What is a Back Spasm?
The medical term “Back Spam” refers to a sudden and involuntary contraction or tensing of the muscles in response to a strain, overuse, or pain related to a muscle injury. According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), about 85% of people suffer from the back spasm at a certain moment during their lifetime in the United States 1. This condition mainly occurs near the spinal cord or the nerve root that leaves from the spinal cord. This puts pressure on the sensitive nerves and causes severe pain and discomfort to the patient.
In most cases, back spasm occurs as a result of injuries to the muscle, ligaments, and tendons in the back region of your body. Sometimes, we found some association with back spasms to more serious medical conditions. Heavy lifting also considered a common cause of back spasm. Besides heavy lifting, activities like sports such as golf and football can cause back spasm. Normally, our abdominal muscle supports our back muscles. But if you have weak abdominal muscles, they can’t provide adequate support to your back and result in injury. Another major cause of back spasm includes arthritis or a ruptured disc in your vertebrae. Arthritis puts pressure on your lower back and causes pain in the back and legs. A bulging disc also gives pressure over a nerve and results in back pain. Other causes of back spasms include spinal stenosis, spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis, herniated disc, epidural abscess, etc.
Obvious musculoskeletal symptoms of back spasms include backache, buttock or hip pain, spinal curvature, foot drop, muscle weakness or strain, pain in the leg or buttock, stiffness and numbness in the neck, pain in the shoulder, etc. You may face some neurological symptoms of back spasm that include headache, sciatica, nerve problems in your back, arm, etc. Following symptoms of back spasm may indicate a serious condition of the patient 2:
- Loss of bladder control
- Loss of balance and incoordination
- Impaired sensation
- Abnormal sensations
- Weakness, numbness, and tingling in the arm, leg, and lower back region
How do Neurosurgeons Diagnose Back Spasms?
The initial diagnosis of a back spasm includes a clinical presentation and pain patterns of patients. Your doctors may ask you some questions about the severity of your back pain, duration of pain, frequency of your pain, etc. These answers will help your doctor to diagnose your case accurately. He may further confirm by X-ray to look for signs of arthritis or bone fracture or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) for a better look at the muscles and other soft tissues 2.
These clinical diagnostic tests will help to identify the possible problems of the discs and associated structure that causes a back spasm. We can also see the blood supply of the affected region. Be sure to tell your physician about the recent history of injury due to sports or some extensive physical activity. This will help your doctor to make a better treatment protocol for your recovery 3.
How do Neurosurgeons Treat Back Spasms?
Treatment of a back spasm depends on the severity and duration of the back pain. If you develop a back spasm after an injury, your doctor may suggest trying to ice or heat therapy on your back to relieve initial pain. Ice will help to reduce the inflammation and heat improves the blood supply. Most patients with pinched nerves respond well to non-surgical and conservative treatment. Other treatment protocol includes 4:
- Medications: This includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and muscle relaxants to relieve symptoms of muscle pain. Study shows that muscle relaxants help to relieve pain 5.
- Physical therapy: This includes stretching and light exercises that can reduce pressure on your nerves and relieve minor pains.
Most of the time, only rest can relieve the patient from this condition. If you still face some problems after following the above treatments, your doctor may advise to go for surgical intervention. Always ask your physician before taking any medications for your safety.
- Allegri, M. et al. Mechanisms of low back pain: A guide for diagnosis and therapy [version 1; referees: 3 approved]. F1000Research 5, 1–11 (2016).
- Foster, N. E. et al. Prevention and treatment of low back pain: evidence, challenges, and promising directions. Lancet 391, 2368–2383 (2018).
- Paolucci, T. et al. Chronic low back pain and postural rehabilitation exercise: A literature review. J. Pain Res. 12, 95–107 (2019).
- Rechtine, G. R. Diagnosis and treatment of low back pain. J. Orthop. Trauma 6, 395 (1992).
- Traeger, A. C. et al. Pain education to prevent chronic low back pain: A study protocol for a randomised controlled trial. BMJ Open 4, 1–7 (2014).