Back pain is a common experience. Many people will experience lower back pain at some point in their lifetime. Back pain has been associated with a high health-care expenditure and major disease burden in Australia. A spasm is a painful tightening or contraction that can occur in the body, ranging from mild to more severe. Occasionally, spasms can occur in the lower back.
Lower back spasms can make it difficult to bend or move. They can be caused by different factors, including overuse or heavy lifting, sitting for prolonged periods, or sleeping awkwardly. Symptoms may resolve quickly, or can persist for a period of time. Any chronic or underlying medical conditions should be addressed by a doctor.
What are the symptoms of lower back spasms?
Spasms in the lower back
A dull ache or sharp pain
Difficulty with daily tasks
Back pain down one side (Right side or Left side)
The symptoms will vary depending on the cause and location of the symptoms.
What causes lower back spasms?
Back spasms can come about from a muscle strain. Heavy lifting is a common culprit, which can put a lot of load on the spine, especially if the lifting technique is poor. However, any activity that stresses or strains the soft tissue and joints in the back can cause symptoms, including sitting for prolonged periods of time, uncomfortable positions during sleep, or overuse. Repetitive activities or various sports may increase the risk, such as football, golf, or manual labour. If the muscles have not been conditioned or are unprepared for the movement, they may be injured more easily.
Lower back spasms may also be caused by conditions such as arthritis or disc herniation. This can put pressure on the joints or nerves in the spine, and result in symptoms.
Other causes may include fracture, infection, or disease. It is important to get the correct diagnosis and to rule out more serious causes of pain.
A health professional can assess the cause of the symptoms. They may ask about the background of the symptoms and any relevant medical history.
In some cases, a doctor may request further investigations. This can include ordering imaging tests, such as an x-ray, CT (computerised tomography), or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
It is important to get the correct diagnosis before any treatment begins. A doctor can rule out any more serious underlying medical conditions that need to be addressed.
Treatment of Lower Back Spasms
Each treatment or management plan for back symptoms will vary from person to person. The best treatments will depend on the cause and severity of the pain.
However, some common treatment options may include:
Ice or heat therapy
When applied correctly, this can provide short-term symptom relief. A health professional can help determine if heat or ice will be better for the symptoms.
A doctor may recommend certain medications depending on the cause of the symptoms. This may include prescribing non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Less commonly, a doctor may use corticosteroid injections to offer pain relief. However, there can be side effects and long-term health consequences that a doctor will discuss.
A physiotherapist can prescribe specific treatments depending on the cause. This may include certain exercises or programs to provide symptom relief, strengthen the area, or help restore function.
Such as postural changes at work or incorporating a walking program can help with symptom management.
In rare cases, a doctor may recommend a review with a specialist, such as a surgeon. They may discuss different treatment or surgical options.
In most cases, lower back spasms can resolve on their own or with basic treatments. However, if there are any red flag symptoms such as loss of bladder or bowel control, sudden weakness or numbness, or other unexplained symptoms, a doctor needs to be consulted immediately. Any symptoms that are caused by trauma or injury should be assessed by a medical professional.
Prevention of Lower Back Spasms
Not all cases of back pain are preventable. However, there are some strategies that can help take care of it and reduce the risk.
These can include:
Maintaining good posture
Speaking to a doctor before starting an exercise program
Maintaining a healthy diet and weight
Wearing comfortable and supportive footwear
Avoiding sitting for prolonged periods of time
Seeing a health professional if there are any early signs of symptoms.
Back spasms are frustrating and can affect everyday life. There are many different treatment options which can help alleviate symptoms and restore function. However, if there are any concerns it is important to seek medical attention.