What’s Causing Your Back Spasms?

One minute you’re swinging a golf club or moving a couch, and the next you’re curled up with painful back spasms. But where did they come from?

Spasms are sudden, involuntary contractions of muscles, often caused by overexertion, injury, or existing physical conditions. When spasms occur in your lower back, they can often be distracting or debilitating.

If muscle spasms in your lower back are keeping you from everyday activities, you’re not the only one. Eight out of 10 adults experience sudden back spasms at some point in their lives. The condition ranges from mild, infrequent discomfort to severe pain that makes it difficult to move.

Most lower back muscle spasms are the result of one of the following situations:

1. Your muscles are reacting to a strain or injury.

Any activity that puts strain on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your lower back can cause injury to the lumbar spine and lead to back spasms. This type of injury-caused spasming will usually subside in a week or so, though you should consult your doctor if the pain is debilitating or lasts longer than a week.

2. Your muscles are reacting to an anatomical problem in your spine.

If your back spasms recur over a long period of time, you may have an underlying problem that needs a doctor’s care. Herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, and facet joint osteoarthritis are some conditions known to cause back spasms. If the source of your pain is an anatomical problem, your muscles will continually react to pain and inflammation with spasms. Your doctor will need to treat both your immediate pain and the underlying condition to prevent future problems.

Young Woman Lying on her Side on bed While the Physical Therapist is giving a Treatment to her Injured Body.

Who to see? If you’re experiencing painful lower back muscle spasms, a physiatrist trained in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) may recommend a variety of treatments depending on the underlying cause of your spasms. You can help your doctor accurately diagnose your back pain by explaining your symptoms in detail. Treatments may include cold therapy (ice packs), heat therapy, rest, physical therapy, muscle relaxants, or anti-inflammatory medication. If your pain is caused by an underlying anatomical problem, you will need your doctor or specialist’s help in addressing the source and avoiding future flare-ups.

Luckily, back spasms are generally easy to treat. But without proper attention they can lead to chronic pain or further injury. If you’re experiencing regular muscle spasms in your lower back, be sure to seek out a physiatrist who can get to the source of the issue and create a care plan, inclusive of therapy. And stop allowing treatable lower back spasms keep you on the sidelines.

To get to know a physiatrist who can help, click here