Causes Of Lower Back Spasms
Back spasms can be the result of injuries to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the back, or they can be related to more serious medical conditions. Heavy lifting is a common cause of back spasms.
In addition to heavy lifting, any activity that puts excessive strain on the muscles and ligaments in the lower back can cause an injury. Sports such as football and golf can lead to back spasms because they demand that the back turn suddenly and repeatedly.
Your back muscles may be more vulnerable if you have weak abdominal muscles, which help support the back. Weak or stiff muscles in the back itself can be injured more easily than muscles that are stronger and more limber.
Back spasms may occur if you have arthritis or a ruptured disc in your spine. Arthritis in the lower back can put pressure on the spinal cord, which may cause pain in the back and the legs. A ruptured or bulging disc in the vertebrae may also pressure a nerve and result in back pain.
Treatment Options For Lower Back Pain
If you see a physiotherapist or GP for lower back pain, they will probably encourage you to try the self-help measures outlined above first. They can also advise you on what exercises you can do to help your back, or may refer you to a group exercise programme. But if your pain doesnt improve, they may be able to recommend other options you can try. They can also refer you to a specialist if necessary.
How Core Strenghening Exercises Can Help With Lower Back Pain
Exercises to increase the strength of abdominal muscles help stabilize the lower back. But be careful. Sit-ups and leg lifts stress the lower back and are best avoided. Sit-ups are especially stressful on the lower back when you anchor the feet. Slow and deliberate crunches without anchoring the feet can help.
Of all the lower back exercises I have tried, the one I find to be most beneficial is the plank. Planks can be performed in the pushup position, or with the weight on the forearms.
Either way, be careful and make sure you do planks correctly. This means staying firm and straight, like a plank of wood from the toes up to strengthen all the core muscle, front and back. Gradually, go longer in the stationary plank position, building up your time.
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When Will My Lower Back Strain Feel Better
Recovery time depends on how serious your low back strain is. Mild cases may resolve in a couple of days. It can take many weeks for more serious strains. Remember that everyone heals at a different rate.
Once the back pain is gone, your doctor will probably want you to start a regular exercise routine. This will get your back muscles stronger and more limber. It will help you recover, and reduce your odds of low back strain in the future. Your doctor will probably want you to take up low impact sports, like swimming or using a stationary bike.
Whatever you do, don’t rush things. Don’t try to return to your previous level of physical activity until:
- You can move as easily — without stiffness — as you did before your injury.
- You feel no pain when you bend, twist, walk, run, and jump.
If you start pushing yourself before your low back strain is healed, you could end up with chronic back pain and permanent injury.
Diagnosis Of Lower Back Pain
Your physiotherapist or GP will usually be able to diagnose lower back pain from your symptoms and by examining you. Theyll want to rule out whether theres any underlying problem that could be causing your pain.
Your physiotherapist or GP will ask you lots of questions about your back pain. These may include when it started, how bad it is and if theres anything that makes it better or worse. They may press against your back to see if theres any tenderness and check for any deformities. They might ask you to move around too, to see if you have problems bending or extending your back.
Usually, further tests wont help. But if your symptoms indicate an underlying problem, your GP may recommend tests including:
- an X-ray
They may also refer you to a specialist for further investigations.
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Can I Prevent Lower Back Pain
You cant prevent lower back pain that results from disease or structural problems in the spine. But you can avoid injuries that cause back pain.
To reduce your risk of a back injury, you should:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight puts pressure on vertebrae and disks.
- Strengthen your abdominal muscles: Pilates and other exercise programs strengthen core muscles that support the spine.
- Lift the right way: To avoid injuries, lift with your legs . Hold heavy items close to your body. Try not to twist your torso while youre lifting.
Can Lower Back Pain Be A Sign Of Something Serious Like Cancer
Lower back pain can be related to cancer. In fact, it is one of the first symptoms of prostate cancer when it metastasizes and creates lesions. Almost any cancer can spread to the back and some, like sarcoma, can originate in the back. Be cautious, especially if you are experiencing other symptoms besides lower back pain. Talk to your doctor if you have additional symptoms or concerns.
