How can I get rid of back spasms?
Back spasms are painful, but you can do things to relieve the pain.
When your back is stiff or weak, it becomes prone to injury. While most muscle spasms in your back are harmless and can be treated effectively, some indicate that there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. It is the body’s natural protection mechanism usually indicating a strained or pulled muscle. Several factors can lead to back spasms, including injuries to tendons, muscles and ligaments in the back. Some health conditions, such as arthritis and vitamin D deficiency, can also lead to back spasms. Lifting heavy items and engaging in certain activities, including sports, are also common causes of back spasms. An individual with weak abdominal muscles may be prone to vulnerable, unsupported back muscles. Below are a few common methods to get rid of back spasms
- When in pain, we often take short shallow breaths that can prolong symptoms. It is common to take shallow breaths or hold your breath, but it will only add to the discomfort. Inhale slowly and deeply for a count of five seconds, pause for one second, and exhale in over three to four seconds. Do not pause at the end of the exhale. Repeat until the pain is manageable.
- Ask someone else to massage your back using a massage ball or foam roller until the spasm subsides. Once the muscle spasm has subsided, stretch the affected area. Lightly stretching the affected muscle groups can relieve any further tightness or discomfort.
- Alternating heat and ice therapy on the back can help ease pain. Ice helps reduce swelling and heat helps improve blood flow. Applying an ice pack to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes for the first 24 to 72 hours following a muscle spasm can help relieve symptoms. After the first 72 hours, apply a moist heat pack to the affected area for up to 20 minutes to soothe pain associated with muscle spasms and increase blood flow to the area, which promotes healing.
- Muscle relaxants and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help relieve symptoms as the back muscles heal. These medications do not address the underlying problem.
- Epsom salt is naturally rich in magnesium. Epsom salt baths can help relax muscles and relieve pain.
- Perform light exercise. Walking or light stretching will keep the area mobile and provide optimal blood flow to speed recovery.
- A back massage from a licensed masseuse can be very calming. However, be sure to express that you are in discomfort and point out where it hurts. The masseuse can do more harm than good if they apply too much pressure to the wrong area. A chiropractor offers hands-on adjustments that align the body to relieve pressure from the nerves and soft tissues. This reduces the signal that the brain receives that triggers involuntary contraction. In addition, the chiropractor may advise one to go for massage therapy or offer nutritional advice, which can help relieve chronic spasms.
- Consult a doctor if your pain is not relieved. In certain cases, muscle relaxants and steroid injections may be given as well. Some topical (applied on the skin) ointments can also provide temporary relief.
When should I consult a doctor to relieve pain due to back spasms?
Generally, if you are not feeling any improvement after 3 days (72 hours), it is good to contact a doctor. Contact your health care provider if you develop these symptoms along with back muscle spasm:
- Sudden difficulty controlling your bowel or bladder function
- Muscle weakness in arms or legs that make you feel unstable when you walk and decreases in the distance you can walk
- Pain and numbness traveling down your arms or legs, especially if this increases when sneezing, coughing, or sitting down
- Increased pain when lying down and the inability to sleep at night
- Fever, weight loss, or other signs of illness when you are experiencing muscle spasms
How to prevent back spasms
Common tips to prevent back spasms may include
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Ensuring that you maintain proper posture and using ergonomic aids (tools that help you maintain proper posture like chair cushions and a laptop stand) when needed to provide the stability and strength that your back needs. This may minimize the risk of back spasms.
- Engaging in a stretching and strengthening program for your back and core muscles, as well as regularly participating in some form of cardiovascular activity to keep back muscles healthy.
- Properly warming up and cooling down before and after exercise can help prevent muscles from becoming fatigued, strained or injured.
- Staying hydrated, eating a proper diet and getting adequate sleep are recommended.