Chances are that you have experienced a back spasm at some point in your life. It can be an intensely uncomfortable sensation. It may start as tingling or numbness, or a sudden, piercing pain when you move in just the wrong way. The pain may be tolerable or debilitating. Sometimes these spasms seem to come and go on their own with a little rest. However, if the pain is frequent, persistent, or intense, its time to speak with a medical professional.
Back spasms are an involuntary contraction or uncontrolled tightening of a muscle in response to pain, strain, overuse, weakness, injury, or an underlying condition. Depending on the cause of your back spasms, you may experience a variety of symptoms. Because the spine and muscles of the back support the whole body, it is common for back spasms to affect other parts of the body.
Symptoms affecting your musculoskeletal system may include:
- Pain in the hips or buttocks
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Stiffness in the spine
- Shoulder or arm pain
- Numbness, pain, or tingling in the leg or buttock
- Muscle weakness or strain
- Curvature of the spine
- Weakness in the legs
You may also experience neurological symptoms, such as:
- Numbness, pain, or tingling in the arms, legs, shoulder, or buttocks
- Sciatica (shooting pain that starts in the back and runs down the back of the leg, can occur in one or both legs)
- Headache, particularly tension headaches originating in the back on the head
You may have a serious medical condition and should seek immediate medical care if you experience the following symptoms:
- Numbness or weakness on one side of the body
- Balance and coordination issues
- Loss of sensation in one or more limbs
- Loss of control of the bladder or bowels
- Muscle weakness in the arms or legs
- Pain is accompanied by fever or nausea
Muscles spasms are most common during periods of increased physical exertion – especially if it is more strenuous than you are used to. This might include activities such as heavy lifting, exercising, or playing sports. Back spams are more common if you are poorly hydrated, have an electrolyte imbalance, or underlying condition.
Even if you are physically fit there may be gaps in your conditioning that can leave you vulnerable to muscle spasms. These include:
- Low mineral levels, especially calcium and potassium
- Poor core strength
- Weak or tight back muscles
- Tightness in the tendons of the legs, especially the hamstrings
Back spasms can be the result of your body’s response to an underlying condition. These conditions can cause weakness or tightness of the back muscles. Others put pressure on the spine or nerve bundles, causing inflammation and pain.
Conditions that can contribute to back spasms include:
- Lordosis or scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine)
- Herniated or bulging disc
- Spondylosis or spondylolisthesis
- Arthritis of the spine
- Spinal stenosis
Preventing Back Spasms
Your back is the framework of your body. It is the structure that every other part of your body attaches to. As a result, it is important to take good care of your back to prevent pain and injury. Ways you can prevent back spasms include:
- Maintain a healthy weight – if you are overweight, even by only a few pounds, it puts additional strain on your spine and joints. If you are underweight you may lack the proper muscle strength to support a healthy spine.
- Proper posture – Maintaining proper posture helps take stress and strain off of the spine and supporting muscles. If your job requires you to spend a lot of time at a computer or desk consider ergonomic supports or a standing desk. Too much time sitting or laying down can worsen muscle spasms.
- Regular Exercise – Exercises that strengthen the back and core muscles will help prevent back spasms. Just be certain to speak with your physician before starting a new workout routine. They may have exercises they recommend doing or avoiding to prevent injury based on your current condition.
Chiropractic Care for Back Spasms
While there are other options, many patients decide on treating back spasms with a chiropractor. Traditional medical interventions often include the use of strong prescription pain medications. These medications can be addictive or habit forming. Medication also only treats the symptoms, they do not treat the cause of your pain. Without properly addressing any underlying causes of your pain you risk further injury and worsening back pain.
How Will a Chiropractor Help?
Chiropractic medicine takes an integrated approach to pain relief. It focuses on tapping into the body’s natural ability to heal itself. When the spine is out of alignment it causes muscles throughout the body to overcompensate. This causes imbalances in muscle strength and a tightening of tendons and ligaments. These imbalances can put a tremendous amount of pressure on the spinal cord and nerves in the back. As a result, the nerves become inflamed, causing pain and changes in mobility. If left untreated this can cause permanent nerve damage and loss of function.
A chiropractor will use a combination of methods to restore proper alignment. These methods might include:
- Physical Therapy – corrects imbalances in muscle strength. Physical therapy also helps to lengthen connective tissues that have shortened due to disuse.
- Massage Therapy – improves mobility through deep tissue massage. This aids healing by targeting muscles that are tight and sore (trigger points). Relieving trigger points alleviates pain and reduces spasms.
- Cryo and Heat Therapy –Cryo and Heat Therapy involve the application of heat or cold to reduce inflammation and stimulate blood flow. These two therapies combined help to promote healing.
- Ultrasound Therapy – Ultrasound therapy uses sound waves to relax away trigger points in your muscles and deep tissues.
- Stem Cell Therapy – There are stem cells present in the body from birth. As we age these stem cell diminish in number and have a reduced ability to heal damaged tissues. With stem cell therapy a qualified medical professional will inject stem into the affected muscle or joint. The stem cells then get to work repairing or regenerating the damaged tissues.
Is It Effective?
Many studies have shown the effectiveness of treating back spasms with a chiropractor. A 2018 study published in JAMA Network Open weighed the pros and cons of chiropractic care for treating low back pain. The study included 750 active duty military personnel who complained of low back pain. Half the participants received traditional care. This included medication, physical therapy, and self care. The other half received traditional care and up to 12 chiropractic adjustments. After 6 weeks of treatment the patients who received chiropractic care reported reduced pain, less disability, and required less pain medication than the control group. They also reported improved mobility and greater satisfaction in their care.