What to Do If You Experience Back Spasms
In order to understand back spasms and how they work you need to understand the various parts of the spine and their individual role. The spine is best described as the scaffolding that holds together the different parts of the body. It is not a rigid structure, but a collection of vertebrae or bony rings, who embrace the dual role of supporting the body and protecting the spinal cord. The bony rings of the spine are stacked to one another by discs, which are firm yet pliable cushions. The spine is therefore a stack of bones and discs, but what keeps it together? Ligaments hold the spine together and muscles help move it. The spine may also be considered a tunnel, the home of the spinal cord which is a collection of nerves that send and receive messages, just like a communications highway.
Muscle Spasms and their Cause
Muscles help suspend the spine, just like ropes do with rock climbers. Muscle spasms or back spasms are strains or sprains and are sometimes described as an involuntary and sustained tightening of the muscle fibers. Muscle spasms may feel like a cramp or a knot and are a common cause of back pain. There are several known causes of back spasms and here are the most typical ones:
- Injury or inflammation
- Dehydration or not drinking enough liquids
- Injury of the vertebrae or discs
The tightening or cramping associated with muscle spasms can last a few seconds, which is the best case scenario, but they can also last for minutes, or worse, for days. There is also no pattern when muscle spasms typically occur so you should not expect muscle spasms in the morning or when you are doing a particular activity. They may be triggered though by certain movements that put a strain on the particular core area of the affected muscle.
There are certain immediate measures that you can take to treat back spasms immediately after they’ve installed. You can use cold packs but only in the first three days of the injury. You can replace cold packs with hot packs after the third day and see how it goes. You can also try some OTC medicines, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or acetaminophen, which can help reduce swelling and also provide some pain relief. Although you should not get involved in playing sports or heavy lifting, it is still recommended that you keep active when you are having back spasms to avoid a stiff back.
However, there are situations when muscle spasms simply do not go away, not with anti-inflammatory drugs or pain killers. That should be an alarm signal that it is the time for you to see a professional chiropractor who will most likely know how to handle your situation through specific physiotherapy that restores your muscle function and reduces pain. There are situations when it is imperative to see your healthcare provider, especially when other symptoms develop along with the back spasms. These symptoms may include inability to sleep, pain when lying down, pain that travels down the arms and legs, numbness, muscle weakness or instability when walking. As a general rule, if your back spasms do not improve within three days contact your health care provider.