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Back Muscle Spasm

By Editorial Team (2)
January 31, 2022

Back muscle spasms occur when muscle contracts spontaneously. If this happens abnormally near the spinal cord in the back and affects the nerve roots, it can cause a significant amount of pain.

The muscles in the lower back work in harmony with the muscles of the abdomen. Without these muscles, the spinal column would be unable to bend or move side to side. The muscles of the back also add stability to the spine, keeping it erect and helping to maintain balance. Balance can be compromised when muscle spasms occur in response to injured joints or discs.


Certain conditions, like degenerative disc disease or disc herniation, can cause muscle spasms in the back. If a disc herniates or bulges, it may compress a spinal nerve nearby and cause inflammation and irritation. The body will attempt to stop the inflammation by tightening the muscles around the area and this results in painful spasms.

Muscles can also become too tight due to too much exercise, not enough activity, imbalances in the body’s structure, loss of electrolytes caused by dehydration or other medical conditions or any combination of these factors. Sometimes, the muscles are very weak, rather than too tight. When imbalances in the muscles occur, certain conditions start to occur in the spine. One movement that is abnormal can cause an injury in one of the joints of the spine or in a disc or ligament leading to a muscle spasm. Since these tissues are already off balance, the motion that triggers the muscle spasm is just the “straw” that broke the proverbial “camel’s back.”

The muscles are looking to shield themselves from muscle strain.

Back muscle spasms can happen after a strain or damage to the delicate tissues like the muscles, ligaments or tendons in the spine. Following the general treatment rules that are outlined and adhering to the suggestions from your specialist or physical advisor will go far in easing the pain you feel, and your back muscle spasms should quiet down in 1 – 2 weeks.

Back muscle spasms can occur because of a basic anatomical issue. In the event that your back muscle spasm does not improve in 1- 2 weeks, or reoccurs in the similar region of your back, you may have an unknown anatomical issue in your spine.

Cases of anatomical issues that could cause back muscle spasms include:

  • Disc herniation pain
  • Joint osteoarthritis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Degenerative disc disease

In these cases, the pain is originating from the anatomical problem, and the muscles intuitively respond to the pain and aggravation by going into a spasm. In this case, you will need to look for medicinal suggestions, keeping in mind the end goal is to treat the intense pain as well as to address the basic reason for your manifestations.


Both men and women can be affected by back muscle spasms. According to the Americal Chiropractic Association (ACA), about 80 % of adults, and even adolescents, experience back muscle spasms throughout some of their life. The pain of muscle spasms is one of the most common causes of job disability and missed working days. After a survey was conducted, it is known that more than a quarter of adults reported feeling back muscle spasms in the past 3 months.

Risk Factors

Spasms are often the result of muscles being tender and swollen (inflamed) or strained. Sudden force can tear the tendons and muscles of the low back. This commonly happens in sports activities like football, weightlifting, baseball, golf or basketball. These activities require pulling, pushing or rapid twisting or turning of the back muscles.

Your chances of having back spasms are increased if you have the following conditions:

  • A pelvis that is tilted forward more than usual
  • Weakness in your back from conditions like spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, spondylolysis, arthritis, ruptured discs or a tumor
  • Lordosis
  • Tight hamstrings; these are the tendons that are located in the back of your legs
  • Weak abdominal muscles
  • Inflexible or weak muscles near your spine


There are numerous complications associated with back muscle spasms mainly because of the pain it causes. This can affect day to day activities and action which can make it hard for people experiencing back muscle spasms to move and act.

Here are some of the most common complications of back muscle spasms:

  • Disability. This is generally on the grounds that back pain limits a person’s flexibility and scope of movement that’s required for standing, twisting, and sitting.
  • Nerve Damage. If back pain occurs because of a slipped or herniated disc, this may potentially damage the spinal nerve as it goes through the nerve trench between the vertebrae.
  • Depression. Back muscle spasms that cause back pain which goes on for more than a couple of days can disturb sleep, eating habits, and different exercises; for example, socializing and entertainment. This loss of flexibility can bring on emotional distress, nervousness, and depression.
  • Obesity or Weight gain. Back pain caused by muscle spasms may limit a person’s range of movement thus weight gain is likely to occur due to an inactive lifestyle.

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Each muscle spasm has its own unique characteristic and trait. Symptoms of back muscle spasms may vary among individuals, however, the most well-known predictable back muscle spasm symptoms identified with back and neck pain are:

  • Serious and lingering pain in the affected area
  • Strain and tightness in the muscle
  • Forward leaning stance
  • Unable to control and move the influenced area or some portion of the back or neck
  • Stress

These muscle spasm symptoms may fluctuate depending on its severity from individual to individual and are reliant on the extent of the damage.

Muscle spasms may continue for a considerable length of time, minutes or even longer. If a back muscle spasm doesn’t ease up within minutes or is reoccurring, seek medical attention to determine the source of the muscle spasm symptoms.

Apart from the back muscle spasm symptoms listed above, it is also important to consider the impairments that the back pain is causing to daily functions and movement. These functions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Loss of scope of movement in the back
  • Loss of strength in the back
  • Inability to balance
  • Loss of leg strength
  • Difficulty walking
  • Difficulty sitting
  • Disruption of sleep patterns
  • Disruption of ability to work
  • Disability

Diagnostic Procedures

Many individuals encounter muscle spasm symptoms due to dehydration, overexertion, and injuries, but can self-diagnose and treat the affected area. But, if the muscle spasm symptoms are extreme, last for extended periods of time or reoccur, it is advised to see a specialist right away.

