You’re sitting quietly at a meeting or at dinner and you suddenly get up. At that moment you are hit with a crippling back cramp. You grab your back and wonder what the heck happened. It was probably a back spasm. It came on in just a second and lasted a minute or two before the pain began to diminish. If you have ever had one (or more than one), keep reading about back spasms, causes and how to find relief.
Common Causes of Back Spasms
As the above example confirms, sitting still for a long period of time can bring on a back spasm. If you are sitting with bad posture, you have doubled your chances of getting one.
Most of the time, back spasms are triggered by some external impact on the muscles that can lead to stress, strain, or injury to bones, ligaments, discs, the spinal cord, facet joints, or spinal nerves. The muscles are trying to protect themselves from strain. This kind of soft tissue injury usually heals enough within a week or two for the spasms to stop.
Contributing factors include the following:
- Sitting for too long
- Having poor posture
- Moving suddenly
- Lifting something heavy
- Being too active
- Experiencing stress
More serious reasons can be related to something anatomical. These include:
Spasms will continue until these spinal issues are diagnosed and treated. Spasms will recur due to ongoing inflammation or instability. It is important to see a spine surgeon to treat the underlying cause rather than just treating the symptoms.
Best Treatments for Finding Relief From Back Spasms
Start with rest to relax the muscles. Sit reclined with legs slightly elevated.
Alternate hot and cold compresses. Cold packs will reduce swelling and inflammation. Only apply for 15 to 20 minutes. Heat will increase blood flow and soothe pain. Wait several hours before going from cold to hot.
Over-the-counter meds are a good way to reduce pain and inflammation. Using ibuprofen like Aleve, Advil, NSAIDS or anti-inflammatory meds are better than just pain relievers.
If needed, prescription muscle relaxers can help with any additional pain. They are only to be used for a short time.
Physical therapy will strengthen core muscles to support the lower back. This should help prevent future recurrences.
Acupuncture is an excellent way to improve back pain.
How to Prevent Back Spasms
There are some steps you should take to prevent back spasms in your everyday life.
- Practice good posture
- Do muscle strengthening exercises
- Lift correctly
- Keep your weight in check
- Stand up straight
- Wear low-heeled shoes