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.
Can Lower Back Pain Be Related To Weather
If you feel like your lower back pain worsens on days when its cold or the weather is changing, you are not imagining things. Back pain can indeed be related to barometric pressure and outdoor temperature. Changes in pressure can sometimes cause pain in arthritic joints, including the spine. Muscles and joints in general react to the environment, which can make them stiffer and more likely to suffer an injury.
Symptoms Of Lower Back Pain
Symptoms associated with back pain can vary depending on the cause or severity of the injury or condition. Some common symptoms include:
- Trouble Bending or Twisting Your Back
- Difficulty Standing Up Straight
- Dull Aches or Stabbing Pains
- Pains That Radiate Down One or Both Legs
- Weakness, Numbness, or Tingling Sensations
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Age And Gender Issues
Age and gender are important factors to consider when diagnosing low back pain. In a young patient, a benign tumor of the spine called an osteoid osteoma may be the culprit. Inflammatory bowel disease in young people can be connected with spondylitis and sacroiliitis . Low back pain from disc disease or spinal degeneration is more likely to occur as people get older. Conditions such as abdominal aneurysm or multiple myeloma are also considered in older individuals.
Osteoporosis and fibromyalgia are much more common triggers of back pain in women than in men. Osteoporosis is a progressive decrease in bone density that leaves the bones brittle, porous and prone to fracture. Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and multiple tender points in the neck, spine, shoulders, and hips.
The Changing Face Of Spinal Surgery
Only a small percentage of patients with back pain are candidates for surgery, but for these patients, advances in techniques have made recovery a much easier road, says Boden of The Emory Orthopaedics and Spine Center.
Fifty years ago, a spine fusion meant a two-week hospital stay, a body cast or brace for months, and a minimum of six months away from normal activities. A spinal fusion is performed by fusing the vertebrae together with bone grafts to eliminate motion between two adjacent vertebrae where motion is causing lower back pain.
Today, minimally invasively techniques allow for smaller incisions, less blood loss, and faster recovery time, Boden says. Some spine fusion techniques can be done on an outpatient basis.
Fifty years from now, Boden predicts that disc replacement will be an alternative to spinal fusion. Moreover, gene therapy will be able to prevent or reverse disc degeneration, and genetic research will help discover genetic sources of back pain, he says.
“Gene therapy for disc regeneration may be more than five years off, but less than 20,” he predicts.
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What Are The Treatments For Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain usually gets better with rest, ice and over-the-counter pain relievers. After a few days of rest, you can start to get back to your normal activities. Staying active increases blood flow to the area and helps you heal.
Other treatments for lower back pain depend on the cause. They include:
- Medications: Your provider may recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or prescription drugs to relieve pain. Other medications relax muscles and prevent back spasms.
- Physical therapy : PT can strengthen muscles so they can support your spine. PT also improves flexibility and helps you avoid another injury.
- Hands-on manipulation: Several hands-on treatments can relax tight muscles, reduce pain and improve posture and alignment. Depending on the cause of pain, you may need osteopathic manipulation or chiropractic adjustments. Massage therapy can also help with back pain relief and restore function.
- Injections: Your provider uses a needle to inject medication into the area thats causing pain. Steroid injections relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
- Surgery: Some injuries and conditions need surgical repair. There are several types of surgery for low back pain, including many minimally invasive techniques.
Look Into Getting A New Mattress
How old is your bed? You may be surprised to learn that the average life span of a mattress is less than 10 years. Theres no hard-and-fast rule, says Sean Mackey, MD, PhD, chief of the division of pain medicine at Stanford University, but if your mattress is sagging significantly or is more than six to eight years old, Id think about getting a new one.
Something else to consider: A firm mattress may not do your back any favors, says Carmen R. Green, MD, a physician at the University of Michigan Back & Pain Center. A number of studies over the years suggest that people with lower back pain who sleep on medium-firm mattresses do better than those with firm beds, she says.
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When Should I See My Healthcare Provider About Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain usually gets better with rest and pain relievers. Back pain that doesnt go away may be a sign of a more serious condition.
See your provider if you have:
- Pain that doesnt get better after about a week of at-home care.
