Lower back spasms can be painful, but they are treatable. Certain remedies, stretches, and lifestyle changes can help reduce or get rid of back spasms.
Lower back spasms can happen suddenly, causing intense and even debilitating pain. They are commonly the result of muscular injury, but weak back muscles can also increase a person’s risk of spasms.
In this article, we look at the various long- and short-term treatments for lower back spasms, including home remedies, stretches, and how to prevent spasms from occurring.
Lower back spasms happen when the muscles tense up and contract. These contractions can vary in severity, from mild discomfort to extreme pain. Back spasms are one of the
People usually feel muscle spasms in a specific muscle in the lower back. However, the pain may radiate to other areas and cause tension in nearby muscles. Some people who experience back pain also develop hip or leg pain.
Some symptoms of lower 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 nearby muscles, such as in the hips
- a cramping sensation in the back that comes and goes
People with lower back spasms often find that their pain gets worse when they do certain things, such as sitting or standing for long periods.
Most lower back spasms fall into one of two categories:
- Acute lower back spasms: These spasms happen suddenly, often while lifting something or changing position. Acute spasms may cause intense pain or make movement difficult.
- Chronic lower back spasms: Chronic spasms occur more regularly and may not seem linked to a specific injury. Some people develop chronic lower back spasms after a back injury.
The pain of an acute, sudden back spasm can be intense. Likewise, chronic lower back spasms can make it difficult to work or relax.
The following strategies may help to relieve the pain when it comes on quickly. These include:
Firm pressure on the affected muscle may help reduce tension and stop spasms. To soothe a muscle spasm, press on the affected area for 30–60 seconds, then rub the surrounding area in a circular motion.
Heat or ice
Try applying a hot and then cold pad for 20 minutes at a time, with a 20-minute break in between. A hot water bottle and an ice pack should be effective.
Do not apply very hot or cold packs to the skin. Instead, wrap them in a towel or cloth before pressing them against the back.
A doctor can prescribe muscle relaxants when people have extreme spasms that are visible and prominent. People should only use muscle relaxants for up to 72 hours. While muscle relaxants can help with back spasm symptoms, they do not treat the underlying cause of spasms.
Use a foam roller
Many people use foam rollers to loosen muscle tension or tightness after exercise. They may also help to relieve muscle spasms in the back.
Always speak to a doctor before using a foam roller, as misusing it could cause back injuries.
Stretching reduces muscle tension and can stop muscle spasms. Many people experiencing sudden spasms are reluctant to move, but simply getting up and walking may help.
Some simple stretches for lower back spasms include:
- For this yoga pose, kneel on the ground with your knees apart.
- Stretch up and then fold forward, bringing your chest down to your thighs.
- Stretch your arms forward in front of your head, with palms downs down and elbows resting on the floor.
- Hold this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Hip lifts/glute bridges
- Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the ground.
- Place your hands by your side.
- Gently raise your hips a couple of inches off the ground and hold the position for 5 seconds.
- Repeat 5–10 times.
- Get on all fours on the floor with your knees under your hips and your hands flat on the ground in line with your shoulders.
- Take a deep breath and arch your back while extending your head back.
- Then exhale and round your back while pushing your chin toward your chest.
- Repeat 5–10 times.
Some people find that experimenting with different stretches or rolling the painful area on a foam roller offers a better stretch.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)
A doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants for people to use when chronic back spasms occur.
The AAFP suggests the following long-term treatments for lower back spasms:
- spinal manipulation, such as chiropractic care
- rehabilitation, such as exercise or physical therapy
- mindfulness-based stress reduction
- Tai Chi
- laser therapy
A person might need to try or combine multiple treatments to get the best outcome. If a doctor diagnoses an underlying medical condition, medication for that condition may help.
Lifestyle changes, such as exercising more and avoiding extended periods spent sitting, may increase the effectiveness of any medication.
When a person experiences one muscle spasm, they may be more likely to experience another. Maintain good back health to reduce future spasms.
Use the following methods to protect the lower back:
- maintain good posture throughout the day
- keep up a good sitting posture when spending a long time at a desk
- use a mattress that is medium-firm and supports the spine
- lift heavy objects with the legs, not the back
A doctor can help diagnose the cause of lower back spasms. See a doctor within a few days if the spasm worsens or does not disappear.
A doctor may conduct a physical exam, ask questions about medical history and when the pain began, ask about past pain, and do imaging tests such as X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to examine the muscles and spine.
People may mistake other forms of lower back pain for back spasms. When lower back spasms last longer than a few days, or when they go away and come back, it may be because of a chronic medical condition such as:
Back spasms can be painful and physically debilitating. However, there are multiple treatment options to reduce short-term pain and treat the underlying causes of spasms.
Lifestyle modifications and muscle strengthening exercises can help to protect against spasms, while anti-inflammatory and muscle-relaxing medications can help to reduce acute pains.
Talk with a doctor to find out the best ways to manage acute and chronic muscle spasms.