Sometimes all it takes to trigger a painful lower back spasm is attempting to quickly lift something heavy without thinking about proper form. Other times, spasms occur because of repetitive movements, poor posture, or strains/sprains from overuse or overextension. Often accompanied by a sensation of affected muscles moving or contracting, the resulting discomfort can include sharp pain in the lower back or pain that extends to the hips and other lower extremities. Here are some of the basics of lower back spasms, including causes, treatment, and prevention.
It’s easier to prevent lower back spasms if you know what’s causing them in the first place. Some spasms are ligament injuries (sprains) or muscle or tendon tears (strains), which can range from mild to severe. Another common culprit is muscle overuse, such as what sometimes happens when trying new exercises or stepping up a workout routine, and it is referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Some other sources of spasms in the lower back area may include: • Nerve damage or related conditions such as sciatica • Psychological stress and chronic anxiety • Spondylolisthesis (vertebral slippage), disc herniation, and other disc disorders • Spinal stenosis (spinal narrowing) and similar abnormalities that may irritate spinal nerves and trigger back spasms
Minor lower back spasms may respond well to a brief period of rest or activity modification. Stretching and strengthening exercises can also be beneficial for occasional spasms. However, if spasms occur on a fairly regular basis, it’s time to get a proper diagnosis from a specialist, such as a Beverly Hills spine surgeon, who will conduct a physical examination and image tests to pinpoint a cause. Treatment may involve: • Pain and anti-inflammatory medications, which may include cortisone injections • Massage therapy, hot/cold therapy, therapeutic exercises, and other forms of physical therapy • Antidepressants to treat psychological conditions that may be contributing to muscle tension • Surgery to treat underlying causes (e.g., partial/complete disc removal [discectomy] or removal of part of a vertebral bone [laminectomy] to create more space for nerves)
It’s not always possible to prevent lower back spasms. However, you can still take proactive steps to reduce your odds of being distracted by painful spasms. If you don’t regularly exercise, for instance, strive to get about 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week to strengthen muscles, ligaments, and tendons in your lower back area and other supporting structures. About an hour of high-intensity aerobic exercise can be equally effective. Just check with your doctor first if you have existing back issues. Prevention can also involve: • Stretching before exercise or activity • Effectively managing daily stress • Taking regular breaks if you have to sit for long periods • Practicing proper lifting techniques • Maintaining good posture When trying to figure out what may be causing a lower back spasm, also consider some overlooked sources. For example, if you wear high heels on a regular basis, you may be throwing your alignment off enough to place added strain on your lower back muscles, tendons, or ligaments. With treatment, some people also experience relief from nontraditional sources such as acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, mindful meditation, yoga, Pilates, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Talk to your doctor if lower back spasms occur frequently. Lower back spasms are one of the most common spinal health issues, and their effects can range from mild pain to near complete debilitation, so it’s best to know the causes as well as how to treat and prevent them. If you’re experiencing lower back spasms or you have any other questions or concerns about your spinal health, the experienced professionals at The Spine Institute are here to help. Our spine experts are leaders 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.