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Understanding Muscle Spasms: Common Causes and Questions, Remedies, and Prevention

May 23, 2023 | Chiropractic Care

Muscle spasms, also known as cramps, are involuntary contractions of muscles that occur unintentionally. These contractions often affect tired muscles that are deficient in electrolytes and water which can be lost through:

  • the loss of bodily fluids
  • insufficient water and food intake
  • increased pH levels in the body
  • some medications (steroids, laxatives, diuretics)

While muscle spasms can develop in any part of the body, they are particularly troublesome when they occur in the back muscles.

What are Muscle Spasms?

A muscle spasm is a sudden, involuntary contraction of a muscle that you didn’t mean to contract. It can cause a range of sensations, including pinching, stabbing pain and sharp/shooting pain. Back spasms, specifically, can be felt in any muscle from the neck down to the lower back. They commonly occur when muscles are fatigued or lacking the necessary electrolytes to contract and relax properly. The involuntary contractions of tired muscles lead to an uncomfortable and often painful restriction in normal movement and function of the back or neck.

How Long do muscle Spasms Last?

The duration of back spasms can vary from person to person. In some cases, they may last only a few minutes, while in others, they can persist for days or even weeks. The intensity of spasms can also vary, ranging from slight discomfort to severe pain that significantly limits daily activities.
The duration of spasms depends on factors such as the extent of muscle fatigue and dehydration. When a muscle is overworked or dehydrated, it may continue to contract for an extended period, prolonging the pain and restricting movement until the muscle fully recovers.

Person having muscle spasms in the back

Commonly Asked Questions about Muscle/Back Spasms

  1. What Can You Do About Back Spasms?

Fortunately, there are several remedies that can help alleviate the effects of back spasms:

  • Chiropractic care: Seeking chiropractic care can help restore proper movement to the spinal joints, reducing stress and tension on the surrounding muscles. This allows the back musculature to function normally again without pain. It is common knowledge that the spinal nerves control your muscles, if the spine is in a fixated position and unable to move and function optimally it will alter the way in which your muscles perform which can eventually lead to an involuntary muscle spasm or cramp.
  • Foam rolling/stretching: Foam rolling aids in promoting blood flow to the affected muscle, facilitating recovery. It also helps get movement into the spine promoting more flexibility and less stress on the muscles surrounding the spine. This simple and affordable technique can be performed at home.

Stretching is important to maintain a level of certain flexibility in the spine, when the spine moves well, it is less likely to cause muscle spasms and involuntary contractions.

  • Hydration: Replenishing electrolytes and water helps stop involuntary contractions and relaxes the muscles. It is recommended that Australians aim to drink a minimum of 2.5 litres of water per day.

Water is also great for:  

  • Eliminating toxins in the body which can cause inflammation.
  • Helps regulate body temperature to prevent excessive sweating.
  • Decreases constipation.
  • Helps with skin elasticity.
  • Lubrication of joints.
  • Carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells.
  • Booting memory and brain function.
  • Decreasing headaches.
  • Rest: Allowing the muscles to rest and recover is crucial in preventing ongoing fatigue and spasms. However, there is a fine line with “rest”, resting too much may prolong muscle spasms, we recommend gentle stretching and movement such beginners yoga or a small walk to increase blood flow and nutrients to the muscles which can help reduce muscle spasm.
  • Nutrition: ensuring you are eating a well-balanced diet, less processed foods, more whole foods. Nutrition is important for the cells inside the muscles to work optimally, if you have poor nutrition then your muscles may be more likely to spasm due to insufficient vitamins and minerals that assist in muscle contraction and relaxation.
  1. Can Chiropractic Care Help with Back Spasms?

Chiropractic care can play a significant role in the treatment and prevention of back spasms. It helps by addressing tension in the spine caused by dysfunctional joints. Through chiropractic adjustments, tension is released, allowing the spinal joints to move more freely. This, in turn, reduces the effort required by the attached muscles. Consequently, the muscles can operate more efficiently throughout the day, resulting in fewer or no spasms. In addition to chiropractic care, massage techniques and foam rolling, and stretching can provide short-term relief by managing the symptoms.

  1. Does Ice Help Back Spasms?

Ice can be helpful in managing the pain, swelling and inflammation associated with a recent muscle spasm. Applying ice to the affected area at rest can limit movement and reduce inflammation. Ice will help facilitate the turnover of healthy cells and blood flow to the affected area however, it’s important to note that ice alone may not address the underlying causes of the spasms. Therefore, it is essential to combine ice therapy with other remedies for optimal results.

  1. Can Stress and/or Anxiety Cause Muscle Spasms in the Back?

Yes, stress and anxiety often play a significant role in the development of back spasms. In times of stress or anxiety, our breathing patterns can become altered. Rapid or hyperventilated breathing can quickly fatigue the muscles because it will alter the ion concentration and pH in your body predisposing you to muscle twitching or spasms.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion muscle spasms can be quite painful and debilitating, if you take the necessary steps to increase movement, flexibility, and nutrition in the body they can be prevented, however in the event of a spasm try to find the cause of the spasm, consult your local chiropractor if needed, and make sure you do all the things in this article to assist in recovery.