Lower Back Spasms

Lower Back Spasms

Lower back spasms can range from mildly bothersome to extremely painful. The tension, tightness, and cramping in your back can make it difficult to go about your daily routine. In this guide, we explore the symptoms, causes, and treatments for lower back spasms.

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Juhi Modi Medical Writer
Medically reviewed by 

Content:

Symptoms

Common causes of lower back spasms

Treatment and remedies

Other treatments for lower back spasms

Preventing lower back spasms in the future

Diagnosis

When to see a doctor

Take care of your back with regular exercise

Lower back pain is a very common health problem worldwide. It affects your productivity at work as well as your general well-being. According to the World Health Organization, up to 70 percent of adults suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lifetime.1 Lower back spasms are a common and well-known cause of back pain. What are lower back spasms? What causes them? And what can you do for relief if you’re experiencing a lower back spasm?

Lower back pain

In this informative guide, we explore the common causes and symptoms of lower back spasms. We delve into what you can do to prevent spasms in your lower back. We also present an overview of effective treatments, including stretches for lower back spasms. The Injurymap app shows you a range of exercises to relieve spasms in your lower back. The exercises can be done at home. The app demonstrates the correct way to do each exercise.

Please remember, this guide has been written for your information only. Do not use it as a replacement for professional medical care. Always consult a doctor if your lower back spasms are severe or do not improve with home exercises.

Looking for a solution to lower back spasms? Try the Injurymap exercise app now.

Symptoms

A lower back spasm is an involuntary tightening or contraction of muscles in your lower back. Oftentimes, the spasm in your lower back only causes minor discomfort and stiffness. However, sometimes lower back spasms can cause severe tension and intense pain in your lower back. This can make it difficult for you to move. The tension and pain can prevent you from performing back movements, forcing you to avoid certain activities.

The most common symptoms of lower back spasms:2,3
  • A feeling of tension or tightness in your lower back.
  • Cramping in the lower back muscles that comes and goes.
  • A constant dull ache in the lower back.
  • A sharp lower back pain that comes on suddenly in a specific location.
  • Weakness of the back muscles.
  • Difficulty bending over or performing other back movements.
  • Tightness in the lower back after standing or sitting for long periods.

Common causes of lower back spasms

There are several possible reasons for your lower back spasms, including:2,3,4

Overuse: Extensive use of your lower back, such as during heavy lifting, can cause muscle spasms. This is especially likely if you haven’t used your back in a while and you overuse it without proper conditioning.

Injuries: Damage to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the lower back can result in muscle spasms.

Poor posture: Sitting hunched over at your desk, working long hours at a computer workstation, or driving long distances puts a strain on your lower back muscles. This can lead to muscle spasms.

Lack of exercise: If you lead a sedentary lifestyle with little to no exercise, you can develop weak back muscles. Your body will try to compensate for this weakness by contracting the muscles, causing you to experience lower back spasms.

Sports: If you play golf, football, or other sports that involve sudden and repeated back turning, you could be at risk of lower back spasms.

Spine conditions: Scoliosis (twisting of the spine), arthritis, or a ruptured/bulging disc in your spine can cause lower back pain and spasms. Underlying problems with your spine are likely to cause recurrent muscle spasms. It is important to seek medical care to treat the underlying cause of your symptoms.

Nerve damage: Injuries or medical conditions like diabetes can lead to nerve damage in the lower back, which can trigger muscle spasms.

Stress and anxiety: If you are anxious or under stress, your body may respond by unconsciously tensing the muscles in your lower back. Also, your mental health can decrease your motivation to exercise, contributing to lower back spasms.

Treatment and remedies

Lower back spasms can be painful and annoying, but they are treatable. You can adopt certain lifestyle changes to reduce the frequency and severity of your lower back spasms. Physical therapy exercises and lower back stretches will play an important role in relieving your symptoms. Exercise also helps to strengthen the back muscles and prevent muscle spasms from occurring again. Here are some exercises you can do to ease the pain if you’re experiencing lower back spasms.

  1. Seated back stretch
    30 sec. x 3 sets

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    Seated back stretchThis exercise stretches and reduces tension in your lower back muscles, helping to relieve spasms.

    • Sit on a chair and support your body with your hands on your knees.
    • Slowly let your body fall down between your knees by curving your back.
    • Then lift your body up again using your arms.
    • Keep stretching for 30 seconds and perform 3 repetitions.
  2. Curl and sway on knees
    10 reps x 1 sets

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    Curl and sway on kneesThis exercise is also called the cat and camel pose. It helps maintain mobility of the spine and relaxes the back muscles. It also strengthens your lower back muscles.

    • Lie on your hands and knees.
    • Curb your back then slowly sway it the other way.
    • Move slowly so that the full movement takes between 2 and 4 seconds.
    • The entire series represents one repetition.
    • Perform 10 repetitions without pausing.
  3. Lying pelvic lift
    3 reps x 1 sets

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    Lying pelvic liftThis exercise improves control of the backbone. It gently stretches your hips to relieve pain and spasms.

    • Lie on your back with bent knees and your feet placed flat on the floor.
    • Lift the pelvis up align your body with it with your thighs.
    • Tilt your pelvis backward and suck in your belly button.
    • Slowly lower your back again by placing a small part of your back into the ground.
    • Make sure to control the movement so that you start by letting the upper part of the back hit the ground first and the pelvis hits the ground last.
    • The exercise should improve your control of each backbone.
    • Make sure to perform the exercise at a relaxed pace.
    • Repeat the exercise 3 times.
  4. Crunches I
    3 reps x 3 sets

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    CrunchesCrunches help to strengthen and stabilize your core and abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles support your back. If you have weak or stiff abdominal muscles, you are more vulnerable to lower back spasms.

