It is estimated that 1 in 6 Australians have lower back pain. There are many factors which may result in lower back pain, one of the most common being muscle spasm. A muscle spasm is an involuntary contraction of your muscles. This can result in a loss of range, pain at the site of the spasm, pain referral to another area of your body and/or inability to do your daily activities. Pain within the lower back may radiate into other areas of your body, such as your 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 or an exercise physiologist for management.
Having an appointment with a soft tissue occupational therapist will ensure that an accurate diagnosis of your injury is made. Soft tissue occupational therapists specialise in the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions. They are able to differentiate your lower back spasm from being a general muscle spasm to something much more sinister such as a disc injury. An accurate diagnosis allows for a targeted treatment plan to be implemented, allowing for a speedy recovery.
Home treatments for lower back spasm
Never push through the pain as it may aggravate your muscles even further and potentially cause more damage. Your health should be your number one priority, so be sure to stop whatever activity is causing the pain and take some time to rest and recover.
When you are sleeping or resting in bed, you can use pillows or towels reduce pain and help with postural alignment.
- If you sleep or rest 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 rest or sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees. The pillow will help keep your hips, knees and spine in alignment.
- If you rest or sleep on your belly, place a pillow underneath your abdomen/hips. This will help relieve the pressure off your lower back.
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.
Exercises to avoid
There are certain exercises and stretches to avoid placing additional pressure on your lower back and cause more muscle spasm pain. A consultation with an Exercise Physiologist will identify what movements are dangerous for you.
Apply a heat pack to your lower back. You can also take a hot shower, allowing the water to hit your lower back, or take a warm bath. 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.
Stretches for lower back muscle spasm pain relief target your hips and surrounding muscles, as the muscles of the lower back attach to this area.
- Piriformis 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.
- Press up
Lying flat face down on the floor, place your hands beside your ears. Slowly lift your torso off the ground but keep your hips on the ground. Make sure your lower body is relaxed as you do this. Hold for 20-30 seconds. If you can’t hold for this long, hold for as long as you are able to and continue gently stretching until you are able to. Lower yourself back down.
- Knee to chest
This stretches your hips, thighs and glute muscles.
Lying flat on the floor, bring one knee up to your chest. Your hands should be placed on your shin/below the knee of the leg that is being drawn up to your chest. Keep your hips flat on the floor. Hold the pose for 30 seconds. Swap legs.
If you want to get an increased stretch, tuck your chin down and lift your head up off the floor.
- Trunk rotation
This stretches your abdominals and hip muscles.
Lying flat on your back, spread your arms out to your sides to make a ‘T’ pose, with your palms facing the floor. Bend your knees and slowly roll both knees to your left side, keeping your upper torso on the ground.
Two other stretches that can assist with your lower back pain are the downward dog and child’s pose, commonly used within yoga.
Proper work practices. Avoiding movements that strain your back, maintain correct posture and lift objects correctly. Don’t twist when you are lifting objects, and do not lift heavy objects by yourself.
- Regular exercise. This is to keep the muscles strong and flexible by ensuring they get regular blood flow and to also prevent weakening from inactivity. 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.
- 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.
- 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 relieve muscle tension and prevent 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. Using apps such as ‘Smiling Mind’ or ‘Stop, breath and think’ makes mindfulness accessible through daily 10-minute mindfulness exercises. Stress relief may also involve a relaxing warm bath, participating in your hobbies, listening to calming music, or other activities such as taking a walk. 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
An exercise physiologist will assist with preventing injury, managing injury, and improving physical functioning. An exercise physiologist prescribes exercise programs to provide pain relief and prevent future re-injury of your lower back.
See a soft tissue occupational therapist
If you are still experiencing lower back muscle spasm pain, you should book in to see your soft tissue occupational therapist. Hands-on massage techniques such as myofascial release and trigger point therapy is provided to relieve pain. As mentioned above, your soft tissue occupational therapist can test to see if your lower back muscle spasm pain is caused from referred pain or muscle tightness and provide you with a proper diagnosis.
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