Back spasms are a serious medical condition that you should be aware of. They often result when a muscle is overworked or torn, causing inflammation.
This inflammation then causes the nerves along your muscles to contract and tighten, causing the spasm. Below, is a guide on the best treatment for your back muscle spasms.
Causes of Back Muscle Spasms
According to Healthline, there are a wide variety of factors that can cause muscle spasms. However, one of the most common causes is heavy lifting.
This type of activity puts extreme strain on ligaments and muscles in your back, which can trigger spasms.
Also, sports such as golf and football can cause back muscle spasms because they require constant back turning movement.
If you have weak abdominal muscles, your back muscles may be more prone to spasms, since they will offer you less back support.
If you have stiff or weak muscles from working out your back, they can easily become more injured than muscles that are more limber.
People who suffer from arthritis or ruptures disks in their spine are also at risk of developing muscle spasms as well.
Arthritis in your back can also put pressure on your spinal cord, causing pain in both your legs and back. A ruptured disk in your vertebrae can cause immense pain in your back as well.
Diagnosing Back Muscle Spasms
To diagnose your back muscle spasms, your doctor might order X-rays to see if you have bone fractures or arthritis causing it.
Also, they might request you to get magnetic resonance imaging or computerized tomography to see what muscles and tissues are affected.
These tests can also see what blood supply and disks are affected by your back muscle spasms as well. From these individual tests, your doctor can determine a more accurate diagnosis.
If you suffer from back muscle spasms, you should be ready to answer how often your muscle spasms happen, the severity of your condition, what helps relieve the pain, and when it all started.
How to Treat Back Muscle Spasms
Using Cooling and Heating
To treat your back muscle spams with a cool compress, apply ice for the first 72 hours.
The Northwest Medical Center recommends applying ice to a back spasm for the first 48 to 72 hours. After applying ice for 20 minutes, let your muscles relax for an hour and a half, then reapply for another 20 minutes.
Keep on repeating this icing schedule for the first three days after your back muscle spasms begin. However, keep a thin barrier between the ice and your skin to prevent developing frostbite.
Ice will help prevent inflammation that actually creates muscle spasms, and is regarded as more effective and less dangerous than painkillers.
To treat your back muscle spasms using a heated compress, apply heat after the first 72 hours. You can use hot showers, heating pads, or heat from a hot tub.
You should gently use heat to bring blood cells to the area of your back spasm and help relax your muscle fibers. You should alternate this ice and heat schedule for the first 72 hours following a muscle spasm.
If you have any questions, you should talk to a physical therapist about using cooling and heating to ease your back muscle spasms.
To treat your back muscle spasms, one of the most effective treatments are physical applications. To use this treatment method, apply pressure to the area of your muscle spasms.
Use your fingers against your spine and spasm area by rolling and moving your hand over the area. Next, you want to press down on the area when you feel a spasm starting.
You should also try using your fingers to walk over your muscle spasms.
To learn more about how to massage away your back pain, watch this YouTube video:
The next type of physical treatment you should try is hydrotherapy. Turn on your shower, warm the water, and aim it on your back for at least three minutes, Next, turn it on cold and aim it on your back for 30 seconds. Repeat this cycle until your back muscle spasms and pain has dissipated.
Next, you’re going to want to try stretching exercises to relieve the inflammation in your back.
Stretching your muscle fibers in your back can help prevent muscle spasms from happening again. Also, stretching during your back spasm can help soothe your back muscles out of the spasm.
You should also try doing strength training to strengthen your back muscles and avoid leaving them brittle enough to develop back muscle spasms. Fortunately, pull-ups can work your upper back as well as your biceps.
However, while you’re working your upper back, make sure you’re squeezing your shoulder blades together to strengthen your muscles even more.
Light rowing and other range of movements that work out your back can help lower your risk of suffering from back muscle spasms.
Finally, the last type of physical treatment we can suggest you trying to relieve back muscle spasms is lifting. Using proper lifting techniques every day can help you prevent injuries to your back.
According to Princeton University, when you have to lift a heavy object, make sure you lift with your legs, not your back, and plan of how you’re going to move it beforehand.
Remember, bend both your waist and knees when moving an object, don’t round your spine. Also, when you pick up a heavy object, make sure you have a good grip on it.
Increasing Your Fluids
If you suffer from back muscle spasms frequently, it’s important that you increase the number of fluids you consume. This is because back muscle spasms are commonly associated with dehydration.
Remember, you should drink at least five glasses of water a day. If you’re in an environment without water for you to drink, make sure you bring your own. Also, if you’re in a warm environment, it’s important that you pack water with you.
Add Supplements to Your Diet
Certain deficiencies can cause you to suffer from muscle spasms, like potassium or calcium deficiency.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, you should eat yogurt, cheese, milk, and take supplements to increase your calcium levels.
If you need more potassium in your system, you should consume more potatoes and bananas.
Although you don’t have to stick to bed rest, you should avoid activity that causes pain to your back and can potentially trigger a back muscle spasm. You should also aim to get a good night’s rest every day.
After a large spasm, you should try resting in bed for a day or two, but no longer than that, prolonged bed rest can cause even more health problems.
Keep Your Legs Elevated
After or during a back muscle spasm you should elevate your legs. Elevating your legs can prevent you from focusing on your spasm and lessen the amount of pain you feel. To elevate your legs, use pillows to prop your legs up and lie on a still mattress.
You can also try propping your feet on a footstool while sitting down.
If all of your self-treatment techniques have failed, it might be time to seek medical assistance. Muscle spasms can be extremely painful and tiring. You may need to contact a doctor if:
- your spasm or pain has been bothering you for more than two weeks
- your pain levels are high and the spasms are unbearable
- you experience back spasms frequently or have a history of back spasms as this could be a symptom of a worse condition
Your doctor will likely recommend that you take some kind of medication to relieve your pain. Typically, they suggest you use an over the counter medication like ibuprofen or naproxen.
If your pain is very severe, your doctor might prescribe you a muscle relaxant or a short-term narcotics regimen. Muscle relaxants are usually prescribed early in the treatment and should only be used for a short period.
Your doctor may also prescribe you NSAIDs, aka non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Ibuprofen and naproxen are NSAIDs but your doctor will be able to prescribe you something stronger if it is called for.
The doctor may also recommend that you go to physical therapy or see a chiropractor.
These professionals will use a variety of different treatments like heat, ultrasound, and muscle release techniques.
They can also suggest exercises you can do to boost flexibility and strengthen your back muscles which will prevent future pain.
Relief Using Painkillers
If all else fails, you can use over the counter painkillers to treat your back spasms.
According to Harvard Health, one of the best medications for this purpose is acetaminophen. This is an incredibly popular OTC drug to treat back pain.
Acetaminophen limits pain by decreasing its perception in the brain. It has very few side effects if any, and there is little to no chance of becoming addicted to this drug.
Additionally, patients who use it do not usually develop a tolerance to this treatment which means you can continue to use for as long as you need to.