Understanding and Treating Back Spasms
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Understanding and Treating Back Spasms

A back spasm is an involuntary, abnormal contraction of the back muscles, specifically those of the lower back. Back muscle spasms occur as a response to muscle strain, a sprained muscle or an underlying condition in the back. In order to prevent further damage to the strained muscle, lower back spasms occur as a way to restrict improper movement and limit motion. This may result in severe lower back pain from the involuntary contraction and uncontrollable tightening of the lower back muscles.

Back Spasms: Causes and Symptoms

Spasms often occur when the back muscles are strained or become swollen over time. Physical activity that involves pulling, pushing and twisting motions can increase the tearing of tendons, ligaments and muscles in the back. This can happen in sports like golf and football that demand sudden movements.

Alternatively, back spasms may be related to a more serious underlying condition. A patient with weak abdominal muscles is more vulnerable to lower back spasms. Other conditions, such as arthritis, could also increase the inflammatory responses and subsequent swelling of the lower back muscles.

Sharp, sudden pain is the primary symptom of back spasms. The pain is usually experienced in various frequencies, ranging from mild to severe, following strenuous activity. Some people can still manage to carry out tasks after experiencing a spasm. However, due to the bleeding of the muscles and surrounding tissue, it is often recommended to stop all activity after the initial pain symptoms.

Treatments of Back Spasms

As soon as possible after an injury, patients are encouraged to utilize self-treatment methods including rest, stretching and compression. Application of ice and heat has been found to be the most effective in reducing inflammation and improving blood flow, respectively.

If the pain persists, patients should visit a doctor to explore other conservative treatments. Depending on the severity and frequency of the pain, the doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve the pressure caused by the muscle contraction. Sometimes cortisone injections are prescribed for pain that has spread into the lower abdominal region. Chiropractic care and physical therapy are other recommended methods of treatment.

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