    • Lie on your back with bent knees and your feet placed flat on the floor.
    • Keep your arms crossed over your chest.
    • Lift the shoulder blades off the floor.
    • Hold the position for 2-3 seconds.
    • Then go back down.

Other treatments for lower back spasms

In the long-term, exercise is the best way to manage lower back spasms and prevent them from recurring. However, if you’re looking for more immediate relief, one or more of the following treatments can help.

Rest plus ice/heat application: If you have severe back pain due to muscle spasms, a period of rest is advisable until your symptoms are better. Both ice and heat can help relieve the pain from lower back spasms. Ice and heat reduce muscle tension and inflammation. You may find that alternating between hot and cold packs is particularly helpful.5

Massage therapy: Pressure in the lower back area can soothe your symptoms by reducing tension in your muscles. Apply firm pressure in circular motions in the affected area for 30-60 seconds. The pressure should be firm, but not painful. Avoid massage if you can feel a pulse in the area.5 You can also use a foam roller to loosen up your lower back muscles and relieve tightness. However, be aware that using a foam roller incorrectly can lead to injuries. It’s best to talk to a trainer or healthcare provider before using one.

Massage for the lower back

Medications: Medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen are available over-the-counter for pain relief. Your doctor may prescribe some muscle relaxants if your lower back spasms are severe.

Remember, you may need to try several treatments or combinations of treatments to get the best outcome. Lifestyle changes can increase the effectiveness of any treatment for lower back spasms.

Preventing lower back spasms in the future

Lifestyle changes are the key to reducing your chances of suffering from lower back spasms in the future. Here are some of the most effective changes you can make:2,3,4,6

  • Improve your posture by sitting and standing up straight.
  • If you’re overweight, lose weight to reduce stress on your spine and lower back.
  • Engage in regular physical activity to strengthen your back and abdominal muscles.
  • Avoid wearing high-heeled shoes for long periods.
  • Don’t spend too much time sitting or lying in bed as this can worsen back problems.
  • When you’re resting in bed, your upper body should be slightly inclined. Place a pillow under your knees to reduce stress on your lower back.
  • Start an exercise program gradually and work your way up to a more intense workout. Always perform stretches and warm-up exercises before your workout.
  • Practice yoga, tai-chi, meditation, or mindfulness to improve mobility and relieve stress and anxiety.

Yoga

Diagnosis

To make a diagnosis of lower back spasms, your doctor will ask you about the severity of your symptoms and how often they occur. The doctor will also question you about what makes your spasms worse and what relieves your back pain. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if your lower back spasms started after a specific activity, such as moving furniture or playing a sport. This can help your physician determine what is causing your lower back spasms.4

Your doctor may order imaging studies, such as an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI to get a better look at your lower back. These scans will help your physician identify any serious problems with your spinal discs or blood supply to the area.4

When to see a doctor

In most cases, exercises and home remedies help with your lower back spasms. However, if your muscle spasms and back pain are severe and do not improve with conservative treatment at home, you should get medical care.

You should see a doctor if:7
  • Your lower back spasms are severe and last more than a few days.
  • Your back spasms prevent you from completing your normal daily activities.
  • You have suffered injury or trauma to your back.
  • You have fever associated with back pain and spasms.
  • You have a loss of bladder or bowel control.
  • You are experiencing weakness or loss of strength in the back muscles.
  • You have unexplained weight loss in association with back pain and spasms.

Take care of your back with regular exercise

Painful lower back spasms can make it difficult for you to work and relax. If you keep pushing through the pain, you are putting yourself at risk of further injury and delaying recovery. Rather, you should give your lower back a short period of rest. Pay attention to the activities that worsen your symptoms and avoid them for some time. But remember, long periods of inactivity can lead to stiff muscles and lower back spasms.

It’s important to start a gentle stretching program to loosen up your tight lower back muscles. Stretching exercises promote blood flow to the area, which helps speed up the healing process. Once your symptoms are under control, you can start performing strengthening exercises for your lower back. Doing these exercises regularly will improve flexibility, mobility, and stability in your lower back. The exercises will strengthen your back muscles. A whole-body exercise program can help you lose weight. These are all important contributing factors to lower back spasms.

Your lower back spasms are your body’s way of telling you that you need to take better care of your back. Luckily, exercises can relieve most of the symptoms caused by tight, contracting lower back muscles. The Injurymap app includes a range of exercises for stretching and strengthening your lower back. You can do these exercises in the comfort of your home with little to no equipment. The app shows you the correct form and technique for each exercise, so it’s easy to follow along. Use the Injurymap app to treat your lower back spasms and prevent them from returning in the future.

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About the author

Juhi Modi has two decades of experience as a medical writer with varied interests and an enduring passion for health, biology, and science. She uses her educational background in medicine to write science-backed articles for clients around the world.

References:


  1. https://www.who.int/medicines/areas/priority_medicines/Ch6_24LBP.pdf 

  2. https://www.backfithealth.com/what-to-do-when-you-experience-a-lower-back-spasm/ 

  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321916 

  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/back-pain/lower-back-spasms#causes 

  5. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322369#immediate-relief 

  6. https://www.spine-health.com/blog/what-your-back-muscle-spasm-telling-you 

  7. https://www.dukehealth.org/blog/when-can-doctor-help-your-back-pain