How to Treat a Back Spasm

Опубликовал Admin
20-08-2018, 14:58
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Expert Reviewed While any back pain is hard to deal with, the involuntary contraction of a back spasm can cause excruciating pain that brings you to your knees. The unfortunate truth is that if you have a back spasm once, you're likely to have one again. Back spasms are most typically caused by a series of small strains that inflame the muscle. The inflammation sensitizes the surrounding nerves, causing the muscle to contract and spasm. If you have a back spasm, you likely first want to relieve the pain. Once the pain is dulled, take steps to treat the cause of the spasm and keep it from happening again.

Relieving the Pain

  1. Apply ice for 20 minutes. Use an ice pack wrapped in a soft towel. Lie on your back and place the ice pack underneath you on the spot where the spasm occurred. Relax in this position for about 20 minutes, breathing deeply.
    • You may want to lie on an incline to reduce the pressure on your back. For a lower back spasm, you may get more relief if you elevate your legs.
    • Repeat as needed every 2 hours for the next 48 to 72 hours. Don't lay on the ice pack for more than 20 minutes at a time, and don't fall asleep on an ice pack. Prolonged exposure can cause frostbite or nerve damage.
  2. Take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications can help reduce pain and inflammation. Common OTC NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve).
    • You may also get relief from acetaminophen (Tylenol). While it does not have anti-inflammatory properties, it has a smaller chance of upsetting your stomach.
    • You can also try a muscle relaxant, like Flexall or Percogesic. Use the smallest dose possible, as these can cause drowsiness.
  3. Try to walk around. While your first instinct after a back spasm may be to lie down, a short walk will get your blood moving and can help jumpstart the healing process. Start with short walks every hour or so immediately following the spasm.
    • If you lay down for too long, you can actually make the problem worse. Inactivity causes your muscles to stiffen, which can lead to more pain or even another spasm.
    • Walking and other low-stress aerobic activity, like swimming, are great things to do during the first 2 weeks. Start slowly and gradually increase your length of exercise over this time.
  4. Apply moist heat after 72 hours. After 3 days, the initial swelling and inflammation will have gone down. At this point, you can start using heat to increase blood flow and loosen your muscles. Use a commercial heat pack, or soak in a warm bath.
    • Moist heat is preferable because it won't cause dehydration. Staying well hydrated is important both for the treatment and prevention of muscle spasms generally.
  5. Ask your doctor for a cortisone injection. Cortisone is an anti-inflammatory medication that works to decrease inflammation around your nerves. While it acts similarly to OTC anti-inflammatory medications, the relief lasts several months rather than just a few hours.
    • A cortisone injection only relieves the pain associated with your muscle spasms. It does not treat the underlying cause.

Addressing the Source of the Spasm

  1. Determine what triggered the spasm. A back spasm may be triggered by a prolonged period of inactivity followed by a sudden movement. Back spasms also may follow overuse of the back muscles, such as heavy lifting, or some other injury.
    • There are many different treatments for back spasms. Understanding what caused the spasm can help you find the most effective treatment.
    • If your spasm was caused by a sudden movement after a period of inactivity, you have no further underlying physical problem that needs treatment. Simply use ice and heat, stay active, and do some gentle stretching.
    • You may want to discuss the incident with your doctor. They can help you identify the probable trigger of your muscle spasm. You might also talk to a personal trainer or physical therapist.
  2. Try massage therapy to reduce stress and tension. Massage therapy from a certified professional can improve circulation and help your muscles relax. If you feel your spasm was caused by general stress, massage therapy can help.
    • You may notice a difference after a single session. However, typically you need several sessions over the course of a couple of months if you want to see lasting results from massage therapy.
  3. See your primary physician for an official diagnosis. If at-home treatment doesn't resolve your problem, or if you continue to have muscle spasms in the same area, your primary physician may order tests to identify the cause.
    • Discuss your back spasms with your doctor, and tell them what you've been doing to treat them at home.
    • Your doctor may order X-rays, CAT scans, or an MRI to further evaluate the condition of your back.
  4. Get physical therapy for muscular injuries. If you tore or injured a muscle, physical therapy can help rehabilitate that muscle. Physical therapy also helps correct muscle imbalances, which can cause one muscle to overwork and lead to spasms.
    • A physical therapist can also provide you with a custom exercise routine designed to treat the specific issues that are causing your back spasms.
  5. Visit a chiropractor for spinal issues. If your spine is out of alignment, or if you've had a spinal injury, such as a herniated disc, you may need chiropractic care to address the cause of your back spasms.
    • Chiropractors typically use manual adjustments to move your spine into alignment. They may also use therapeutic exercise, massage, and other treatments to stimulate your muscles and nerves.
  6. Rule out neurological conditions. Muscle spasms can be caused by serious neurological conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's. If you have frequent muscle spasms with no identifiable trigger, relay your concerns to your doctor.
    • Your doctor will discuss any other possible symptoms you might have and refer you to a neurologist for further testing if they believe it is warranted.
    • If you start experiencing incontinence (or the inability to hold your urine in), see a doctor, as this can be a sign of major underlying conditions.