Your physician will take your medical history and complete a physical exam. When you’re examined there may be tenderness at one specific point, or the pain may be that of a general spasm with tenderness and pain that increases with movement, especially when you bend forward.

If you exhibit specific points of tenderness on the spine and your pain increases when the spine is extended, your doctor may want to take x-rays to better determine the source of the pain.

Typically a physical examination is conducted since the back muscle spasm symptoms may not be present during the visit. A physical examination is valuable in recognizing hidden medical concerns that might be useful in determining a conclusion for the diagnosis.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

The MRI is the best test to utilize when searching for the reason and source for back muscle spasm symptoms. It is a non-invasive and painless procedure that assist in recognizing any aggravation of the joints or herniated discs. If the back pain is not mechanical and is happening regardless of movement, taking an MRI of the stomach or pelvic region may uncover a non-spinal source of the back pain.

Diagnostic Injection

Additional diagnosis is accomplished by using diagnostic injections. If the facetogenic pain is suspected and an MRI demonstrates a likely aggravated facet joint, the diagnosis can be made more conclusive by doing a median branch block of the featured joint. By anesthetizing the nerve to the container of the joint, decrease in pain is further confirmed that the pain is emerging from the joint.

Also, for patients with discogenic pain, a diagnostic injection can be utilized to recognize a disc as a pain generator. In this setting, the liquid is injected into the disc space to check whether it will copy the pain and duplicate it. Following the injection, an analgesic can be used for pain relief.

Bone Scans

Bone scans are utilized to search for expanded metabolic action in either the facet joint or disc space. This may be a conclusion for the aggravation and pain generator. Additionally, this test can recognize a stress fracture of a vertebral body, which could also be the reason for the pain.


Initial treatment

Treatment for back muscle spasms will rely on the reason and source of your muscle spasm. Just like with all side effects of back and neck pain, the diagnosis is the most imperative factor in choosing the appropriate treatment. When doctors have the right analysis and reason behind your back muscle spasm, the treatment that is conducted will be more comprehensive thus making the relief of the pain faster and more effective.


The initial muscle spasm treatments of the back usually include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also known as NSAIDs. Many of these drugs are available in non-prescription strength over-the-counter. People who have a history of stomach ulcers or a history of bleeding disorders should not take these drugs unless their physician recommends them. Acetaminophen can be used as a safe alternative for pain relief by people who don’t have the chronic liver disease.

Sometimes muscle relaxants are used for muscle spasm treatment, but they are available only by prescription and they can cause sleepiness. Narcotic pain medication is very rarely prescribed for muscle spasm, and if it is, it is usually not to be taken for more than a few days.

Steroids such as cortisone are sometimes used for only short periods to reduce inflammation and pain as muscle spasm treatments. They are very effective in taking away the acute back symptoms, but they also can cause severe side effects, so they are not usually a long-term solution for acute muscle spasm.

Muscle spasm treatments rely on diagnosing and treating the hidden reason.

  • Quinine has been endorsed to help with the spasms that are difficult to control, however, this medication can have symptoms including irregular bleeding issues. Different solutions, including B-complex vitamins, gabapentin, and diltiazem, might be useful.
  • Numerous conceivable medicines are accessible for muscle spasm treatment. The choice as to which medicine to utilize relies on the individual’s circumstance. It might take experimentation to find the correct pharmaceutical med in the correct dosage to control the symptoms.

Persistent pain

If pain persists for more than two weeks, a doctor should be consulted. Physical therapy is sometimes recommended for muscle spasm treatments and pain management counseling can also sometimes be beneficial. It’s important to continue to be as active as possible. Spinal manipulation is not believed to help with the condition. Massage therapy can help provide short-term relief. The evidence is not conclusive as to whether or not acupuncture is beneficial.

If your doctor is concerned that your muscle spasm is being caused by a ruptured disc that is compressing a spinal nerve, you may be referred to a specialist. You may be treated with injections of a steroid into the epidural space around the spinal cord in the area where the nerve is being injured. In cases of severe compression, when the pain does not resolve or in which the pain worsens and includes weakness in the legs or problems with bladder or bowel functioning, urgent muscle spasm treatments may be needed to remove the pressure from a spinal nerve or the spinal cord.


Prevention and home care are also considered a muscle spasm treatment. Follow these instructions if you experience muscle spasm:

  • Get into a comfortable position
  • Apply ice to the muscle experiencing spasms
  • Rest and relax
  • Take muscle relaxing medication if spasms are severe
  • Locate the cause and remove or avoid it if it’s possible
  • Seek advice from a specialist if the spasms occurred for no known reason, if it lasts longer than a few minutes, or re-occurs

After your acute episode of back pain and muscle spasm has ended, allow some time for the inflammation to heal. Then you can focus on preventing further episodes of painful spasms:

  • Begin stretching: Work some simple stretching exercises into your routine and do these every day. Your muscles and the fibers they consist of will become stronger with just a few minutes of daily stretching. Yoga or Pilates is fun and relaxing ways to stretch. Always warm up your muscles before exercising by stretching them gently.
  • Get in shape: If you haven’t exercised before, now is an excellent time to start. Ask your doctor about ways you can safely exercise and start slowly. Be consistent and do activities you enjoy to keep yourself motivated.
  • Strength training: Strength training builds muscles as well as corrects imbalances in the muscles. Be sure to work opposing sets of muscles. Weight-bearing exercise is great for your bones as well as your muscles.

Start improving your flexibility and strength today to prevent tomorrow’s pain. Prevention needs to be a top priority for muscle spasm treatments. Choose activities you enjoy doing and make a commitment. It’s never too late to start!

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