Back muscle spasms

November 12, 2012

Back muscle spasms

Muscle spasms or cramps – which are caused by an involuntary muscle contraction – can be extremely painful. These cramps can cause mild discomfort or intense pain. Whilst many people experience back muscle spasms cramps do generally occur, most commonly, in the leg and feet muscles. They may involve part of a muscle or all the muscles in a particular group. A serious back muscle spasm may require manual stretching in order for it to release.

The risk factors

Despite ongoing research there is still no known cause for back muscle spasms although there do appear to be several risk factors, including -

  • Dehydration

  • Poor conditioning and fitness

  • Muscle fatigue

  • New activity

  • Over exercising particularly in extreme heat – this may contribute to electrolyte depletion another risk factor for cramps.

  • Holding the same position for long periods – this may well be a significant cause of spasm in the back.

  • Narrowing of the arteries may lead to muscle spasm because of an inadequate supply of blood and nutrients to the muscle.

  • If a muscle has been overstretched or torn the resulting inflammation can cause spasm in the affected muscle, in the back this may bring with it severe lower back pain.

  • Tight hamstrings are known to be connected to muscle spasms in the back, so, specific stretching exercises in this area will be beneficial.

As part of the ongoing

research into these various possibilities researchers are also discovering more evidence for the effects of altered neuromuscular control and its role in muscle fatigue and disruption of coordination, however the evidence to support the theory that this may be a factor in developing back muscle spasms is not convincing as it tends to be based around anecdotal observations.

How to prevent back muscle spasm?

As with many conditions prevention of back muscle spasms is often better than cure and there are some things which can be done to do just that -

  • Stretch properly before and after exercise

  • Stay hydrated during exercise – some sports drinks claim to replenish electrolytes and the body’s natural salts, it may be worth trying them out to see if they help.

  • Improve fitness levels and avoid muscles becoming fatigued

  • Warm up and cool down before and after exercise

  • Ensure that those muscles which are most prone to cramping are properly stretched before using them.

The treatment

If you do experience cramping the treatment is usually to do nothing – the cramp will usually just dissipate of its’ own accord, however the process may be speeded up -

  • Stop the cramp inducing activity immediately

  • Gently stretch and massage the affected area

  • Hold the stretch position for as long as possible.

  • The use of hot and cold compresses is found to be effective by some people.

  • Most cramps are viewed as nothing more than a minor irritation which soon passes, if, however, you are experiencing persistent, frequent back muscle spasm which seem to last a long time then it would be wise to seek medical advice.


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