A back spasm is when your back muscles reflexively contract and most of the time this will occur in the lower back. Some of the possible causes of muscle spasms as well as severe pain include irritation or injury to the nerves, ligaments, or muscles of your back.
Most people who have this specific muscle condition will notice a severe muscle tightening accompanied by pain. It is also possible to feel a muscle tension or knot on the back. The reflexive muscle contractions will usually occur immediately following an injury but they may also be delayed by several hours or days before being felt.
Causes of Lower Back Cramp
Frequently the first step to dealing with a lower back cramp is to understand the cause in your particular situation. Here are just a few of the most common causes that can lead to these back cramps or muscle spasms.
1. Injury in Accidents or Playing Sports
One of the most common triggers of acute cramps in the lower back is an injury. Any sort of injury can be sustained from bending over incorrectly, doing exercises, playing sports, or being in an accident and these injuries may involve damage to your muscles and ligaments.
2. Damage in the Nerve Tissues
If your lower back cramps are due to nerve damage, then they will frequently be accompanied by additional symptoms associated with damage to the nerve tissues including a tingling, burning or numbness in your back. These sensations may even extend to the legs eventually. Back cramps due to nerve damage is usually because of extra pressure on your nerve roots and some causes include your spinal canal narrowing as you age, a fracture in your vertebrae, spondylolisthesis, or spondylolysis. Unfortunately, back cramps due to these causes tend to be harder to manage.
3. Other Causes
There are a range of other conditions or problems that can lead to a lower back cramp including anemia, diabetes, hormonal disorders and problems in the kidneys. In some cases, essential mineral deficiency (specifically magnesium and potassium) may make the cramps worse. A final possible cause is dehydration or side effects of a medication.
Treatment for Lower Back Cramp
1. Home Remedies for Lower Back Cramp
- Cool the Cramp Area. After you experience an injury, the increase of blood flow as well as swelling may increase your pain. When you apply cold to the area, it will minimize the swelling and your pain. This will usually be effective after you first experience the spasm, but if heat doesn’t help after this, you should try using cold again. To use cold, put an ice pack (or frozen vegetables) wrapped in a towel on the affected area for 12 to 15 minutes every two hours for a day or two.
- Warm the Cramp Area. The best type of heat to use on your lower back cramp is moist heat as the heat will work to relax any tensed muscles. You should apply the heat after the cold substance. Easy moist heat options that you (probably) have at home are a hot water bottle or a towel that was soaked within hot water. You can even buy an electric moist heating pad if you prefer. Another option is to simply take a hot shower or bath. Ideally you should apply moist heat for 15 minutes every four hours until your spasm goes away. Ifthe heat increases your symptoms for some reason, stop using it right away and switch back to applying cold.
- Have Rest and Relax. You should always take two or three days to rest after a lower back cramp or spasm and this is especially true in cases when it was caused by a muscle injury. By resting, you can speed up the healing process of your muscle injury. While relaxing, remember to always maintain some mobility. If you remain completely immobile, you may experience increased stiffness or tightening. Instead try to slowly walk several minutes a few times a day as your pain allows. While walking is fine, avoid bending or twisting your trunk as it can worsen your symptoms. It can also help with the pain to try to relax and keep your mind off of the pain. Try having a conversation, watch a TV show or movie, read or meditate.
- Choose a Comfortable Position. It can be hard to stay comfortable with lower back cramps. Try elevating your legs using pillows (or a foot stool if you are sitting). Sometimes it helps to elevate the knees so they are higher than your hips. You can also lie down flat on a firm surface and have your feet elevated with your knees at a 90 degree angle.
- Do Gentle Stretching Exercise. If you need to move, try doing gentle exercises such as walking or going up stairs. Despite the gentle movements that don’t cause a strain, it can actually strengthen your lower back, helping spasms. If you get a cramp, then stop and stretch.
2. Medical Treatment for Lower Back Cramp
- Use Medications. Many doctors will recommend that you take over the counter medications such as ibuprofen o naproxen. If you have severe pain, he may prescribe narcotics or muscle relaxants, both on a short-term basis. He may also prescribe tricyclic antidepressants. Most of the time your doctor will prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) as these are stronger than store-bought options like ibuprofen.
- Visit a Physical Therapist. Early on a chiropractor or physical therapist can use muscle release techniques, heat or ultrasound to fight spasms. They will then move onto exercises that work on strengthening back muscles and improving flexibility. Some people have also noticed that acupuncture helps.
- Have Injections. Cortisone injections can provide you with relief from the pain for several months and this is especially true when the pain radiates down the leg.
3. Surgical Treatment
In severe cases, your doctor may suggest surgery. This is invasive, so it is usually only used a s a last resort when the doctor is sure about the cause of the lower back cramps.
Tips on Prevention of Lower Back Cramp
By following specific advice, you can help prevent lower back cramps and general pain in the area. These methods can also help reduce your pain level. Some preventative techniques include:
- Quit smoking
- Avoid high-heeled shoes
- Sit on support chairs of the right height
- Sleep on a surface that is firm
- Maintain proper posture
- Lift objects properly (bend your knees and lift with your legs)
- Lose weight (if overweight)
- Exercise the muscles in your back and abdomen
Watch this video and learn more about how to treat lower back cramps and pains at home: