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Common Conditions

Back Spasms

25/09/2020

Back spasms can happen suddenly, causing intense and even debilitating pain. Often caused by a recent physical injury, they are more likely to occur when a person is pregnant, dehydrated or has a sedentary lifestyle that leads to weaker back muscles.

Back spasms happen when the muscles tense up and contract. It 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. The back muscles may be more vulnerable with 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 also occur due to arthritis or a ruptured disc in the 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.

Most lower back spasms fall into one of two categories namely acute lower back spasms and chronic lower back spasms. Acute lower back spasms happen suddenly, often while lifting something or changing position. Acute spasms may cause intense pain or make movement difficult. In contrast, chronic spasms occur more regularly and may not seem linked to a specific injury. Chronic lower back spasms usually develop after a back injury.

Common symptoms of back spasms include tension in the lower back, trouble moving after bending or picking something up, sudden intense pain in the lower back, chronic pain in the lower back, weakness in the lower back, or in nearby muscles, such as in the hips and a cramping sensation in the back that comes and goes. People with back spasms in the lower back often find that their pain gets worse when they do certain things, such as sitting or standing for long periods.

Physical therapy is helpful for back spasms. In the acute phase of physical therapy, the therapist will focus on easing the pain and gently encouraging muscles to relax. This is typically done with a combination of manual techniques, gentle stretches, ice or heat, and perhaps electro-stimulation therapy. The goal is to stop the ongoing cycle of cramping and pain. Once the pain is under control, it will move into the subacute phase where your therapist will work on rebuilding strength and flexibility. Manual therapy techniques and application of heat or ice modalities will continue. A combination of stretching and strengthening activities that are designed to keep the back muscles loosened up while retraining them to bear weight and move normally will be prescribed. Your therapist will also continue to coordinate rehabilitation, teach functional training and prevention of back spasms flareup in the chronic phase. If in doubt, seek professional advice.