Back muscle spasms can range from nothing more than a minor annoyance to a major painful distraction that limits movement. The most effective way to reduce the risk of being sidelined by muscle spasms in the back is to develop a better understanding of what might cause them in the first place. Below we’ll discuss the causes of back muscle spasms and possible treatment options.
One reason muscles involuntarily contract is because they’re trying to protect themselves from muscle strain. If this is the source of your soft tissue injury, the resulting discomfort will likely go away within a few weeks. However, muscle spasms are more likely to continue to occur if there’s an underlying cause. Possible anatomical or structural reasons for back muscle spasms include:
• Spinal disc damage
• Facet joint osteoarthritis (OA)
• Spinal narrowing (stenosis)
• Spinal disc wear (degenerative disc disease)
The initial treatment often recommended for back muscle spasms is to rest or modify activities for a few days. Just avoid the temptation to “push through the pain.” Doing so could make the injury worse by further irritating soft tissues that are already strained.
However, “rest” doesn’t mean total inactivity. Too little activity weakens muscles and makes them more susceptible to injury. Instead, opt for gentle forms of activity, such as going for short walks, as your irritated spine-supporting muscles heal. Moderate activity also stimulates blood flow, which speeds up the body’s natural healing processes. Early treatment for back muscle spasms may also involve:
• Cold therapy – Acute muscle spasms are painful because of inflammation. Applying an ice pack to the affected area reduces local swelling. Never apply ice directly to your skin.
• Heat therapy – Heat has a soothing effect because it increases circulation and helps tissues heal. Heating pads, heat gels, and warm baths are some of the ways to take advantage of the healing power of heat.
• Inclined sitting/laying – Getting into a reclined position where your upper body is propped up and your knees are slightly bent can take pressure off your lower back as you recover from back muscle spasms.
Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen can also control inflammation around affected soft tissues. For pain relief, some people prefer to use acetaminophen, although it doesn’t treat inflammation. If your discomfort is intense, prescription muscle relaxants or NSAIDs may be an option. Muscle relaxants are only meant to be used on a short-term basis because of potentially serious side effects, including drowsiness, dizziness, and reduced reaction time.
After the acute pain has gone away, your doctor or Beverly Hills spine surgeon may advise you to participate in a physical therapy program. The purpose of this recommendation is to strengthen your spine-supporting muscles to minimize future flare-ups.
You may also be able to prevent back muscle spasms by doing a proper warmup before getting active. Keeping an eye on your posture and avoiding sugary snacks and other foods that tend to make inflammation worse can be beneficial as well. Lastly, remember to see your doctor or a spine specialist if you have back-related pain that’s not going away.
If you’re experiencing back spasms or you have any other questions or concerns about your spinal health, the industry-leading professionals at The Spine Institute are here to help. Our spine experts are pioneers in every aspect of spine care, including prevention, non-surgical treatment, and state-of-the-art surgical techniques such as spinal fusion alternatives. Beverly Hills residents are urged to call one of our friendly representatives today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.