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Symptoms, Causes and Treatments of Back Spasms


Symptoms, Causes and Treatments of Back SpasmsBack spasms are experienced when there is an unusual and involuntary contraction of muscle due to strain, muscle pain or weakness associated to injury or disorder. It usually occurs close to the spinal cord or adjacent to the nerve roots, leading in and out the spinal cord. This brings pressure on the nerves, which causes severe pain.

Muscle spasm commonly occurs when there is too much exertion of energy or straining such as while working out, doing heavy lifting or involving in a strenuous activity. People are more prone to muscle spasm while doing such activities if they are not sufficiently hydrated or if the stored calcium or potassium is low.

Some spasms can be caused by other disorders or there is an outside irritation of nerve, which is connected to a particular muscle. If the back spasm is due to herniated disc or spinal stenosis, the compression of the spinal cord may result to serious injury to the various nerves of the body and the damage can be permanent, even after the pressure is relieved. Seeking immediate medical care is necessary for critical signs of nerve compression such as total loss of balance, loss sensation in the shoulders or limbs or loss of bowel or bladder control coupled with weakness of the legs.

What are the other symptoms of back spasm?

Back spasm may be associated with other symptoms, which may vary corresponding to the underlying disease, condition or disorder. Symptoms that often affect the back may involve the other body systems as well.

Musculoskeletal symptoms that can occur with back spasm include:

  • Backache
  • Curvature of the spine
  • Buttock pain
  • Muscle strain
  • Foot drop
  • Stiffness in the spine
  • Neck stiffness
  • Shoulder pain
  • Pain, numbness in one leg

Neurologic symptoms that can occur with back spasm

  • Headache felt in the back of head
  • Sciatica, a shooting pain felt in the back of one leg
  • Nerve problems causing pain, numbness in the arm, shoulder, buttock or leg

Symptoms that may indicate serious condition

Some cases of back spasm can occur with symptoms, which might show serious conditions and should be evaluated immediately as emergency case. Immediate medical care is necessary if a person have back spasm that is associated with other serious symptoms, which include:

  • Abdominal sensation, weakness felt on one side of body
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Impaired balance
  • Muscle weakness in arms or legs
  • Loss of sensation on limbs

Causes of back spasms

Occurrence of muscle spasm is common to people who exert lots of energy or straining. Some elements of physical conditioning may render a person at risk to muscle spasms, these include:

  • Dehydration
  • Tightness in the tendons running down the back of legs
  • Low blood mineral level
  • Weak stomach muscle
  • Weak back muscles
  • Weak stomach muscles

Serious causes of back spasm

Back spasm can be a symptom of life threatening condition, which requires immediate evaluation as an emergency case. The symptoms include:

  • Gallstones
  • Ankylosing spondylitis complications
  • Kidney stones
  • Epidural abscess
  • Tumor
  • Kidney infection

Self Treatment of Back Spasm

The following are effective self care for back spasm, which you can be done at home. These techniques are proven effective and already provided relief to many.

Cease from doing activity – You should cease whatever you are doing if you incur muscle spasm. Try rubbing or massaging affected muscles.

Cold application – Swelling as well as increase in blood flow increases pain after incurring an injury. Applying cold to the affect area initially will help to minimize reactions. The cold application is commonly effective after the initial occurrence of muscle spasm.

Heat Application – Most people are responding well with moist heat comparing with dry heat application. The heat is instrumental in relaxing tensed muscles. The application of heat can only be done after the cold application. You can use a towel soak in hot water or hot water bottle.

The most convenient way is heat application using electric moist heating pad. Others do warm shower or bath. Direct application at the painful area for 15-minutes can be done as well, although you need to repeat it every four hours until the muscle spasm subsides.

Take a Rest – Give self two or three days rest most especially if the lower back spasms are caused by muscle injury. It is critical to have some rest because it will help in healing muscle injury faster. However, you have to maintain certain mobility while resting. Bending a twisting of trunk must be avoided because it tends to increase spasm.

Elevate Legs – It is common for people with muscle spasm to have difficulty finding a position that provide comfort. The following may help:
Lie on floor or bed at your back with your lower legs rested on a support maintaining 90-degree angle on the knees.

  • Try elevating legs using pillows.
  • While sitting, support feet or legs with a foot stool.
  • It is also effective to elevate knees over hip level.

Relaxation Exercises – It is essentially hard to relax if you are in pain, but relaxation exercise is proven effective in relieving pain. Diverting mind from pain helps the person to breathe well and relax. Eventually, this will decrease the tightening of back muscles. The following are suggestions to help you divert self from the pain of back spasms:

  • Reading
  • Meditation
  • Conversation with loved ones
  • Watching favorite TV show


If the above self-treatment techniques do not help, you need to consult a doctor for over-the-counter NSAIDs to help you in relieving back spasm. Although medication such as naproxen or ibuprofen is effective, prescriptions drug can relieve the pain faster. Moreover, stronger dosage of NSAIDS may be requested.

Muscle relaxants that are prescribed by doctors are also useful for immediate relief of pain, but drowsiness may be experienced along.

There are forms of exercise that can help in relieving back spasms:

  • Keep back straight, walk around lifting knees higher. This is effective for low back cramp or discomfort.
  • Easy stretching of the back muscle can be done by raising arm over the head. Do this for ten repetitions, five to ten counts, three to four times daily.
  • Lie on floor having the knees bent, feet flat on floor, pull a knee slowly towards chest, hold for ten seconds and go back to original position.

Never do exercises during the initial encounter of back spasms. Exercises can be started as soon as the pain becomes less severe or cramping is at minimum.


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