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How Is Back Pain Treated
Acute back pain usually gets better on its own. Acute back pain is usually treated with:
- Medications designed to relieve pain and/or inflammation
- analgesics such as acetaminophen and aspirin
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen may be sold over the counter some NSAIDS are prescribed by a physician
- muscle relaxants are prescription drugs that are used on a short-term basis to relax tight muscles
- topical pain relief such as creams, gels, patches, or sprays applied to the skin stimulate the nerves in the skin to provide feelings of warmth or cold in order to dull the sensation of pain. Common topical medications include capsaicin and lidocaine.
Exercising, bed rest, and surgery are typically not recommended for acute back pain.Chronic back pain is most often treated with a stepped care approach, moving from simple low-cost treatments to more aggressive approaches. Specific treatments may depend on the identified cause of the back pain.
Where Can I Get More Information
For more information on neurological disorders or research programs funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, contact the Institute’s Brain Resources and Information Network at:
Office of Communications and Public LiaisonNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeNational Institutes of HealthBethesda, MD 20892
NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient’s medical history.
All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.
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Take A Natural Muscle Relaxant
Muscle relaxants can be effective in relieving muscle pain by decreasing spasms. Effective natural muscle relaxants include extracts of:
- Tart cherry
Valerian and chamomile also help promote good sleep, so its a good idea to use them before bedtime. Many of these natural options have powerful anti-inflammatory and healing properties as well, so taking them provides additional benefits.6 Supplements of magnesium may also help relieve muscle spasms.
Natural muscle relaxants are typically safe and commonly consumed in the form of supplements or tea. If you opt for prescription muscle relaxants, such as baclofen, benzodiazepines, cyclobenzaprine, or carisoprodol, they have a potential for substantial side effects, risks, and a possibility for misuse or abuse.
See Side Effects and Risks of Muscle Relaxers
Choose The Right Mattress
Again, the goal of a great mattress for back pain is finding one that helps keep your spine aligned, Dr. Singh explains.
There’s not necessarily one single choice that fits the bill â both innerspring and memory foam mattresses can deliver, as long as they’re high-quality, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
The ideal mattress firmness level for back pain is individualized too. A firm mattress will best support the spine’s natural curves for people whose waist and hips are about the same size, the Cleveland Clinic notes. If your hips are wider than your waist, a softer mattress is a better choice. The softer surface will give the mattress more give around your pelvic area, which can encourage comfortable spinal alignment.
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How You Can Trim Your Waistline To Help Your Lower Back Pain
The source of countless health problems is excess abdominal fat, and so it is with lower back problems. The culprit is visceral abdominal fat that lies beneath the layer of muscle and surrounds the organs.
Men tend to store more visceral abdominal fat than women, which is why men are more prone to lower back problems. But after menopause, the hormonal shift in women favors storage of deep abdominal fat, which means increased risk of lower back problems.
The good news about deep abdominal fat is that it can be easily dislodged from storage and used as fuel. Simply do the right things with your diet and get lots of exercise and your waistline will respond.
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Why Is Lower Back Pain Such A Common Problem
The bottom part of your back typically has just five vertebrae fewer than your neck and mid-back. And these vertebrae do a lot of heavy lifting! Your lower back is where your spine connects to your pelvis, bearing the weight of your upper body. This area experiences a lot of movement and stress, which may lead to wear, tear and injuries.
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When To Seek Help
Remember, low back pain can be a serious problem and it is highly recommended to consult a physician, physical therapist or another qualified healthcare provider if low back symptoms are present and are significantly limiting function and mobility. Also, there are a few signs and symptoms that require immediate medical attention. These include, but are not limited to:
S To Reduce Back Pain
No type of back pain should be overlooked.
Your whole body relies on the health of your back and spine so you want to make sure you treat your pain the right way the first time.
Most pain will go away quickly but if it continues for more than a week or two then you need to seek medical attention.
