What is the lumbar?
The lumbar is the region of the body associated with the lower back. As seen in the picture above, the vertebral column (spine) of the human body is divided into several regions: The cervical region of the neck, the thoracic region of the chest, the lumbar region of the lower back and the sacrum and coccyx, which attach to the pelvis (hip) bone. The spine of the human body is divided like this to establish the natural curves within the spine and to also allow for easier identification of the bones of the vertebral column.
What is a spasm?
A spasm can range from minor discomfort, a dull ache and stiffness to sharp, severe pain and tightness that impacts your movement. These spasm symptoms occur from an involuntary tightening of the muscles in your lower back. This is your body’s way of providing a warning to avoid certain activities or the spasms can be due to underlying injury within the spine. You may feel tension, cramps, weakness, or sudden onset of cramps. Lower back muscle spasm pain can impact your daily life as you may have difficulty picking up objects, bending over, or feeling pain after standing, sitting or driving.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare,
- In Australia 2015, back problems were the 2nd leading cause of disease burden.
- In Australia 2017-18, 1 in 6 Australians had back problems.
What are causes of lumbar muscle spasm?
|Anatomical problems: |
-Skeletal irregularities such as scoliosis, kyphosis or lordosis.
-Degenerative disc disease
-Radiculopathy (Spinal nerve compression)
|-Ages between 30-50+ |
-Lack of physical activity
-High intensity exercise without adequate warm up/after a period of inactivity
-Weight gain/being overweight/obesity
-Genetics Work related factors
– manual jobs or desk-based jobs
-Poor mental health/stress
-Backpack overload (in children)
Pain within the lower back may radiate into other areas, such as the hips and legs.
Acute soft tissue injury causing lower back muscle spasm generally heals within one to two weeks. If symptoms persist, book in to see a Soft Tissue Occupational Therapist to get a diagnosis and pain management or book to see an Exercise Physiologist for strengthening to prevent re-injury.
At home lumbar muscle spasm treatments
Here are some tips to help you recover at home. These will also be beneficial for your recovery and rehabilitation process.
Never push through the pain as it may aggravate your muscles even further and potentially cause more damage. This will delay your recovery and prolong the healing process.
- Gentle exercises
Be sure to continue some form of gentle exercise, such as walking or swimming, as prolonged periods of rest can make the pain worse. Prolonged inactivity can cause the muscles to stiffen due to a lack of blood flow. Be sure to avoid walking on uneven ground or uphill, as this can exaggerate your pain symptoms.
- Sleep positioning
When you are sleeping or resting in bed, you can use pillows or towels reduce pain and help with postural alignment.
- If you sleep on your back, place a pillow below your knees, and a folded towel (that is a lower height than your pillow) in the small of your back. This will align your posture as you rest and distribute weight more evenly.
- If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees. The pillow will help keep your hips, knees and spine in alignment.
- If you sleep on your belly, place a pillow underneath your abdomen/hips. This will help relieve the pressure off your lower back.
- Heat therapy
Apply a heat pack to your lower back. You can also take a hot shower, allowing the water to hit your lower back. The heat allows your muscles to relax and increases blood circulation in the area to allow for healing. Heat therapy should be limited to 15-20 minutes at a time, as to not aggravate your skin too much and accidentally cause superficial burns. Avoid using ice as it reduces the healing response of the body and causes your muscles to tighten, potentially causing further damage.
Stretches are also considered as part of lumbar muscle spasm treatment. A Soft Tissue Occupational Therapist or Exercise Physiologist can prescribe you with stretches specific to your tight muscles. Stretching helps alleviate tightness in your muscles that are associated with spasm.
- Gluteal stretch
Lying flat on your back, place your left foot flat on the floor so your knee is bent above you. Using your right leg, place the outside right ankle on your left thigh, below your bent knee. Bend your left leg at the hip to bring your knee closer to your chest, whilst keeping your right ankle in place. You should be able to feel a stretch deep in your right hip. Hold this stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds. Swap sides.
