What is a back spasm?
If you have had a back spasm, you know they can be significantly painful and debilitating. Your back can feel like it has turned to concrete and you suddenly realise how much you need and use your back everyday. A back spasm itself is an involuntary contraction of muscles around your spine including erector spinae which can cause a great deal of pain. Although muscle’s can spasm on their own because of an internal issue such as excess lactic acid particularly when playing sports, back spasms usually occur due to an underlying issue or condition.
What causes a back spasm?
When you move, the individual joints in your spine move contributing to the whole movement. For example if you were to lean backwards 20 degrees, the individual joints should contribute a small degree of movement each to make up the 20 degrees overall. Due to many problems such as bad posture, stress or injury, you body compensates causing you to move incorrectly. These movements are often subtle and unlike limping, are one’s which you may not even notice yourself. Your back is not designed to move incorrectly and so your backs self-protection mode kicks in. As these incorrect movements can cause damage, your back’s response is to spasm the surrounding muscles to stop the area from moving helping to prevent any further damage. But now you can’t move, so what do you do?
What do I do when when I have back pain.
Getting the pain under control should be the first step to relieving your back spasm. You can use over the counter pain medications initially (see our pain medication guide) but consulting your doctor or chemist is always recommended. As well as pain medication your doctor may be able to prescribe muscle relaxants which cause the muscle fibres to go into a state of relaxation helping reduce the muscle spasm. Modalities such as a TENS machine can also help to reduce the pain although this will not help reduce the muscle spasm itself.
With a muscle spasm you will find many movements painful but some which are worse than others. It is crucial you listen to your back and avoid movements which cause severe pain as you do not wish to cause further damage or make your back spasm worse. Depending on the cause of you spasm it is important to a find a comfortable position to rest. Chances are you have not been sleeping well due to the pain so finding a comfortable position can help you get a few hours sleep. If you have severe pain bending forward, try lying on your front on the floor with your elbows underneath you shoulders. If you have severe pain standing up, try sitting in a firmly supported chair or lying on your back with cushions under the back of your knees. Each back pain case is different and each individual is unique, the key is to listen to your body and find positions which are comfortable for you. If you are struggling you can contact our team who can help advise you.
Heat or ice can often provide some relief and help to improve movement. If your back is injured and inflamed ice is best to use as it helps to decrease swelling, inflammation and sensitivity. Often with back spasms, heat is more beneficial as it increases blood flow to the back muscles and makes the tissues more flexible resulting in reducing the back spasm and more movement. Massage is also very beneficial for back spasms. We regularly use massage therapy to reduce back pain, ease the spasm and increase movement for our patients.
How do I fix a back spasm?
Once the back pain has eased and you feel like your getting back to yourself, many people return back into everyday life and activities feeling like the back spasm experience is now in the past. It is important to understand that while you may not be in any pain and feel like you can move just fine, your back spasm was caused by an underlying, hidden condition which is just waiting to strike. Without assessment or treatment to address this underlying condition the chance of your back pain or spasm returning is high. Due to this, it is often better to think of a back spasm as a warning sign that something is not right and you should seek a back pain healthcare professional to assessment and correct the underlying cause to prevent further issues.
Red flags of back pain!
A red flag is something that requires immediate assessment or investigation. If you lose control of your bowel or bladder it is important to go straight to the accident and emergency department immediately. Pins and needles, weakness or pain radiating down your back into any part of your leg would be signs that the nerves of the spine are involved and it is important to contact us for assessment.
If you need any further information regarding sciatica or low back problems contact us for free advice.
While every effort’s been made to ensure this article’s accuracy and evidence based, it doesn’t constitute legal advice tailored to your individual circumstances. If you act on it, you acknowledge that you do so at your own risk. We can’t assume responsibility and don’t accept liability for any damage or loss which may arise as a result of your reliance upon it.