In this blog, we take a look at 6 important steps to take immediately after experiencing back pain.
We use our back every day to complete regular activities such as sitting up, lifting, and reaching.
Your back is in use all day long making the tendons, muscles, and ligaments in your back work hard.
That’s why the health of the muscles is very important.
These three soft tissue structures need to work synergistically for you to function without pain.
Since they are in constant motion it is common for them to tear, pull or get over-stretched.
And if you’ve ever had a back strain, you know they are nothing to joke about.
When someone says their back is sprained they mean the ligaments are overstretched or torn. Now if they say it is strained then that means a muscle or tendon was overstretched or torn.
People tend to use back strain and back sprain interchangeably but they are in fact different and because of that, the course of treatment and length of that treatment differs also.
Either injury can happen so fast and is easy to do.
Signs that you have torn, strained, or pulled a muscle in your back:
- A sore or tender lower back
- Sudden pain
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Who Should I See For Lower Back Pain
Your primary care physician knows you best and should be your first contact for lower back pain. If he or she is unable to diagnose or treat the issue, you may get referred to a specialist, such as a rehabilitation physician . These specialists practice a comprehensive approach to lower back pain, and can diagnose and treat a variety of conditions that have lower back pain as a symptom.
Later, you may get referred to a physical therapist, a chiropractor or another practitioner depending on the nature of your back pain. The good news is that surgery is rarely needed for lower back pain. Only about one in ten patients needs lower back surgery, Chhatre says.
The Lumbar Spine What Can Go Wrong
The low back supports the weight of the upper body and provides mobility for everyday motions such as bending and twisting. Muscles in the low back are responsible for flexing and rotating the hips while walking, as well as supporting the spinal column. Nerves in the low back supply sensation and power the muscles in the pelvis, legs, and feet.
See Back Muscles and Low Back Pain
Most acute low back pain results from injury to the muscles, ligaments, joints, or discs. The body also reacts to injury by mobilizing an inflammatory healing response. While inflammation sounds minor, it can cause severe pain.
There is a significant overlap of nerve supply to many of the discs, muscles, ligaments, and other spinal structures, and it can be difficult for the brain to accurately sense which is the cause of the pain. For example, a degenerated or torn lumbar disc can feel the same as a pulled muscle both creating inflammation and painful muscle spasm in the same area. Muscles and ligaments heal rapidly, while a torn disc may or may not. The time course of pain helps determine the cause.
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Treating Lower Back Spasms
If your spasms do begin after an injury or an activity that stressed the muscles, try alternating ice and heat on your back. Ice will help reduce inflammation and heat may help improve blood flow.
Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants may help relieve symptoms while the muscles heal. Research from a 2016 review of studies supports the use of muscle relaxants for significant pain relief from short-term muscle spasms.
Injections of anti-inflammatory medication may also help. But there are potential side effects with every medication. Ask your doctor about the risks and benefits of these injections.
Chiropractic care may help, but be sure to see a doctor to have your condition properly diagnosed first. Physical therapy to help strengthen your back and abdominal muscles is often recommended.
In the middle of a back spasm, slowly make your way to the nearest comfortable chair or sofa. Here, you can try the following:
Symptoms Of A Pulled Back Muscle
Symptoms of a pulled back muscle depend on where the injury is. The spine is divided into three major sections: the neck, upper back and shoulders, and lower back.
For a pulled muscle in the neck, you might experience:3
- Pain in the neck and upper back area
- Limited range of motion in the neck
- Stiffness in the neck
- Pain radiating to the shoulders or arms
Pulled muscles in the shoulders and upper back may cause:
- Pain in the area between the spine and shoulder blade
- Muscle spasms in the upper back
- Knots and tightness in the upper back and shoulders
- Pain when moving the shoulders
In lower back strain injuries, many people experience symptoms such as:3
- Aching and stiffness in lower back muscles
- Pain that worsens with movement
- Pain that radiates to the hips and legs
- Limited range of motion
- Muscle spasms in lower back area
- Pain when sitting, standing, or walking
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