Lower Back Muscle Spasm

When we think of back pain, we think of fractured vertebral bones, arthritis, and "slipped discs." In reality, the majority of cases of back pain involve muscle spasms. Muscle spasms are prolonged contractions of the muscle in which the muscle tenses up, and stays that way, in response to an injury. The injury that is causing the extreme muscle tightness may be an injury to the muscle itself, a structure associated with that muscle, or an injury to the major nerves in that area. This muscle contraction, however painful, is an adaptive response of the body to protect an injured part of the body from further instability or damage. Due to the intense muscle contraction of the muscle, the symptoms of that injury may be quite severe - resulting in severe pain, immobility to that part of the body, and very limited range of motion in that area of the body. A lower back muscle spasm, however frightening and painful, will usually loosen within a couple of days, as the muscle heals or the injury associated with the muscle spasm heals. In this article, we will discuss that some of the causes of lower back muscle spasms, which back muscles are usually involved, and what treatments are available to speed the rate of recovery.



When a person has been in a car accident or severe fall, the first response of emergency medical technicians and doctors is to immobilize the back, head, and neck in order to prevent a possible spinal injury from becoming a disabling one. This is the human response to possible spinal injuries, to quickly stabilize the spine until imaging tests can be done to assess for possible spinal damage. A lower back muscle spasms works in much the same way, only the body's immediate response is immediate.

When we sustain an injury to one of the elements of the spine, including the muscles, fascia, ligaments, or tendons, the body recognizes this event immediately and reacts to try to protect a portion of the spine that might have been destabilized. This immediate tension, or contraction, of the muscle results in limited motion in that part of the body. This reduction in movement may prevent a minor injury from becoming a major injury.

You would think that this immediate and powerful seizing up of the muscle would only be in response to major muscle tears and traumatic injuries. But often muscle spasms often do occur in response to a cough or sneeze, or relatively minor lifting activities such as shoveling snow or raking leaves. In some cases, people provoke back spasms by simple everyday movements, such as picking up the morning newspaper.

A lower back muscle spasm is an event that involves the contracting muscles, and the main nerve supplying that muscle. When a part of the back becomes injured, a reflex signal is sent through the local nervous system, thereby alerting all the muscles supplied by that nerve that one of the stations in the network has been damaged. This alert signal immediately reaches the muscles supplied by that nerve, and all the muscles simultaneously tighten. This muscle may tighten to the point that it feels very dense and hard, and it may be experienced as extremely painful.

A lower back muscle spasm may occur for several reasons. In most cases, they occur when you are pushing your body to perform movements that it is not designed for, or not prepared for based on your recent level of physical endurance. Strenuous activities that may push your muscles further than they are currently prepared to go include weekend warrior climbs on an office worker body, or heavy lifting activities on weak lower back muscles.