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What Causes Muscle Spasms in the Back

If you’ve ever suffered from a muscle spasm in the back, you’re not alone. According to the Cleveland Clinic, around 80% of people in the U.S. have had or will have some sort of back pain in their lives, which includes back spasms.


Muscle spasms in the back range from slight twinges to severe contractions. They can be caused by a number of factors, including overuse, underuse, or even sleeping in the wrong position. Fortunately, because they are so common, there are several things you can do to treat a back spasm when you have one and prevent another one from happening in the future.

What Are Muscle Spasms?

A muscle spasm is when your muscles suddenly and forcibly contract against your will. This might feel like a painful and uncontrollable cramp that radiates to other parts of the body, or it can feel like a small twinge, with muscles visibly twitching under the skin. 

Muscle spasms can happen anywhere on the body, including the hands, feet, and abdomen. When they happen in the back, they can be crippling and chronic, interfering with your day-to-day activities and well-being.

What Causes Muscle Spasms in the Back?

Muscle spasms in your back have a variety of causes. In some cases, they may even be related to an underlying health condition like arthritis or degenerative disc disease. For these reasons, it’s important to be aware of other symptoms that occur alongside your spasms and how often they are happening.


Athletes, avid gym-goers, or people whose jobs require them to bend or lift heavy objects repeatedly can suffer from a back spasm due to overuse. Such activities may lead to muscle tears and inflammation, which can constrict movement. If you don’t take time to recuperate from a muscle strain, it can turn into a spasm and become chronic.

Not Enough Use

Not using your back muscles is just as risky as using them too much when it comes to back spasms. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, have poor posture, or don’t exercise regularly, your back muscles will weaken and eventually start to spasm. According to experts at Harvard Health, people often report tighter and more tender back muscles with prolonged sitting. 

Sleeping in an Awkward Position

If you’re a stomach sleeper, it may be time to mix things up. When you sleep face down, you’re putting pressure on your neck and lower back for long periods of time. This can lead to pain and spasms after you get up. Some studies show that if an improper sleep posture is sustained for greater than 10 minutes or repeated, it may cause micro-damage and result in spinal pain. 

Underlying Medical Issue

In some cases, your back spasm may be related to an underlying health condition. This may include arthritis, a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, or scoliosis. Rarely, back spasms may occur because of a condition that is not directly related to the back. This includes gallstones, kidney stones, kidney infections, or mental health conditions like chronic stress or anxiety.

How to Relieve Muscle Spasms

Muscle spasms in your back can last mere seconds or several weeks depending on the cause. To help ease the pain, try the following pain relief tips:


  • Get a massage: Getting a massage increases circulation to help your muscles relax. This is especially true if you apply heat, which causes the blood vessels to widen for better blood flow. With increased circulation, lactic acid and toxins are moved out of tense muscles so that they become more flexible. Massage can also help you get better sleep, which can feel impossible when suffering from a back spasm.  
  • Apply hot and cold therapy: Alternate ice and heat to the area. While heat supports blood flow to the area to relieve pain, ice reduces swelling and inflammation.
  • See a physical therapist: If your spasms are happening frequently, it can be helpful to see a physical therapist. They can rule out other medical conditions and find ways to counterbalance any repeated motions that may have led to your condition.
  • Use over-the-counter pain relievers: Some people find relief in taking a pain reliever, especially one that reduces inflammation or relaxes your muscles.

How to Prevent Muscle Spasms in Your Back

From improving your posture to taking breaks from sitting, there are a few lifestyle tweaks you can make to support your back and reduce the likelihood of experiencing a back spasm. 


Get a Medical Evaluation

If your muscle spasms are happening frequently, it’s useful to rule out an underlying health condition like arthritis or a herniated disk.

Practice Good Posture

 Stand up straight and sit in an upright position to avoid spasms that arise from poor posture. 

Take Breaks From Sitting 

Sitting for prolonged periods of time can wreak havoc on your health, and not just your back muscles. Prolonged sitting is associated with an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and mental health issues. Schedule breaks throughout your day to take a short walk or simply get up and stretch to avoid sitting for too long.

Lift From Your Legs Not Your Back

To avoid a back injury caused by heavy lifting, remember to lift from your legs and core instead of placing too much weight on your vulnerable back muscles.

Buy a Better Mattress

Along with sleeping on your back or side, consider buying a medium-firm mattress to properly support your spine.


Strengthen your back muscles by committing to a solid exercise routine, but be sure to be mindful when lifting heavy weights or doing any twisting motions that can lead to injury. 

Make Massage Part of Your Everyday Routine

It may seem luxurious to schedule a massage every day, but it is possible. The CERAGEM V6 is an in-home massage bed that combines acupressure, deep-tissue massage, stretching, and hot stone therapy all in one. Cleared by the FDA as a Class II medical device, the massage bed is equipped with patented scanning technology that analyzes your exact spinal length and curvature to deliver a customized massage experience that rivals an in-person massage. The CERAGEM V6 can be used twice a day to keep your muscles flexible and healthy while promoting a stress-free lifestyle.


Erica Garza is an author and essayist specializing in health and wellness. She has written for TIME, Health, Glamour, Parents, Women’s Health, VICE, and the Telegraph.



Cleveland Clinic - Back Spasms

Harvard Health - Don’t take back pain sitting down 

National Library of Medicine - Examining relationships between sleep posture, waking spinal symptoms and quality of sleep: A cross sectional study

 by Erica Garza

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