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A spasm is a contraction of a muscle that you didn’t mean to contract. This happens within tired muscles that are low on electrolytes and water, which are lost in sweat. Also known as cramps, muscle spasms can occur in any muscle of the body, but are particularly troublesome within back musculature.
Back spasms can feel like a pinching, stabbing pain that can be felt in any muscle from the neck to the low back. They commonly occur when muscles are tired/fatigued or do not have the proper electrolytes to contract and relax properly. This results in involuntary contraction of the tired muscle, which flexes and causes pain, and will keep the back or neck from wanting to flex forward.
Back spasms can last for minutes but have been known to last days to weeks. They can range in intensity from discomfort to extreme pain that limits the ability to complete daily activities. The contraction of the muscle may not stop for some time due to being overworked or dehydrated, meaning that the pain and lack of motion continues until the muscle recovers.
There are several remedies that can help relieve the effects of back spasms, including:
Chiropractic care may help to relieve spasms by removing tension in the spine caused by dysfunctional joints. By releasing this tension the spinal joints are able to move more freely, requiring less effort from the muscles that attach to them. This allows the muscles to work more efficiently throughout the day resulting in fewer to no spasms.
Massage techniques and foam rolling can also help in the short term to manage symptoms.
Ice can help to manage pain and swelling in the area caused by a spasm that has occurred recently. This will limit the amount of movement that will be possible afterwards for a few minutes and should be applied at rest.
Yes, quite often. The inability to breathe and relax plays a huge role in back spasms. Stress and anxiety can cause unintentional twitching in the muscles, causing them to contract. When stressed or anxious, we often breathe faster or hyperventilate which can cause our muscles to fatigue more quickly. We sustain muscular contractions when we are stressed, often without knowing (bracing), which also causes muscles to become tired. When unintentional twitching occurs on a fatigued muscle it is much more likely that it will spasm.
Constipation does not cause back spasms. Constipation has been known to cause back pain, though it should disappear after passing. However, dehydration plays a role in both constipation and back spasm. If both are present, drinking more water may be an important first step in relieving both in the short term.
Other stomach-related issues such as excessive gas and bloating can cause pain to be felt in the low back, though there should not be spasms caused by this.
Walking may help to relieve contracted muscles by warming them up and allowing the affected muscle, as well as the surrounding muscles, to move as they should to allow the spine to move, feel and function at its best.
Any pain-free exercise will help to break down the buildup of waste in muscles, which makes them feel stiff, sore and achy. Moving around at low intensity – with no pain felt and at a level that feels comfortable – may relieve spasms and aching pains felt in the back.