- Tingling, numbness, weakness or pain in your buttocks or legs.
- Severe pain or muscle spasms that interfere with your normal activities.
- Fever, weight loss, bowel or bladder problems or other unexplained symptoms.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Millions of people live with low back pain. Stiffness, pain and limited movement can have a major impact on quality of life. But you may be able to avoid lower back pain by maintaining a healthy weight and staying active. Talk to your provider if back pain doesnt go away or if youre unable to do the activities you enjoy. Several treatments can relieve pain, help you move better and get more out of life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/18/2021.
Ways To Treat Chronic Back Pain Without Surgery
Back pain is considered chronic if it lasts three months or longer. It cancome and go, often bringing temporary relief, followed by frustration.Dealing with chronic back pain can be especially trying if you dont knowthe cause.
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Your Purse Or Backpack
Carrying a purse every day can be a source of neck, shoulder, or lower back pain. As you carry your purse, your body counterbalances the weight on one shoulder by pushing your head and neck forward. This puts extra stress on the vertebra, discs, and nerves of your spine.
A backpack is a better choice since the weight is evenly distributed across your shoulders. However, if its too heavy or doesnt fit you properly, a backpack can also increase your risk of neck, shoulder, and back pain.
When carrying any kind of bag, choose one that fits you well and try not to overstuff it!
Lower Back Pain Caused By Infection
Infections of the spine are not common, but they do occur. The doctor will ask about the usual signs and symptoms of infection, especially when back pain is accompanied by fever and/or chills. Dialysis patients, IV drug users, and patients who have recently had surgery, trauma, or skin infections are at risk for infections of the spine. Infections of the spine can be caused by a number of agents, most commonly bacteria. Doctors will first test for the presence of bacteria, then give antibiotics.
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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.
How To Know If Its Time To Get Medical Care For Your Low Back Pain
If your lower back pain prevents you from achieving your goals or impacts your quality of life, its time to schedule an appointment with a specialist. If you develop nerve pain in your leg, you may want to be evaluated. In addition, should you develop weakness, numbness, or other neurological symptoms, you may consider evaluation with a spinal surgeon.
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Relieves Inflammation From Strained Muscles And Tissues
Hydrotherapy benefits include reduced inflammation of muscles and tissues. Inflammation in your back doesnt always result from arthritis or health conditions. Anyone can experience acute inflammation as an immune reaction to a physical trigger. For example, an injury you get while playing sports or working can inflame your back. It can also result from excessive strain, like repeated heavy lifting.
When your body realizes theres damage present, your immune system works to protect you. One way it does this is by collecting plasma proteins in the tissues, causing a buildup of fluid. Hydrotherapy for chronic low back pain can help reduce the amount of fluid.
In one study, researchers asked volunteers to sit in a bath for one hour. They had ten baths over two weeks. Each session, researchers tested their blood three times:
- Before getting into the bath
- Immediately after the bath
- Two hours later
They found that after only one immersion, participants nitric oxide production increased. NO is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Over the two-week therapy course, participants had an initial increase in inflammation, but that was followed by a long-term decrease. The authors concluded that immersing in hot water may improve the inflammatory profile of sedentary, overweight men.
Relieves Pressure From Compressed Joints
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Lower Back Pain And Cancer
Cancer involving the lumbar spine is not a common cause of back pain. However, in people who have a prior history of cancer, for example, in the breast or prostate, or who have weight loss or loss of appetite along with back pain cancer needs to be considered.
Night pain can be a clue to cancer in the spine. A benign tumor called osteoid osteoma, which most often affects young people, causes pain that tends to respond well to aspirin. Multiple myeloma is a malignancy that occurs when the plasma cells in the bone marrow begin spreading uncontrollably. It is most common in older people, and can cause pain in many parts of the spine. When tumor or infection are suspected, blood tests may be ordered, including a CBC , sedimentation rate , and protein electrophoresis .
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Find Activities That Make You Happy
Ongoing back pain can wreak havoc on your life, affecting your cherished relationships, finances, and your ability to get stuff done at work and at home. Finding activities that make you happy can help reduce some stress and may relieve some pain.
