How Do You Relieve Back Spasms? 10 Tips

Medically Reviewed on 11/9/2022
How Do You Relieve Back Spasms
You can relieve mild back spasms at home with heat, ice, rest, and over-the-counter painkillers

Back spasms can be relieved with over-the-counter medications, topical treatments, and lifestyle changes such as regular stretches and exercise.

A back spasm is the involuntary tensing or contraction of the back muscles, most often in the lower back. Spasms can range from minor irritation to persistent discomfort that causes considerable pain and negatively impacts your daily life.

If your muscle spasms are severe, occur frequently, and do not react well to home remedies, consult your doctor.

10 ways to relieve back spasms

Your doctor may use active and passive techniques to help you feel better. Some of the approaches that may be used to relieve back spasms include

1. Heat, ice, and rest

  • Apply ice packs to the area for the first 24-72 hours for 20 minutes at a time every 1-2 hours.
  • After 72 hours, apply heat for 20 minutes at a time every 1-2 hours.
  • Elevate your legs and relax your muscles by taking deep breaths.

2. Stretches

  • Prayer stretch
    • Push your chest toward the floor and reach as far forward as you can.
    • Hold for 5 to10 seconds.
    • Repeat 5 times, 2 sets a session and 2 sessions a day.
  • Lower trunk rotation
    • Keeping your back flat and placing your feet together, turn your knees to the left and hold for 3 seconds.
    • Repeat on the other side.
    • Repeat 10 times on each side.
  • Single knee to chest
    • Lie back on the floor, placing your hand behind the knee of one leg and drawing the knee toward your chest. 
    • Bring your knee closer until you feel a comfortable stretch in your lower back and buttocks. 
    • Relax your back and hold for 5-10 seconds.
    • Repeat on each side 10 times, 2 sets a session and 2 sessions a day.
  • Double knee to chest
    • Lie back on the floor and place both of your palms behind your knees, drawing them toward your chest. 
    • Relax your back and hold for 5-10 seconds.
    • Repeat on each side 10 times, 2 sets a session and 2 sessions a day.
  • Pelvic tilt
    • Tighten your abdominal muscles and buttocks to round your back. Hold for 3-5 seconds.
    • Repeat 10 times, 2 sets a session and 2 sessions a day.

3. Improve your posture

Back spasms can be exacerbated by poor posture. Maintain proper posture and use ergonomic aids to get the stability and strength your back needs.

You can use cushions to support your back while sitting or sleeping, thereby relieving strain on your lower back.

4. Exercise regularly

Being overweight puts additional strain on your spine and joints. Follow a healthy diet and exercise plan to lose excess weight.

Regular exercise and resistance training can strengthen your back and core muscles.

5. Warm up and cool down before working out

Warming up and cooling down before and after exercise can help prevent muscle fatigue, sprains, and injuries. 

Before a workout, get your blood pumping to your muscles, joints, and tendons by running in place or performing sport-specific exercises. Stretch the major muscle groups of your body for about 10 minutes after a workout to help prevent muscle spasms.

6. Stay hydrated

Muscle spasms can occur due to dehydration. Make sure you drink enough water for your body size and activity level to reduce your risk of back spasms.

7. Take an Epsom salt bath

Epsom salt is naturally high in magnesium, and bathing in it causes the magnesium to seep into your skin. This can help relax muscles and ease a sore back.

8. Take painkillers

If your back spasms are severe, you can take antispasmodic and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain and inflammation.

9. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

TENS is a noninvasive physical therapy treatment that has been used for decades to treat back spasms. It is safe for pregnant women.

10. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a practice in Chinese traditional medicine in which small needles are inserted into your skin at target locations. It is thought that particular focal places on your body have nerve endings that, when stimulated, can help relieve pain in corresponding areas. Acupuncture should only be performed by a licensed expert.

What causes back spasms?

Back spasms have various causes, ranging from minor injuries to more significant medical conditions. Common causes include the following:

  • Muscles that are overtired, overstretched, and overworked
  • Holding the same posture for an extended period 
  • Excessive strain due to heavy lifting
  • Activities that require the back to turn quickly and repeatedly, such as golf

Back spasms and cramps can sometimes indicate an underlying anatomical issue in the spine. More serious spinal problems can lead to inflammation of the soft tissues around the spine, causing muscle spasms. Disorders that can cause back spasms may include:

Other causes include:

How are back spasms diagnosed?

Your doctor will take your medical history and perform a physical examination to rule out any major health disorders that may be causing the back spasm. Your doctor may order certain diagnostic tests to determine the cause, followed by appropriate treatment to reduce the discomfort:

  • Blood tests: Although blood tests are not commonly used to diagnose back pain, they can identify possible causes of back spasms such as:
  • X-ray: If your doctor suspects a fractured bone or displaced vertebrae, they may recommend an X-ray.
  • CT scan: A CT scan can detect conditions that conventional X-rays cannot, such as disc rupture, spinal stenosis, and cancer.
  • MRI scan: An MRI produces computer-generated images of the bones and soft tissues and can help determine whether your back spasms are caused by:
  • Bone scans: A bone scan is an imaging test that can diagnose bone disease, infection, or fracture. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into your blood, which collects in your bones, especially in areas with abnormal or irregular bone tissue.  Images highlighting areas with abnormal bone metabolism or abnormal blood flow are taken.
  • Discography: Discography involves injecting a contrast dye into a spinal disc that is suspected of causing lower back discomfort. The fluid pressure in the disc duplicates symptoms and can identify the disc causing the pain. The dye highlights the damaged areas on CT scans obtained after the injection.
  • Electromyography (EMG): An EMG can assist your doctor in determining whether your back spasms are caused by nerve damage. During an EMG, small needles are inserted into your muscles to assess electrical activity transferred from your brain or spinal cord to a specific area of your body.


Nearly everyone has low back pain at some time during their life. See Answer

When to seek medical attention for back spasms

Back spasms should not be ignored. Although minor spasms may resolve on their own, severe spasms may require treating the underlying cause to avoid complications or serious injury.

Seek medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • Ongoing back spasms for more than 2-3 weeks
  • Severe and debilitating back spasms that force you to reduce mobility
  • Back spasms associated with bladder or bowel control problems
  • Persistent weakness, numbness, or shooting or throbbing pain in your legs or arms
  • Pain accompanied by unintended weight loss, fever, or a general feeling of being unwell
Medically Reviewed on 11/9/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Back Spasms:

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