Physical Therapy for Back Pain | What Is a Back Spasm?

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What Is a Back Spasm? What You Need To Know To Effectively Manage Pain

What is a back spasm? Most likely you’ll know it the moment it happens. You could be lifting a heavy object, in the middle of a game or, the complete opposite, simply bending over to tie your shoe or reach a pencil on the floor.

In any case, it’s common to experience a sudden, sharp pain, often in the lower back. Triggered by an involuntary muscle contraction, the back muscle spasm can be so painful and intense that it becomes debilitating.

Let’s take a look at some common causes of back spasms and what to do if you experience one.

What Causes Back Spasms?

Strains of back muscles or tendons tend to be one of the most common causes of back spasms. Other possible causes could be ligament sprains, a bulging disc that is pressing against a nerve or skeletal irregularities (such as scoliosis).

Additionally, individuals who have tight hamstrings, or weak lower back and abdominal muscles may experience more back spasms than individuals who are flexible and fit.

What To Do If You Experience a Back Muscle Spasm?

If you ever experience a back spasm, it’s helpful to know what to do, as it can become quite incapacitating.

Find Relief

The best thing to do if you experience a back muscle spasm is to find a position that’s less painful. You may find that lying on a firm surface takes the edge off when you’re trying to sleep at night. Many people lie on their side with a pillow between their knees or on their back with a pillow under their legs. Don’t forget to support the neck as well to take stress of the spine.


Try not to stay completely immobile. Slow, limited range of motion is better than total bed rest in most cases. Once pain becomes somewhat tolerable, try walking slowly for a few minutes at a time, several times a day.

At the same time, decrease your chances of furthering the injury by avoiding heavy lifting and limiting any activity that leads to more pain. If you need to pick an item up, bend you knees to use your legs and not you back.  Also place a hand on a surface or a thigh to help distribute the weight being lifted over a wider area then through the back.


Use an ice pack for approximately 15 minutes, 3-4 times a day for the first couple of days after you first experience the back spasm. Cold applications not only help to dull the pain, but also may reduce inflammation. Alternatively, consider using moist heat to enhance circulation and improve comfort. Everyone’s body is different in how they respond. An alternating ice/heat application may also work for you.

If Back Spasms Continue

If back spasms or pain continue, or increases, or along with numbness begin traveling down your limbs, a physical therapist can work with you to restore healthy movement patterns and heal faster.

Treatment includes both passive and active therapies and will vary depending on individual needs. Your physical therapist may give you treatments such as hot and cold therapies, hands-on stretching, postural correction, joint mobilization, deep tissue massage, Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and/or ultrasound.

Your therapist may also suggest a personalized exercise and stretching program for you.

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Physical Therapy Treatment for Back Muscle Spasms

Although back pain is common, that doesn’t make it any less painful. Pain-free motion is the goal, and a physical therapist can help you accomplish that.

As one of the best physical therapy centers in NJ, Twin Boro utilizes a unique One2Four approach to help patients find the relief they need. Call the skilled experts at 1-877-304-3000 or schedule an appointment to learn more about Twin Boro Physical Therapy in NJ and a treatment plan made specifically for you.

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Voted Readers’ Choice Best of New Jersey, Twin Boro has provided NJ residents with high quality physical therapy and rehab for over 38 years! It’s our award-winning approach, proven results and reputation that sets us apart. By incorporating the One2Four program into each patient’s program, the latest and most reliable scientific research and techniques are incorporated into effective evidence-based practice. We deliver only the highest standard of care with the unique One2Four approach.

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