How to Deal with a Back Spasm: 5 Home Exercise Tips

Image by u_8kpv5nme41 from Pixabay

By Kate Feinberg Robins

What Is a Back Spasm?

If you’ve experienced a back spasm, you know it can be incredibly painful, start suddenly, and last several days. The good news is most muscle spasms can be managed through home exercise and over-the-counter medicine. (For more on causes and medical treatments, we recommend the Cleveland Clinic’s website.)

A back spasm is basically when a muscle in your back contracts involuntarily and will not release. In our experience, it feels like sudden shooting and debilitating pain (usually accompanied by crying ☹️).

Here are some tips we’ve learned that help get us through when it happens.

1. Slow Down

Be patient with yourself. It can take weeks for the pain to go away fully. Often a spasm is (in part) your body telling you that you’re doing too much and forcing you to slow down.

(And maybe next time, we can remember to slow down before it happens and avoid it altogether 🤔.)

2. Keep Moving

This is the hardest and most important part. When it feels impossible to move, resist the urge to lie down. Instead, slowly and carefully work on standing up straight and walking. We use pain relief medication and topical creams to help us move through the pain.

Don’t stay seated for too long. If you need to sit, periodically stand and move.

3. Focus on Posture & Ab Strength

Two common culprits for back spasms are poor posture and under-use of the abdominals. It’s likely that your posture was misaligned when the spasm started, and now you have to work harder to correct it 🥴.

Focus on standing up straight and using your abs to maintain an upright posture. If you notice your leg, hip, or back muscles taking over, try to relax them and engage your abdominals.

Lie flat on your back to align your posture. This helps stretch out tense muscles that are preventing you from standing up straight. It will likely feel painful.

Once you’re able to stand up straight, slowly walk in a safe space. Avoid sudden movements and uneven surfaces. Focus on engaging your abs and keeping shoulders over hips.

4. Do Full Body Exercise at Home

Once you can walk, gently ease into full body exercise. This will increase your range of motion and help you address muscle imbalances.

Choose anything that inspires you. Ballet, capoeira, flamenco, Pilates and yoga are all great options. Find a safe space where you don’t feel pressure to do more than your body is allowing. Start with basic movements, working slowly to increase your mobility.

Notice which muscles feel weak and which feel tight. Focus on engaging your weak muscles and relaxing the ones you’ve been over-using. A physical therapist can help you identify under-used muscles and offer exercises to strengthen them.

5. Recognize Related Pains

Because our back is connected to upper and lower body muscles, the pain can move up and down throughout the entire body. What starts as a back spasm can turn into neck or thigh spasms. This is why gentle full body exercise is so important. Be consistent and patient, and little by little you’ll get back to normal. 🧘🏻‍♀️🧘🏾‍♂️🪷


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