What are back spasms?

20 Apr
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Back spasms occur when the muscles in your back grab painfully after bones in the back twist out of place. Usually this problem occurs while performing a quick physical movement, but this is not always so. It can also happen days after physical activity. The location is usually in the lower back, but can also be in the middle back or neck.

The back pain does not only originate from the muscle but will also come from the joint capsules, ligaments, disc, and nerves.  This pain is not easily distinguishable when experiencing a back spasm. There are a lot of moving parts in that spine, and when back spasms happen they are all involved.

Why do back spasms happen?

Most people only focus on the muscular portion of a back spasm as that is what it feels like is creating the problem.  This may be creating some of the pain, but this is not causing the problem. Back spasms are actually the body’s facilitated response to the poor biomechanics and coordination of the spine. The muscles actually grab and hold on tight in order to prevent the vertebrae in the back from moving further out of place. The muscles spasm purposefully to protect the spine and spinal cord from further damage. This is painful but it is also an important survival instinct of the body.

What causes vertebrae to move out of place?

The vertebrae in the back can be moved out of place because of improper lifting, sitting, or twisting movements. This movement out of place is not a complete dislocation that can occur in a ball and socket joint like a shoulder. The 26 vertebrae in the spine move together in unison with multiple joint contacts – such as discs between the vertebrae bodies and facet joints above and below the vertebrae to limit and allow movement. When a vertebrae moves out of place it is called a vertebral subluxation – less than a dislocation. This has great impact on how that spine functions and how that body will work. It is also the reason for back spasms to occur.

If one of the bones in your spine goes left instead of right because of a poor golf swing your spine has to compensate. The compensation takes a lot of effort on behalf of your spinal biomechanics. If the compensation is too great for your body to handle, and the vertebrae moves further out of place than your body expects… back spasm. Your body will stop you in your tracks and stop you from creating any more damage to the spine or nerve system. This process can actually build up over time.

How to get a vertebrae in place?

Chiropractors are specifically trained to support and encourage a vertebrae to get in place. The process is called a chiropractic adjustment and requires a full chiropractic exam to identify which is the main vertebral subluxation creating the problem.

If you are experiencing back spasms: do not just address the facilitated response by rubbing on the sore muscle – identify the vertebrae that is subluxated and get is chiropractically adjusted!

How to prevent a back spasm?

Back spasms can be avoided but involve healthy behaviours and habits for your back and spine.

  1. Regular Chiropractic check ups can help you identify any vertebrae that are becoming a problem and allow you to address them before they lead to a back spasm situation. A patient recently told me that his wife had told him to get his spine checked and then the next week his back went into a spasm. He came into my office sideways and after a Chiropractic exam we were able to identify that the disc in his lower back, the sacroiliac joints, and the lower back muscles were all involved. The main vertebral subluxation in this situation was at the area of the L4 vertebrae, L5 vertebrae, and Sacrum. If he had been checked the week earlier I would have been able to help him identify this subluxation pattern that had been building and addressed it so that he could prevent the back spasm.
  2. Listening to your back. When it is aching, sore, stiff, and unhappy – you need to change your behaviours and habits. This is a long term strategy that when implemented can help you avoid back spasms in the future.
  3. Exercise, but don’t repetitively bend or twist that lower back. The back, spine, and back muscles need exercise to stay healthy and avoid back spasms, but they do not like to repetitively bend or twist. The bending and twisting can be imagined by breaking up spice with a mortar and pestle. Walking is a greatly underestimated exercise that can help your avoid back spasms.
  4. Warm up and cool Down. Not only do muscles need to be warmed up before intense exercise (or even putting on your shoes) but so do your joints in your back. Walking is a great way to warm up the spinal joints, but so is gently pelvic motion or gentle motion of your back and spine using your hips/legs.
  5. Sport postures – Proper form in sports is important to avoid a subluxation from occurring through your training or competition. Pay attention to your form! Not only will your performance increase but you will be able to avoid back injury in the future and back spasms. These back spasms do not come out of no where, they build up over time and are impacted by bad form.
  6. Postures are very important. The spinal bones greatly impact and misalignments of these bones will cause back spasms. Because of this you must be aware and work towards better postures! This includes sitting, standing, and sleeping postures. If you abuse your back with poor posture, you will be at a greater chance of running into back spasms and back challenges in your future.

A complete examination by a Chiropractor is a must if your goal is to avoid a back spasm.  Contact us in Mississauga for help!

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