When your back goes into spasm the pain can be very intense, it becomes difficult to even slightly move your back and thighs. Having a back spasm is very, very scary and you may wonder how long you can cope with this pain and start to panic.
The soft tissue in your back could be trying to protect itself from strain or injury by telling you ‘stop what you’re doing and never do that movement ever again!’ or you may have an underlying condition that is causing your spasms. If you have pain for over two weeks, or if you’re having repeated spasms, get yourself checked out by a physio.
While you’re having a spasm, there are things you can do to ease your symptoms and restore movement to your body. How you react when your back goes into spasm can have a big impact on how you recover. Here is a checklist of things to do when you’re having a spasm and when you’re healing from one.
During a spasm:
- Stop what you’re doing. Your body is telling you that this movement may injure you further. The spasm is causing you pain but it is not the source of your injury. This is why back spasm pain is usually short lived, it’s a warning sign.
- Don’t panic. If you become highly stressed and start to scream or cry your body will become tense and this will worsen the spasm. Remind yourself that the pain is temporary and that you have control over it. Remember that pain is not an accurate indicator of damage, although this feels like a highly serious injury, you may not have caused any additional damage.
- Breathe deeply and relax your body. Tell yourself to loosen your muscles and focus on them easing up.
- Put pressure on the area with your hands before you try to move. If moving hurts, stop and apply more pressure.
- Get to a place where you can rest, if someone is around who can assist you, get them to help. Putting weight on one or both of your legs might be difficult, use sturdy things around you like a counter or bannister to help with your mobility. If the pain starts to worsen, stop movement and go back to relaxing and applying pressure.
- If you can’t move and you need to rest where you are (this might be on the floor, in your car, or some other inconvenient place) then rest where you are as long as you are safe and warm. If necessary ask someone to bring you a cushion or a blanket.
- Allow yourself to rest. Your body needs time to recover. Do some self massage while you are resting, you might find that your back feels knotty and crunchy. Apply a hot water bottle or heat pack to help soothe the tight muscles in the painful area. Rest until you feel like you’re out of worst of it.
- Take some anti inflammatory painkillers (such as ibuprofen) or muscle relaxant tablets if you have been prescribed them.
- Don’t rest too long. In the past, doctors recommended bed rest for back pain. This is an unwise thing to do as it actually worsens the pain.
- Elevating your legs can take pressure off your spine.
- Do some gentle stretching exercises while resting. This may hurt, but as long as the pain is not sharp, you can move through the pain until it starts to lessen. A good stretch for back spasms is to slowly and gently bring your knees up to your chest. Learning basic Yoga stretches can help prepare you for these times when you need to stretch out from a spasm.
- Increase your movement by going for a short walk around the house when you feel ready. It can really ease up your pain.
- Drink a lot of water. Dehydration can worsen back pain, that’s the last thing you need.
- Take a nice hot bath.
After a spasm:
- Identify the cause of the spasm. It’s no good if your spasms keep occurring. Talk to a physio and see what might be causing your pain. It could be a number of things, from a ruptured disc, to poor biomechanics, to a small over strained muscle that you are unknowingly over working.
- Do not repeat the activity that caused the spasm in the first place. A back spasm could have been a response to an improper movement at your place of work, or in your training routine. This needs to be addressed.
- Do lower back exercises that will help stop your pain from returning. It is best to consult a professional about this.
- Consider taking pilates or yoga classes to help you confidently incorporate stretching into your routine.
- Work on strengthening your core muscles. This will take some of the responsibility of supporting your spinal column off your back.
- Sit less. Muscle spasms and back problems can be caused by prolonged sitting. Take regular breaks when working or watching tv.
- Get a sports massage. Sports massage is not just for professional athletes. A sports massage therapist goes deep into your muscles, it doesn’t just work on the surface as a Swedish massage does. This can be really great for releasing tense and problematic muscles in your back or bum!
- Get acupuncture. Acupuncture can help relieve the symptoms of a bad back and it promotes healing in the body.