Simple remedies to treat back spasms and prevent them from making a comeback
If you spend most of your day at a desk and in front of a screen and without much activity, these tips are for you.
It is a frustratingly common scenario: you spend most of your days at a desk, in front of a screen and don’t really get in a lot of activity. Then a friend challenges you to some basic yoga poses, you take him on and manage to gracelessly stretch yourself into the asana. But the next day at work your lower back is aching in protest. Worryingly, you’re barely pushing 30.
Lower back spasms is becoming an increasingly common reason for visiting a doctor and taking a sick day. They can be caused by a variety of reasons — mostly overexertion or twisting in an uncomfortable position. Sprains and strains are therefore the most likely causes, most probably precipitated by heavy lifting.
The cause could also be more serious such as a slipped disk, sciatica (nerve-related pain), or spondylitis (inflammation of the spine). These conditions, however, have accompanying symptoms such as tingling or numbness running down the legs and the degree of pain is much more severe. If there are accompanying symptoms, or if the pain does not settle within a few days, it is a good idea to get your physician involved.
Remedies for back spasms
Since back spasms are so common, there are some easy remedies and non-prescription drugs that can help alleviate symptoms. Here is a list of some things you can try:
1. Alternate between hot and cold compresses. An ice pack may reduce inflammation and also ease symptoms. However, do not apply ice directly to the skin, wrap it in a towel or cover before proceeding. It is best to use ice packs initially, for the first 2 days after you notice pain rather than heat packs. A hot shower or hot water bottle on the affected area is soothing and relaxes the spasm. These remedies are most effective within the first week of pain.
2. Maintain levels of exercise. This does not include weight lifting exercises that may have caused the issue in the first place. However, moderate exercises such as walking, running, and swimming are now encouraged even if you have a back spasm. They prevent the muscles from stiffening and may reduce the time to full recovery.
3. Some NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can also be used to lower pain. However, it is best to consult your doctor before taking these. In certain cases muscle relaxants and steroid injections may be given as well. Some topical ointments can also bring temporary relief.
4. Avoid wearing high heels or flat bottomed shoes as they can aggravate your back spasm. Wear footwear that is comfortable and fits properly and provides arch support. A podiatrist could be of help here.
5. A back massage from a licensed masseuse can be very calming. However, be sure to express that you are in discomfort and point out where it hurts. The masseuse can do more harm than good if they apply too much pressure in the wrong area.
There are also some simple back exercises and desk chair adjustments you can make to help avoid back spasms in the future.
Exercises to strengthen your lower back
1. Bottom to heels stretch
- Kneel on all fours. Make sure your hands are under your shoulders, your back straight and your knees under your hips.
- Lower your back as you bring your buttocks down to touch your heel. Your arms should be stretched straight ahead of you, elbows locked and your back straight.
- Hold for 2 seconds, come back up and repeat.
2. The bridge pose
- Lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Your arms should be resting on your side, palms facing down.
- Now raise your hips using your glutes and abdominal muscles. Your knees should remain bent and your back should be in line with your thighs.
- Hold this pose for 5-10 seconds depending on your comfort level.
- This is one rep. Start with one set of 10 reps and increase the number of sets as you go.
3. Back extension
- Lie down on your stomach.
- Place your forearms along your chest, with your palms flat on the floor and elbows bent. Keep your neck straight and look at the floor.
- Holding the body taut, lift up your back. Your upper arm will be perpendicular to the floor. Keep your back straight and ensure your legs remain in contact with the ground. You will feel a tightness in the abdomen. Hold this pose for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
Workplace changes to prevent back spasms
Since you may be spending most of your day at a desk in front of a screen, here are some things you can do to ease aches caused by it. For starters, invest in a chair (or insist that your employer does) that is adjustable and provides lower back support. Place a pillow at the bottom to assist your lower back if necessary.
- Make sure the laptop is at a comfortable height. It should be an arm’s length away and the top of the screen should be aligned with your eyes. This way your neck isn’t bending down the entire time.
- Sit in a way such that your knees are slightly lower than your hips; this helps keep the back straighter.
- Your feet should be touching the floor and straight. Avoid crossing your legs.
- Don’t maintain the same position for too long. Move frequently, at least once in half an hour.
Most importantly though, remember to take breaks. Take walks and keep your blood flowing. Spasms are much less likely if muscles are allowed more mobility.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.
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