Back Spasms

Back Spasms

Back spasms are places where there is cramping, knotting, twitching, or pulling in the musculature along the spine.  Usually, they are caused by imbalance of the muscles along the spine, poor hydration, improper nutrition, stress, over exertion, anxiety, and other numerous causes.

Ice

One should use ice when the injuries are acute and/or if there is inflammation.  Put the ice pack to the area when the injury occurred prior to 14 to 15 days ago.  Further more, if the injured area of the back is reddish, warm, hot, swollen, painful, or has any of those characteristics in combination ice packs should be used.  One shouldn’t use ice packs when there is a lack of circulation in the area, if the spasms are chronic- over 14 to 21 days old- or older, or if the affected area or the whole body feels cold.  The links below have information to learn more about using ice packs.

https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-pain/treating-pain-with-heat-and-cold#cold-therapy

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15466-muscle-spasms/management-and-treatment

Heat

Hot packs should be used when one has old injuries or ones that keep coming back over and over.  Put the hot pack to the area when the injury occurred over 14 to 21 days ago.  Also, if the injured area of the back is pale, chilly, tight, painful, or has any of those characteristics in combination hot packs should be used.  One shouldn’t use ice packs when the injury just occurred, if there is flushing or swelling, or if the affected area the whole body feels hot.  The links below have information to learn more about using ice packs.

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/ice-packs-vs-warm-compresses-for-pain

https://www.everydayhealth.com/pain-management/using-cold-and-heat.aspx

Massage

Back spasms respond well to massage because spasms are caused by a lack of oxygen and blood to the muscle.  Lactic acid is the result of a lack of oxygen to the muscle tissue.  After activity, lactic acid can build up in the muscles and cause a deep heavy ache.  Spasms increase the volume of lactic acid in the muscles.  Lactic acid increases in the muscles create worse spasms.  Muscle physiologists call it the “pain-spasm-pain” cycle.

The re-introduction of oxygen and blood into the muscles can be facilitated by massage, which releases the lactic acid bound up in the muscles .  Lactic acid and other waste products that are built up in the spastic muscle are removed once the blood starts flowing back into the muscle.

Trigger Point Therapy

Trigger points, while like muscle spasms, they are characteristically different .  The affected muscle will have severe pain with certain movements when a trigger point is present.  When a trigger point is pressed it will project a pain pattern to location on the body quite a distance away from the trigger point that was pressed.  One can find many images on the internet that demonstrate these patterns.

Here is a picture of some common lower back trigger point patterns:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/139048707221023516/?lp=true

There are many ways to relieve trigger points.

One system is called Active Release Technique.   The doctor uses direct pressure on the trigger point while the patient contracts the affected muscle.  The doctor maintains direct pressure to the trigger point area while patient then moves the muscle through its full range of motion through a fully stretched position.  The treatment process continues until the trigger point has dissolved and the patient is sent home.  The patient comes back in a day or two and the process continues until the trigger point is all the way gone.  It can take a few visits to get rid of the trigger points.

To learn more about Active Release Technique, click the link below:

http://www.activerelease.com/ART-for-Patients.asp

Post-Isometric Relaxation is also a great treatment for spasms and trigger points.  The doctor moves the muscle he or she wants to work on to the limit of its range of motion.  Then, the patient contracts with minimal force against the doctor’s hands which are stabilizing the joints over which the muscle runs.  The patient holds the minimal contraction for approximately ten seconds.  Then, the patient exhales and relaxes the affected muscle as the doctor continually to applies light resistance to the joints and the relaxation of the patient allows a stretching of the affected muscle.  The Post-Isomentric Relaxation therapy is continued until the spasm has dissolved and the patient is sent home.  The patient comes back in a day or two and the process continues until the spasm is all the way gone.  It can take a few visits to get rid of the spasms.

To learn more about Post-Isometric Relaxation Technique, click the link below:

https://www.dynamicchiropractic.com/mpacms/dc/article.php?id=41025

Stretching

There is a plethora of videos, websites, and guides for learning how to stretch ones spinal muscles.  Daily stretching is a great way to lengthen tight and spastic muscles over time.  It is arduous and deliberate.  As the old adage goes, “feather by feather, the goose is plucked.”

