Back spasms develop when the muscles contract involuntarily in the lower back. It is quite common for many people to have back spasms at some point. The lower muscles get tensed while contracting causing pain. The condition of pain may range from mild discomfort to intense pain. Back spasms involve contraction of different set of muscles in the body resulting in different symptoms. Wear and tear of muscles and swelling of muscles can cause back spasm. Most of the spasms can be managed with anti-inflammatory drugs and in some cases steroid medications are prescribed to control pain.
Points to Consider :
- Back spasm may present different symptoms according to the muscles that are affected during contraction.
- If the body gets dehydrated skeletal muscles are affected due to spasm causing intense pain.
- Most of the spasms can be easily treated by simply stretching the muscles but in some cases of underlying causes medical intervention is needed.
- Sometimes smooth muscles gets involved in the spasm like that of menstrual cramps or diarrhea causing significant pain. Here the muscles of wall region would contract due to spasm and the pain comes and goes at intervals.
- In rare cases of dystonia, certain chemicals that are involved in the transmission of signals to/from the brain are affected. In such cases medications are given to balance the neurotransmitter levels.
Back Spasms Causes :
Any injury in the ligaments, tendons and the muscles can cause back spasm. Lifting of heavy objects in improper position can cause back spasms. Sports personalities are more likely to develop back spasm than others since they make frequent and sudden turn during the events. Any work that gives extra strain to the muscles of lower back region can cause injury to the muscles and tendons. People having problem with the abdominal muscles are more likely to get back spasms due to lack of support.
Arthritis problem or rupture of disk in the spine can cause back spasm. Due to swelling of muscles it exerts pressure on the spine thereby causing back spasm. Nerve endings are often put to pressure due to ruptured disk of the spine leading to back spasm. Overuse of muscles and excess of stretching of muscles and keeping the muscles in the same position for long duration can also cause spasm. Peripheral artery disease can reduce the normal blood flow to the legs causing spasms in the legs.
Risk Factors :
A person having weak stomach muscles, arthritis, disk rupture, spondylolysis, lordosis and spinal stenosis is at increased risk of developing spasm. Bending forward the pelvic region excessively can pose risk. Having inflexible muscles in the vertebral column can also increase the risk of getting back spasm.
Symptoms Of Back Spasms :
As said already, the symptoms of muscle spasm differ with respect to the type of muscles involved in the contraction. The intensity of pain may range from mild to sharp pain depending on the muscle. Spasm that is caused by contraction of skeletal muscles produces acute pain and one can see bulging of tight muscle below the skin. The pain would be there for few seconds to a minute and get resolves automatically as the muscle gets stretched.
Back spasm can show signs of mild discomfort to intense pain. The extent of pain varies with that of the underlying cause. It can cause acute sudden pain on the lower back and the pain may radiate upwards. Pain can also be felt on the pelvic region, abdomen and on the thighs. Spasms of the smooth muscle can produce colicky pain. Some of these kinds are menstrual cramps and pain produced when the kidney stone passes through the urethra.
Back spasm is self explanatory and the person having spasm can feel the pain and discomfort. The muscles become tight and rigid on the particular area causing pain and it resolves only after the muscle is stretched to normal position. The doctor would first collect the complete medical history of the patient to know the underlying issues of the spasm. For individuals with intense pain in the leg caused by leg spasm the physician would check the palpitation in the feet. For those with recurrent back spasms, blood test would be done to check the levels of electrolytes and anemia.
Mild forms of back spasm need no treatment. Simple stretching of muscles on the back would resolve the problem. If the spasm is due to over-stretching of muscle or after an injury you can apply ice cubes on the back to reduce inflammation. Alternatively you can apply heat pack on your lower back which helps in regular blood flow and gives relief from pain. Take complete rest if your spasm develops after an injury since doing more activity would increase the pain further.
In case the pain does not subside you can take muscle relaxant drugs to facilitate easy healing. Your doctor may give a shot of cortisone injection on your lower back to get quick relief from the symptoms. Anti-inflammatory drugs would be prescribed to control swelling of muscles. Physiotherapy is very effective for healing of muscles and strengthening. Chiropractic care is also beneficial for back spasms. For spasms that develop due to skeletal muscle contraction your doctor will check for electrolyte levels and possibility of dehydration. He would address the symptoms like vomiting and loose stool to manage the spasm.
Fluid loss should be prevented for recurring of spasm. For those having diarrhea enough water should be taken to prevent dehydration which can cause spasm. For spasms caused by other causes your doctor would have to address the underlying issues. Muscles should not be given over stress and pressure suddenly. It is wise to prepare the muscles first before doing heavy jobs like shoveling snow or mowing.
Over the counter painkillers like Advil or Motrin gives relief from symptoms of pain. Muscle relaxants like Valium or baclofen are prescribed for spasms that develop due to imbalance of chemicals in the brain. If spasm is due to sudden increase of dopamine level then your doctor may recommend Levodopa or reserpine. Botox injection is also effective to control dystonia.
Tips for Prevention :
Take care of your spine and do not overdo exercises. The risk of getting a spasm would be reduced if you are careful in moving directions while performing stressful work. Do all possible efforts to reduce your weight since it would considerably help in relieving the extra-pressure on your spine. Avoid wearing high-heeled shoes since this might cause stress on your lower back. Do regular physical exercise and increase your activity level gradually.