you ever felt the muscles in your back tense up, causing discomfort or pain? If so, you’ve likely experienced a back spasm.
When the muscles in your back involuntarily contract, or spasm, it can cause pain ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain that can make it difficult to stand, walk or move. While back spasms can be extremely uncomfortable, the good news is that in most cases, they can be treated effectively without surgery.
What causes back spasms?
There are a number of potential causes of back spasms, including injuries to the muscles, tendons and/or ligaments in the back, heavy lifting, weak abdominal muscles, arthritis or a ruptured spinal disc.
Back spasms can occur when the muscles are overused and tired, or have been overstretched for a prolonged period of time. Athletes may also be more prone to experiencing back spasms — especially those who play sports that place a high demand on back muscles, such as football and golf.
If your back spasms last longer than one or two weeks, or if your pain comes and goes in the same area of your back over a long period of time, it may be due to an underlying back problem. Osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, herniated disc and spinal stenosis are all back conditions that could cause your back muscles to spasm.
If you are experiencing back pain, it’s important to explain your symptoms in detail to your doctor. Communicate details such as the severity and regularity of the pain, what works to relieve your pain and when the pain started. This information can help your doctor determine if your pain is the result of a muscle injury.
How are back spasms treated?
If you experience muscle pain in your back following physical activity or an injury, start by alternating ice and heat on your back. Ice is used to reduce inflammation, while heat improves blood flow to the area. Taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory may also help relieve your symptoms. Your doctor may also prescribe a muscle relaxant to keep you comfortable while your back heals. In some cases, cortisone injections may be helpful. Talk to your doctor about alternative treatments such as physical therapy or chiropractic care.
Can back spasms be prevented?
While not all injuries or back pain can be anticipated or prevented, there are some steps you can take to help reduce your risk of experiencing painful back spasms. Take good care of your back can reduce your risk of injury, back spasms or other serious back problems.
- Maintain a healthy weight to relieve stress on your joints.
- Keep your posture in check and avoid wearing high-heeled shoes, which can cause instability in your lower back.
- Stay active and be sure to include strength training in your workout routine to keep your back and abdominal muscles strong.
- Avoid spending too much time in bed or sitting, which can worsen back problems.
If you develop back spasms, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Low back pain can interfere with daily life, but back spasms are typically easily treated, so why wait to see a doctor.