Some people find that even doing just 3 things that make them feel good each daysuch as enjoying a comforting cup of tea or coffee, calling an old friend, walking the dog, or receiving a longish 30-second hug from a loved onecan make pain more tolerable.
Best Hot Tub For Arthritis
There is no one best hot tub for arthritis, as it is all a matter of personal preference. With that said, there are many great features in the Jacuzzi J-425 Hot Tub that make it enjoyable for Arthritis patients.
For starters, it is built with a low-profile design, which makes it very easy to get in and out of. There are also additional non-slip steps for those who need help getting in and out of the hot tub. The patented PowerPro Jets are fully-adjustable, allowing you to optimize your hydromassage for more tender muscles and joints.
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When Surgery May Help
Reasons for having surgery for low back pain include:
- You have nerve pain from herniated discs. This is why most back surgeries are done. The disc problem causes pain in your leg that prevents you from doing everyday tasks. You may have pain, numbness, or tingling through your buttock and down the back of your leg or in the front of your thigh.
- A spinal fracture caused by an injury.
- An infection in your spine.
- A problem that causes your spine to be unstable.
- A tumor in your spine.
- Spinal stenosis. This is the narrowing of the spinal canal.
- Loss of feeling or weakness in your back or legs that gets worse over time.
- Loss of control of your bowel or bladder.
Back surgery doesn’t always work. Depending on the condition, you may still have back pain after surgery.
A rehabilitation program is very important after most back surgery. If you can’t or won’t commit to physical therapy after surgery, you may not be a good candidate for surgery.
Left Side Low Back Pain
Many people experience muscle pain on only one side of their back. This can be due to compensating for a sore joint, like a hip or knee. For example, if one of your hip joints is weak, you may be putting strain on the opposite side of your lower back to make up for that.
However, lower back pain on your left side may also be due to:
If you do pull a lower back muscle, there are several things you can help relieve the swelling and pain.
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Ask About Prescription Medications
If your back pain hasnt resolved itself within four to six weeks, make an appointment with your doctor, who will examine your back and ask you to sit, stand, bend, walk, and lift your legs to see how your pain is affecting your mobility. Youll likely be asked to rate your pain on a scale of one to 10, and they may do imaging tests, like an X-ray or MRI. Then, he or she may recommend one of the following prescribed therapies:
- Muscle relaxants: Medications like cyclobenzaprine or baclofen can help relieve painful back spasms. If you go this route, just know that side effects can include fatigue and dizziness.
- Topical pain medications: These creams and ointments, like Voltaren gel, are meant to be rubbed directly on to the area thats hurting you.
- Cortisone shots: If other treatment measures fail, your doctor may recommend an injection of cortisone, a potent anti-inflammatory. There are risks, including thinning of nearby bone, and relief typically lasts just a few months, tops.
Stop Looking For A Specific Diagnosis
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Stop focusing on a specific diagnosis. Up to 85% of low back pain can be classified as “non-specific.” This means that the origin of your pain cannot be localized to one specific structure or problem.
While common diagnostic tests for low back pain can show the bones, discs, and joints with great detail, no test can tell the exact cause of your pain with 100% accuracy.
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Bonus Tip: Soothe The Pain With Cold And/or Hot
Don’t underestimate the pain reduction of simply applying cold packs and/or hot packs to help reduce your lower back pain.
- Cold therapy helps reduce inflammation and pain. Some examples include wrapping ice in a cloth, a pack of frozen peas from the freezer, or a cold gel pack. Always keep at least one layer between your skin and the ice/cold pack.
- Heat therapy helps improve blood flow, relaxation, and pain relief. Heat therapy can come in many forms. It’s best to try several to find what works best for you. Taking a warm bath or shower, soaking in a hot tub, or using a heating pad or heat wrap are all ways to bring warmth to your lower back.
Whether applying ice or a heat pack, limit applications to 15 or 20 minutes with at least 2 hours of rest in between to protect your skin. Never sleep with a heating pad or frozen pack as this can lead to permanent skin damage.
Hopefully these overlooked remedies can help you try some new approaches to better manage your lower back pain and find lasting relief.