What to Do for a Back Spasm

A back spasm runs the gamut from mild to excruciating. The good news is that most back spasms respond to conservative treatment. What to do for a back spasm also depends on how long the pain lasts.

Often, doctors recommend starting with conservative treatment. However, if it does not resolve within a week or two, it is time to seek medical attention. Try these treatments and see a doctor if your pain does not subside.

Back Spasm Causes

Back spasms occur for various reasons but often appear after strenuous exercise or heavy lifting. The back spasm generally indicates some damage to a tendon, muscle, or ligament. Any activity that requires a lot of turning or torqueing, such as golf or other sports may also result in a back spasm.

Those undertaking activities for which they are not physically prepared for – so-called “weekend warriors” – are more likely to experience episodes of back spasms. Back spasms may also result from anatomical issues in the spine, including:

  • Herniated discs
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Osteoarthritis

Conservative Treatment

If the back spasm occurred after exercise or from physical activity, alternate ice and heat therapy. Ice lessens inflammation, while heat boosts healing blood circulation to the area. Place an ice pack or ice wrapped in cloth over the site, followed by application of a heating pad.

Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, should offer pain relief.  It is wise to take walks during the recovery, as inactivity makes muscles stiff and exacerbates back pain.

Seeking Medical Treatment

If the back spasm does not improve with conservative treatment, it is time to visit the doctor. The doctor can perform various tests to determine if the pain results from a back spasm. Such tests may include an X-ray, as the pain may indicate a fracture, or an MRI or CT scan to view the back’s soft tissue.

The doctor can conduct a physical examination and take a medical history. Give the doctor all the information available about when the back spasm started, what may have precipitated it, and whether the pain is constant or intermittent. If any activity makes it worse or causes it to flare up again, let the doctor know. If testing shows that an anatomical spinal problem is the underlying cause of the back spasm, the patient may require surgery to alleviate the issue.

If the problem is indeed a back spasm, the doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants for the short-term to both provide pain relief and allow the patient to sleep, since the back spasm can interfere with rest. If the pain is severe and does not respond to NSAIDs, the doctor may inject a corticosteroid into the area for long-term pain relief. In some cases, the doctor may recommend physical therapy or a specific set of exercises.

Preventing Spasms

There is no sure way to prevent back spasms, but those who suffer from them frequently may benefit from a good exercise program that strengthens the abdominal muscles. Overweight people are more likely to develop back spasms, so a diet and exercise program may help reduce or eliminate the problem.

Wearing back-friendly footwear and avoiding high heels can also help stabilize the back. Avoid spending too much time sitting or lying down, as this can exacerbate back problems.

For More Information About What to Do for a Back Spasm, Speak to a Doctor

If your back spasm does not respond to conservative treatment or keeps recurring, call a doctor and make an appointment. You should not have to be constantly in pain.

A doctor can run diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your pain and come up with a treatment plan to help you avoid future spasms. Call now if your back spasm is not responding to conservative treatment.