Back spasms are caused by many factors; stretches, exercises, and chiropractic can help relieve the pain.
Causes and Symptoms of Back Spasms
Electrolyte abnormalities and dehydration can be culprits behind the spasms of skeletal muscles. Stretching the muscle may provide immediate relief for abrupt pain.1 The contraction of the muscle in spasm, especially around the nerve roots or spinal cord, however, can be extremely painful. Symptoms may arise after pulling, pushing, or twisting. While some can continue the activity or exercise after the spasm, there may be later complications, such as “bleeding in the muscles (that) stretches the torn muscle and tendons”. Continuing movement triggers more severe back pain. Patients may try positional relief, such as lying in a curled position. If a muscle is strained or swollen, any large amount of force could cause tearing of the tendons and muscles in the lower back. Certain sports may be more likely to cause spasms, such as basketball, baseball, football, weight lifting, and golf. There are other physical factors that can leave a person more vulnerable to back spasms. Having weak stomach muscles, tight hamstrings, swayback (lordosis), a tilted pelvis, inflexible muscles around the spine, or other back weaknesses (i.e., tumor, spinal stenosis, arthritis, disk rupture, spondylosis, or spondylolisthesis) may lead to these types of spasms.2
Conservative treatments for back spasms begin with rest, ice, and compression. Some doctors may recommend anti-inflammatory medicine, injections for pain management, muscle relaxants, or chiropractic care. Rehabilitation options include prescribed back stretches and exercises to promote strength and flexibility.3 A good rule of thumb for back spasms is to use ice for the first 2-3 days and heat after 72 hours (especially moist heat). Prolonged rest can be harmful, so 1-2 days of rest are generally all that are needed for a back spasm. Some people may find that elevating the legs also provides pain relief. Patients may help alleviate the pain by pressing on the spasm or walking the fingers along it. Hydrotherapy, or using hot water in the shower, alternated with cold water, can also provide pain relief. Before performing any exercises, patients should make sure to stretch, hydrate often, and add strength training, once they feel better. Pull-ups, light rowing, and “rearward fly exercises”, the latter two done with light weights, can provide for better range of motion. If back spasms last for weeks, occur often, or are severe, it is necessary to seek professional help.4
Acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic can all help to alleviate back pain.5 Vertebral misalignment could be a factor in back spasms. If the spine is out of alignment, a pinched nerve in the back may occur. A chiropractor may use massage, palpation, pressure, and manual manipulation to treat the acute pain. They can also recommend specific lifestyle changes (i.e., diet, supplements, posture), stretches, and exercises to help patients reduce inflammation and pain when they are at home.6 Stretches should be held for 20-30 seconds and repeated 5-10 times. When doing stretches, patients should not force themselves into “difficult positions” because “stretching should be pain free”.7
Find out more about back stretches.