What are Back Spasms?
Back Spasms are nothing but abrupt pain that is caused by the involuntary contraction of the muscles and/or ligaments in the lower back, particularly surrounding the region of spinal cord. Back Spasm caused by a muscle strain is fairly common and can be quite severe. Back Spasms may be caused by numerous problems.
What Can Cause Back Spasm?
Back spasm can be caused by a variety of problems with any parts of the complex and intricate, interconnected network of spinal muscles, nerves, bones, discs or tendons in the lumbar spine. An irritation or inflammatory problem with any of these above structures can cause Back Spasm or prolonged pain that radiates or spreads across other parts of the body.1 Some of the childhood lower back injuries often cause back muscle spasms, followed by severe pain and disability.
Some of the Common Causes of Back Spasm Include:
- A back muscle strain or ligament strain is one of the most common causes of acute lower back spasm.
- Lifting a heavy object, twisting, or a sudden movement can cause muscles or ligaments to overstretch or develop microscopic tears in back muscles around the spine mainly. The degree of pain in such lower back strain, ranges from mild discomfort to severe disabling pain, which depends on the extent of the back strain and the lower back muscle spasms that result from the injury.
- Lumbar degenerative disc disease also results in back spasm. For one or many reasons, the lumbar discs between the vertebrae can degenerate, especially due to aging or an injury.2 This degeneration of lumbar discs can cause both inflammation and slight instability in the lower back, bringing about pain, muscle spasms, and sometimes sciatica. It is not necessarily to be counted as an old age physical phenomena. Lumbar degenerative disc disease may occur in individuals at any age, even as young as 20 years old.
- Isthmic spondylolisthesis occurs when a vertebra in the lower back slips forward onto the disc space below it. It is most common at the L5-S1 level and can cause low back pain from instability and nerve root pain due to compression of the nerve root.
- Facet joint osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis or osteoarthritis of the spine, is a degenerative condition that develops gradually over time. The pain is caused by the breakdown of the cartilage between the facet joints in the spine. At first the symptoms may only be intermittent, but can later develop into steadier pain in the lower back, and may eventually cause sciatica in addition to lower back spasm.
- Both spinal stenosis and degenerative spondylolisthesis can place pressure on the nerves at the point where they exit the spine. Standing upright, such as in normal walking, increases pressure on the nerve and results in leg pain.
- In a person with osteoporosis, even a small amount of force on the spine, as from a sneeze, may cause a compression fracture. Compression fractures should be considered after any sudden onset of back spasm in adults over age 50. In post-menopausal women with osteoporosis and in men or women after long-term corticosteroid application, chronic back spasm may arise.
- Sacroiliac Joint Disease or dysfunction can occur if there is too much or too little movement in the sacroiliac joints. These joints that connect the sacrum at the bottom of the spine to the hip on each side may become the root cause of severe back spasm.
- Using of inappropriate mattresses sometimes triggers Back Spasm. At the time of sleeping, our body should be given a uniform support. That means there shouldn’t be any air between the body and the mattress. The only time during which the muscles, ligaments, and other structures in the spine can completely relax is while sleeping. And when a person suffers from a back injury or disorder, it’s especially important to sleep with a uniform support for the natural curves and alignment of the spine. There are a variety of gastrointestinal problems that can directly relate to any back spasm, mainly as lower back spasm. Inflammation of the colon, or colitis, is very often associated with lower back pain. Often, these will present themselves with back pain associated with abdominal pain and symptoms involving discomfort or dysfunction in the intestinal tract and stomach.
- Irritable bowel syndrome or various inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease can also be the culprit for persistent back spasm.
Symptoms, such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, constipation, gas and bloating can cause temporary back spasm. The cause of this type of back spasm is not anatomical; therefore the back spasm will not be persistent or chronic. When the cause is treated well, the back spasm will disappear simultaneously.
- Back Spasm can also occur as a result of mental stress. Such emotional issues can often cause what is called psychological back pain where the back pain or back spasm is directly related to the severe stress felt by the patient, for whatever reason. In some cases patient can develop stress due to existing back spasm which in turn leads to more increased back spasm.
- Even simple problems like heartburn, constipation, acid reflux etc. can be held responsible for causing back spasm in conjunction with abdominal pain.
Typical Sources of Low Back Spasms
- Irritation in the large nerve roots in the low back that travel to the legs can cause back spasm.
- The smaller nerves that supply the low back may become irritated and result in back spasm.
- The large paired lower back muscles (erector spine) can get strained leading to back spasm.
- Damage or injury to the bones, ligaments or joints can cause low back spasm.
- Degeneration in the intervertebral disc can lead to back spasm.
- Degenerative Spondylolisthesis can cause low back spasm.
- Stomach and intestinal issues can result in back spasm.
Home Remedies to Get Rid of Back Spasm
Using Pressure by Doing Massages
Lot of painful back muscle spasm can be dealt with simple massages. Pressing down with finger on the location of back spasm and releasing it after a few seconds helps in relieving the back spasm. This process should be repeated a few times daily to get rid of back spasm.
Steaming in a shower of hot water on the back for 2-3 minutes and alternatively blasting it with cold water on the back for 30 seconds till the back muscles spasm subsides is helpful for some back spasms.
Light physical work out daily which consists of stretching is a most common way to treat back muscle spasm.
Apply ice to the affected area in the back for the first 48 to 72 hours.
Limit activities and take complete rest for some days, as rest is important to heal back spasm. Plenty of rest should be taken both at night and after periods of intense physical activity.
Relief from back spasm can be achieved through over-the-counter painkillers like NSAIDs.
Elevating the legs and relaxing completely can also help with the back spasm.
Increasing the electrolyte and fluid intake helps a lot in alleviating back spasm.
Physical therapy or a visit to a chiropractor also benefits in treating back spasm.