Back Muscle Spasms

Causes and Treatments of Back Muscle Spasms

Back muscle spasms can be one of the most painful experiences someone can go through, and they can become debilitating. Back muscles are some of the largest muscles in the body, and the pain of a spasm of the muscles in the back can be very intense. When a muscle in the back spasms, it tightens or contracts quickly and tightly, causing pain and stiffness. The sufferer cannot force the muscle to relax. Many muscle cramps involve tightening of muscle tissue, but in a cramp, the muscles cannot relax and are locked in the contracted position. Muscle spasms in the back can be caused by a variety of things from muscle fatigue to back injury.

Back Injury

A slipped disc or other spinal injury can sometimes cause painful back muscle spasms. Often, muscle spasms are the body’s way of protecting bone and connective tissues from being injured by limiting motion in the area. The body locks up the muscles in the injured area to form a natural splint to hold the injured area still. Unfortunately, the protective muscle spasm only causes more pain in an already painful are of the body. This is the most common cause of muscle spasms in patients with spinal disorders. Sometimes, if a patient has a slipped disc, the muscles around the disc will spasm, which can lead to other issues. Those with known spinal problems like slipped discs should see their doctor if they have painful back spasms.

Oxygen Deprivation

One of the more common reasons for back spasms is oxygen deprivation. This may not make sense at first, but remember that muscles need oxygen to be able to function properly. When muscles are overworked during exercise, for example, they can suffer from lack of sufficient oxygen. This oxygen deprivation is the cause of many exercise related muscle spasms, such as charley horses and shin splints. Even if you don’t think you’re using back muscles in exercise, you probably are, and they can spasm just like muscles in the leg if you overdo it. Oxygen deprivation cramps in the back can be some of the most painful, and may lead patients to think they have injured their spine, but often it is simply back muscle spasms. The good news is that, with time and rest, back spasms caused by oxygen deprivation will fade and the muscle tissue will heal with no lasting ill effects.

Ways to Relieve Back Muscle Spasms

The goal in relieving back spasm pain is to get the muscle to stop contracting, to get blood to flow into the area and to return the muscle to proper function. The first thing suffers of painful back spasms should do is lie down to get strain off the back muscles. OTC pain relievers can be taken, but ibuprofen or aspirin are more effective than acetaminophen because they have anti-inflammatory properties. If you wish to apply hot or cold compresses to the area, always start with cold. A light massage with an ice cube can be very effective at bringing blood to the area, but remember to keep the ice cube moving so you don’t freeze skin. If the spasm does not release within a few hours, you can use hot compresses. To make a hot compress, soak a small towel in very hot water, and then wrap it in plastic wrap and a dry towel. This will seal the heat in and prevent burns. Place this hot compress over the area for a few minutes. To stretch out a back spasm, move very slowly and carefully. Do not force your muscles or stretch suddenly, as this can make the spasm worse. For a gentle stretch, lay on your back and gently bring your knees up to your chin. If you feel pain, stop, rest, and then try again. If pain, tightness or swelling persists, see your doctor.