- Seated rotation stretch
This stretches your quadratus lumborum.
Sit on the floor with both legs outstretched. Cross your left leg over your right leg, so that the outside left ankle is next to the right knee. Slowly twist your torso to the left, you can place your left arm behind you to support your balance. Place your right arm on the outside of your left leg so that you can twist further. Look over your shoulder. Hold this for 30 seconds. Swap sides.
- Glutes seated stretch
This stretches your gluteus maximis, gluteus minimus and gluteus medius.
Start by sitting on a chair with both feet on the floor. Bring one leg up so that your outside ankle is placed just above the knee of the other leg. This position should resemble loose crossed leg. On the leg that is crossed, gently press down on your knee until you feel a stretch deep in your hips. Hold this pose for 30 seconds. Swap legs.
- Downward dog
This stretches your back, hamstrings, calves, shoulders.
Start on your hands and knees. Your wrists should be in line with, but slightly in front of your shoulders, with your hands pointing forwards, fingers spread apart. Your knees should be directly under your hips, with your feet pointing forward. Now push your hips up and back, straightening your legs, back and arms. You should be pressing through your heels and hands. You may bend your knees slightly if the stretch is too much in this area. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Childs pose
This stretches your back, hips and thighs.
Start by sitting on your knees -sitting with your legs bent underneath you, with the soles of your feet facing up underneath you. Spread your knees slightly and bend your torso forwards, so that your forehead touches the floor. Stretch your arms out in front of you, palms to the floor, so that they are pointing straight ahead of you.
Here are some quick tips to help you prevent pain in the future:
- Be sure to warm up before exercise to ensure proper muscle recruitment. Ensuring proper muscle recruitment during exercise means getting the correct muscles to activate during certain movements. This will reduce the risk of future injury.
- Core strengthening. Lower back pain may be a result from poor core strength, as your abdominal muscles may not be strong enough to provide support for your back muscles, causing your back to overwork.
- Adequate diet. Ensure you get enough calcium, magnesium and vitamin D to maintain your bone and muscle strength.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Ergonomics. Ensure your car seat, desk and other chairs are at a good height and distance as to prevent poor sustained postures. At a desk, you want your knees, hips and elbows to be at 90 degrees, with you computer screen being approximately 30cms from your face, with the top of the screen being eye level. You may need a step to support your feet whilst you are seated. When lifting, maintain correct posture as to lift correctly. Don’t twist when you are lifting objects, and do not lift heavy objects by yourself.
- Changing postures. If you are sitting for long periods of time at work or home be sure to take a break every hour or half hour to get up, walk around and stretch. This is to prevent muscle tightening from sustained postures.
- Stress relief. Be sure to take time every day to participate in mindfulness, relaxation activities or an enjoyable hobby to help relieve stress. When we are stressed, we unconsciously tense up our muscles. If you are dealing with persistent and chronic stress, you may want to get in touch with a psychologist or counsellor.
See an Exercise Physiologist
Exercise physiologists use exercise as therapy, in other words, prescribe exercise as ‘medicine’. They will assist with preventing injury, managing injury, and improving physical functioning. Their therapy focus’ on the provision of appropriate exercises and stretches individualised to your needs. Their aim is to treat your current pain and prevent future re-injury by building your strength and tolerance.
See a Soft Tissue Occupational Therapist
A Soft Tissue Occupational Therapist is an expert in lumbar muscle spasm treatment. They use hands-on techniques such as myofascial massage, dry needling and trigger point therapy is provided to relieve pain. They are specialists in musculoskeletal assessment, treatment and diagnosis. Soft Tissue Occupational Therapists focus on your activities that you do in your day, to find the exact cause of your pain and modify the task in order to prevent re-injury. They can also prescribe you with the appropriate lower back stretches and provide individualised advice to prevent pain.
At Urban Health HQ our highly trained Soft Tissue Occupational Therapists and Exercise Physiologist will help treat your injuries, conditions or any concerns you may have. You can make an appointment today or contact us by calling 0411 563 391 or email email@example.com