Muscle Spasms in the back area can range from minor stiffness and discomfort to severe, sharp muscle tightening and pain. It can prevent a person from performing normal back movements. Maybe your back tells you already that you need to avoid some activities, or it serves as a warning that you are having a serious health issue, specifically in your spine.
The Causes of Muscle Spasms
First, you need to understand what your back pain is telling you, and that is to visit a healthcare provider. They are the best people who can provide you with an accurate diagnosis about it. But generally speaking, most of the back muscle spasm a person may experience exist because of the following reasons:
- The muscles are protecting themselves from muscle tension or strain
The back spasm can exist after a type of injury happens to the soft tissues like tendons, ligaments, and spine muscles. For the back muscle spasms to stop, it takes a week or two for these soft tissues to heal from the injury.
- The muscles can spasm in response to the current anatomical issue
If your back muscle spasm doesn’t get better after one to two weeks of treatment, or it simply a ‘come and go’ pain in the same portion of your back, then you might have an underlying anatomical issue in your spine. Some of the examples of these underlying problems that cause your back pain include:
- Facet joint osteoarthritis: A condition that can cause a cartilage breakdown between the facet joints. When the joints tend to move, the absence of cartilage can cause unbearable pain and stiffness or loss of motion.
- Degenerative disc disease: It is the most common cause of neck pain and low back pain and the one that is misunderstood.
- Spinal stenosis: This condition exists if one or more bone openings called foramina within a person’s spine started to narrow and lessen space for the nerves.
- Herniated disc: A medical diagnosis that classifies the underlying cause of leg pain, back pain, and other symptoms.
If any of these underlying anatomical issues occur in your spine, muscle spasms are more likely to exist because of ongoing instability or inflammation. It is essential to ask for medical attention in treating these underlying causes first, rather than treating only the symptoms.
First Aid To Consider For A Painful Muscle Spasm
If your back hurts and goes into spasm, the first treatment goal is to attain a relaxed muscle and relieve the pain. There are other effective treatments which include:
Short period to rest
It’s difficult to do daily activities or even move if you have a painful back muscle spasm. If you push through with the pain, it might only lead you to further injuries, and recovery may be delayed. So, rather than trying to do more activities, give yourself and your muscle a rest. For example, you can stay at home for the day and make things easy. Keep in mind that while resting, you can only do tolerated movements like a short walk. Extended inactivity can also stiffen your muscles and might lead to more severe pain.
Generally, walking is good on your back because it promotes proper blood flow, which in turn can speed up your healing and recovery process. But, in some instances, walking down or uphill or on uneven ground can worsen an underlying reason for the muscle spasms. If that happens, pay attention to what factors the symptoms aggravate and try not to do it anymore.
Putting ice wrapped in a cold pack or a protective towel to your back’s painful area is one best way to relieve pain. As a general guideline, cold therapy lessens local inflammation, which contributes well to relieving back pain. In doing this, you can simply use a commercial ice pack, or you can create one yourself. Cold therapy can be put on for about 15 to 25 minutes, then give it a rest for 2 to 3 hours before making the next application.
Applying a heating pad or heat pack to the affected part can maximize blood flow and feel soothing pain relief. Unlike cold therapy, limit your application with heat therapy to 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Give it a rest for at least 2 hours for your skin to recover between applications. If you will use a commercial heat pad, try to follow the direction and recommended time carefully.
Comfortable inclined position
You can lessen the stress on your lower back area if you only rest for a while. You can do it by lying on your back with the upper body supporting a slight incline position and a pillow under your knees. You can also try the inclined position while sitting in a reclining chair with the legs supporting the slightly bent knees.
Over-the-counter painkillers or relievers
Anti-inflammatory medication can help lessen the pain and inflammation. Some examples of these over-the-counter medications are naproxen, aspirin, and ibuprofen. Some people consider acetaminophen effective as well, but it only addresses pain but not inflammation. Before using any of these painkillers, you must read each label carefully.
These are prescribed medications that have an overall effect on the patient’s body and do not directly target the muscles alone. They are only prescribed if intense pain occurs and believes to be stemming from the back muscle spasm if another treatment mentioned above is not showing pain relief effect. Because of the severe risks and side effects, muscle relaxants can only be used short-term. It may cause you sleepiness, dizziness, reduced reaction time, and more. If you are under muscle relaxants prescription, you are not allowed to be driving as well.
After the pain in your back muscle spasms has been resolved, your healthcare provider or physical therapist may recommend physical therapy too. A progressive and controlled exercise program tailored to suit your needs can make a big difference in your recovery and prevent future back pain flare ups.