Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Back Spasms
Back spasms cause sudden, sharp pain triggered by an involuntary muscle contraction, and often occur in the lower back. While they are sometimes temporary, back spasms can also be debilitating. Either way, it’s important that you listen to your body. The spasms could be a warning that there’s a more serious underlying spinal issue, or simply telling you not to perform a particular activity again.
What Causes Back Spasms
Back spasms are most often the result of back strains—or tears to a muscle, tendon, or ligament. Strains often occur from improper heavy lifting techniques or repetitive athletic sports that require the back to turn suddenly. Other causes include:
- Bulging disc
- Skeletal irregularities (like scoliosis)
- Weak abdominal muscles
- Tight hamstrings
- Weak lower back muscles
What To Do If You Experience a Back Spasm
Your first instinct may be to immobilize completely, but that can actually be more detrimental. First, find a position that is less painful. Try lying on a firm surface, either on your back or your side with a pillow between your knees.
As long as the pain is tolerable, you can resume light physical activity to help increase circulation.
For the first 2-3 days, you can apply an ice pack for 15-20 minutes no more than three to four times a day to reduce inflammation. If that doesn’t provide relief, you can try a heating pad or alternate between ice and heat. Scheduling an appointment for a massage or with your Chiropractor can oftentimes help ease a muscle spasm.
An over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve), may also help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
When to Consult Your Physician
If you are not feeling some improvement after 72 hours, you should contact your healthcare provider. If you develop any of the following symptoms along with your back spasm, you should contact a physician immediately:
- Sudden difficulty controlling your bowel or bladder function
- Increased pain when lying down
- Inability to sleep at night
- Muscle weakness in your arms or legs, particularly if it makes you feel unstable when you walk or decreases the distance that you are able to walk
- Pain and numbness that travels down your arms or legs
- Fever, sudden weight loss or other signs of illness
Contact Pacific Spine
The occurrence of back spasms can range from mild discomfort infrequently to severe chronic pain. They can typically be treated without surgery, but in cases where the pain is related to nerve problems surgical intervention may be necessary. Don’t let back spasms prevent you from returning to work or doing what you love. Call Pacific Spine Specialists at 503-885-9391 to schedule an appointment today.