What are Back Spasms?

When we bend over to pick something up or lift something a little too far away from us, we often pay for it with debilitating back pain. Ouch, a muscle spasm. Usually these result from overuse, sports, or some accident/wrong move. But the root cause of most muscle spasms is an actual injury to something in your lower back, the lumbar spine.

At DFW Center for Spinal Disorders, back pain is something we help our patients with every day, so here’s some more information on the dreaded back spasms that we all want to avoid.

What is a back spasm?

When a muscle goes into a spasm, it means there is an involuntary contraction of the muscle. When these occur to the muscles in the back, they are back spasms. These usually seem to happen out of nowhere, but more often than not they are the result of small strains you have been inflicting on your spine that have created mild inflammation. This inflammation then makes the surrounding nerves more sensitive, which lead to the muscles contracting.

What causes a back spasm?

For instance, if you have a disc that is bulging outward and pushing on one of the nerve roots exiting the spine, that compression causes irritation and inflammation. In response to the pain that results, the body seeks to immobilize the affected area to stop the pain. It tightens the surrounding musculature, and you’ll get painful back spasms. You think the spasm was its own doing, but the underlying problem was the bulging disc.

Also, your back muscles can become too tight due to stress, lack of/too much exercise, dehydration, and structural imbalances. If one area is too tight, other muscles will be too weak. This is a setup for a back spasm. One movement in the wrong direction can then injure a spinal joint, ligament, or disc, resulting in the spasm and severe pain. The event wasn’t the cause. It was the muscle imbalance.

What to do when you get a back spasm

  • For the first 48-72 hours — Apply ice for 20 minutes, repeating this every two hours while you lie on your back. Ice reduces the inflammation.
  • After 72 hours — Apply moist heat. A heating pad is best. Heat increases the blood flow to the area and relaxes tight muscles and irritated nerves.
  • Take aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.

Generally doing all of these things is the best course of action.

From there, if the pain doesn’t pass, it’s time to call us at DFW Center for Spinal Disorders. We know back pain, and if yours is becoming chronic, this is beyond a muscle spasm issue. Contact us at (817) 916-4685 to make an appointment.

Posted in: Back Pain

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