What the Three Primary Back Muscles Do
Back muscles play a large role in the body. The different muscles work together to hold up the body. The muscles also support the torso and help it to bend, twist, and move. There are three types of muscles which help the spine function. The extensor muscles allow the body to stand and lift objects. The large, lower back muscles are included in this category, and they help to hold up the spine and gluteal muscles. The flexor muscles are attached to the spine in the front, and the abdominal muscles fall into this category. The flexor muscles, as the name would suggest, assist the body in flexing, as well as bending forward and arching the lower back. The curve in the lower back increases when the muscles in the abdomen are weak. The oblique muscles assist in spinal rotation and posture.1
What Do Back Spasms Mean?
Muscle spasms cause sensations which feel like mild twitches or even severe pain. From the outside, the spastic muscle could feel abnormally hard to the touch or even look visually distorted or observably twitching. Some spasms last longer than fifteen minutes while others are gone within seconds, and the duration and intensity depend on what is causing the back spasms.2 Back spasms are a common source of back pain. Generally, back spasms are treated without surgical intervention, though there are some cases where surgery is necessary. Spasms occur as a result of injuries in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the back, and they could also be related to medical conditions. Any activity that puts an excessive amount of strain on the back puts the patient at risk of pulled muscle in the back and spasms. Severe spasms might need additional, medical professional intervention.3
Upper Back Pain Treatment
Injury or strain to the upper back muscles and ligaments are some ways that the patient might develop upper back pain. Anything from carrying a heavy backpack to being in a car accident could cause upper back pain. The first step in treatment is to avoid the activity which caused the injury. The patient’s healthcare provider is likely to recommend stretching and back strengthening exercises to prevent further injury, as well as an ice pack and pain medicine to bring down inflammation. Back pain exercises might be started immediately, or the patient may need to ease into doing the exercises to avoid aggravation. After recovery, patients need to practice prevention to avoid sustaining further damage. Patients will perform warm-up exercises and stretches prior to physical activity, take regular breaks from working at the computer to stretch, and avoid twisting the body while lifting something heavy.4
Lower Back Pain Stretches
The lower back is another area of the body that needs to be strengthened. There are back exercises that patients can regularly engage in to strengthen their lower back muscles. If pain is experienced during exercise, patients should discontinue activity. Stretching the piriformis, a muscle that runs from the thigh to the spine, will contribute to the prevention of sciatic-type pain. The psoas major, a muscle located on the front of the lower spine, limits mobility when it is tight. The hamstring muscles, which stretch from the pelvis to the back of the knee, are important to stretch because they leave the body unable to properly sit up straight otherwise. Regular sitting without a proper, erect posture contributes to degenerative disc disease, as well as the onset of other back problems. When one part of the body is tight, the whole body suffers as a result.5
Strengthening the Lower Back
In addition to flexibility, the back needs to be strong to support the body. Contrary to popular belief, performing crunches and sit-ups contribute more to cosmetic “six-pack abs” rather than proper strength. In order to strengthen the abdominal muscles, patients should try working the transversus abdominis muscle. A more neutral, common position is used to train the back, rather than a flexed or extended position, as it would be from sit-ups. The gluteus medius muscle plays an important role in walking without hip pain, and, when this muscle is weak, the patient is more likely to walk with an irregular gait and hip pain. Patients will engage in warm-ups and cooldowns, along with these exercises, so that the body is properly prepared and then relaxed from the workout. As previously mentioned, going straight into a physical activity without warming up will lead to injury.6
Chiropractic Care for Back Pain
Chiropractors treat back pain very often. Spinal manipulation is one of the primary methods of treatment that chiropractors employ. Chiropractors can recommend exercises, much like a physical therapist would, as well as other lifestyle changes that the patient can try to treat and prevent back pain. A good chiropractor will be able to diagnose what is causing the back pain, as it is not always just an injury in the back. Some other area of the body, such as the neck or legs, could experience pain which spreads to the back. In general, chiropractic care discourages the regular use of medications because it is a practice which does not want patients to become reliant on medications for pain relief. Patients with certain medical conditions, such as osteoporosis, should not receive spinal manipulation. Chiropractors might also recommend massage for additional treatment because stress contributes to pain.7
Massage is both a non-invasive and low-risk method of treatment for most people. It benefits patients both physically and psychologically, as shown by studies. Massage increases blood flow, which brings additional nutrition to the muscles and tissues for recovery. The therapy also decreases tension and promotes relaxation and flexibility, which can reduce pain in tight muscles. Massage also contributes to the release of endorphins in the brain, enhancing mood and reducing pain, especially in those who suffer from chronic conditions. Some conditions that may benefit from massage therapy include muscle strain, osteoarthritis of the spine, and fibromyalgia. One of the most common methods of massage employed is Swedish massage. It promotes relaxation and circulation through kneading and long, gliding strokes. Neuromuscular therapy, which is also known as trigger point myotherapy, treats more specific points of pain. Shiatsu massage uses some aspects of neuromuscular therapy.8
Learn more about treating back spasms.