Preventing Future Spasms

  1. Drink water to stay well hydrated. Muscle cramps and spasms can be caused by dehydration. While staying well hydrated won't necessarily prevent a back spasm from ever happening again, it will help your muscles remain loose.
    • Try to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day for proper hydration. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, which are diuretics and will dry you out.
  2. Stay at a healthy weight. Extra weight can put more pressure on your back and musculoskeletal system, increasing your chances of developing a back spasm. Make sure that your weight is right for your height. Look up your BMI or ask a doctor for a physical evaluation.
    • If you need to lose weight, consult a registered dietitian for a diet plan that works for you. Slowly incorporate more exercise into your day once your back spasm clears up.
  3. Correct mineral deficiencies in your diet. If your diet is lacking in calcium, magnesium, or potassium, you may have more frequent muscle spasms. Even if you're working with a physical therapist or a chiropractor, your spasms may continue if you have these mineral deficiencies.
    • Look for whole food sources of these minerals first. Dairy products are a good source of calcium, while bananas and potatoes are good sources of potassium.
    • If you have a mineral deficiency, reduce or eliminate your consumption of coffee and processed sugar, which impede your body's absorption of minerals.
  4. Walk to stay active. Staying active is one of the most important things you can do to prevent future back spasms. Walking is a low-impact activity and is generally easy on your back. Start with shorter walks and work up to a 20-minute walk every day.
    • Cycling and swimming are two other exercises that are low impact and particularly good for your back.
    • If you have access to a gym, you might also try 15 to 20 minutes on an elliptical or stair-climbing machine.
  5. Incorporate stretching into your exercise regimen. Yoga or pilates can help improve the flexibility and range of motion in your back. Try a few basic stretches before and after any activity to keep your back muscles loose.
    • With any stretching, only stretch as far as you can comfortably. If you feel any pain or discomfort, stop immediately. You could cause further damage to your muscles.
    • Gentle stretches can also be helpful to reduce pain immediately after a back spasm.
  6. Use a lumbar support pillow while sitting. Place the pillow between your lower back and seat to help you sit up properly. Do this while working at a desk or driving for long periods. Get up at least once an hour to walk around. Avoid sitting for too long at 1 time.
    • Avoid hunching over while sitting.
    • If you have to sit for a long time, change positions often.
  7. Start strength training to build core muscles once your back spasm heals. The muscles in your core create a natural corset that keeps your spine in alignment and your back in correct posture. Strengthening your core can help you avoid future back spasms.
    • The plank is a basic core strengthening exercise that you can do without any equipment. Lie on your stomach on the floor, propped up on your elbows with your forearms flat on the floor. Raise up until only your toes and your forearms are supporting your body. Activate your core and hold the position for 20 seconds to start.
    • Practice your plank several times a day, gradually increasing the length of time you hold the position.
    • Make sure you're breathing deeply and regularly while holding the plank. Many people have a tendency to hold their breath when they activate their core.
    • Avoid jerky or fast movements while lifting weights or heavy objects, as these may cause a back spasm.


  • Back spasms rarely require surgery unless the problem stems from an anatomical defect or is associated with unrelenting pain and progressive muscle weakness.
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