Chiropractic Treatment

In Chiropractic treatment, the doctor moves the joint through its normal range of motion and applies a slight thrust into the joint, moving it slightly beyond its normal range of motion.  During the adjustment, a “pop” or “crack” can be heard.  The “crack” or “pop” is the sound of gas traversing through the joint.  This is like the sound of a cork releasing from a bottle or a can of soda being opened.

When the chiropractor applies a thrust into the joint that is moving improperly, the thrust causes the muscle spindles near the joint to stretch which evokes a reflex.  The reflex causes the spastic muscles to ease up.  The patient comes back in a day or two and the process continues until the spasm is all the way gone.  It can take a few visits to get rid of the spasms..

To learn more about how chiropractic treatments help reduce muscle spasms, click the links below.  They come from PubMed so the language is a bit advanced:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20538226

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17905321

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23499141

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3149032/

Drugs

There are a few drugs that doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants prescribe for muscle spasms.  Some, like Skelaxin or Robaxin/methocarbamol, alleviate muscle spasms, but scientists don’t know why they work.  Others, like Valium, work by relieving anxiety by augmenting GABA in the nervous system.  GABA “slows you down,” so to speak, because it is an inhibitory neurotransmitter.  Flexeril/cyclobenzaprine inhibits the actions of the brain stem as opposed to working at the spinal cord level to activate muscle relaxation.

These drugs are usually considered safe but shouldn’t be used for more than 30 to 60 days.  They are not supposed to be used for the long term.  The strong addictive property of Valium makes it more dangerous in comparison to the previously mentioned drugs.  Drugs taken for back spasms shouldn’t be taken while a person is driving or operating heavy machinery, drinking alcohol, taking opioid drugs, or taking anti-depressant drugs.  These drugs can cause liver damage and drowsiness.

It takes Valium one to one-and-a-half hours to reach its peak concentration in the body.  While it takes Skelaxin around 3 hours to reach peak concentration in the body.  It should be obvious that the time period it takes for these drugs to reach maximum effectiveness is quite variable.

To learn more about these drugs, click the links below:

http://www.endo.com/File%20Library/Products/Prescribing%20Information/Robaxin_prescribing_information.html

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2013/017821s051lbl.pdf

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2016/013263s094lbl.pdf

https://www.addictioncenter.com/benzodiazepines/valium/

http://labeling.pfizer.com/ShowLabeling.aspx?id=689

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient therapy which developed in China over 2,500 years ago.  And, quite likely, it was used as far back as ten thousand years ago as a method to drain blood, perform surgery, or drain abscesses.  A new, ground-breaking, and safer instrument was introduced around 800 B.C. with the advent of the metal needle.

Since around 500 B.C. there have been many theses and documents detailing the diagnosis and treatment of nerve, muscle, bone, and joint problems using acupuncture and other modalities.  An early work, The Spiritual Pivot (靈樞經Líng Shū Jīng), lists what are termed The Tendinomuscular Channels.  They are similar to the acupuncture channels that are listed in a text book or poster but they are about the muscles and tendons themselves.

Needling A Shi (阿是: Ā Shì) points was popularized by the physician Sun Si-Miao (A.D. 581-682).  The term means “Ah, yes” or “Ouch, there it is.”  Ā Shì points are points on the body that are not part of Acupuncture Channel Theory but are still considered effective and “active.”   Ā Shì points are almost always trigger points or muscle spasms.  Acupuncture into muscle spasms and trigger points has always been a part of acupuncture.  So-called “Dry Needling” is still acupuncture.

To learn more about how acupuncture relieves back spasms, click the links below:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4458928/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23593553

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25801100

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26406203

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28158152

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28690077

 

Conclusion

We use various drug-free treatment methods at our office to rid our patients of their back spasms and other nerve, muscle, bone, and joint problems.  Dr. Waltemate can advise his patients to use ice or heat at home.  He can also assign his patients on which stretches to perform and how to perform them.  Dr. Waltemate performs trigger point therapy.  He has his doctorate in chiropractic and has treated a few thousand patients over the past 17 years.   Dr. Waltemate’s primary choice for back spasms is acupuncture and he has learned from many masters from both the East and the West over the past 15 years.

Don’t hesitate to call our office at (618) 207-4445  if you are suffering from back spasms.  Or you can e-mail Dr. Waltemate at ericwaltemate@gmail.com

SWANSEA ACUPUNCTURE
Eric Waltemate, DC, LAc (IN)
14 Park Place Suite A
SWANSEA, IL 62226
618.207.4445

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