BACK SPASMS: Can Chiropractic Help?

By Moses Jacob, DC
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Women with back spasms

Oxford Dictionary: A sudden involuntary muscular contraction or convulsive movement.

A good explanation for back spasm is the involuntary contraction or tensing of the muscles in the back. Spasms may be mild and short lived or longer lasting including severe reactions sometimes due to an underlying spinal condition or pathologic.

Back spasms may have a sudden onset due to a triggering event. Spasms occur when the muscles of the back or spine contract due to:

  • OVERUSE: E.g. physical over work, sports activity, or and underlying mechanical spinal joint disorder
  • FATIGUE: Over exertion from prolonged or repetitive activities
  • INJURY : Falls, Incorrect lifting,
  • ELECTROLYTE ( mineral) IMBALANCE: separate topic

TREATMENT FOR BACK SPASMS: Self Care, Conservative Care and Chiropractic Care.

Self Care: The simplest form of spasms or acute muscle contraction is short lived which self resolves and requires no active treatment. Avoiding the precipitating activity or applying good body mechanics, including warm up exercises before engaging in sports or gardening is recommended. Proper lifting techniques methods are readily available on line.


R.I.C.E is an acronym for: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

  • Rest: If the pain is moderate stop the activity, and rest.
  • Ice: Apply ice to reduce and prevent further inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury. Ice relieves pain and reduces the muscle spasm.
  • Compression: Apply gentle pressure i.e. light massage followed by applying a brace or bandage. Light massage on the affected muscles also helps bring relief. Compression is more often applicable to joints e.g. elbow or ankle: Applying a compressive bandage such as ace wrap or back brace. Immobilization helps restriction motion and reduce mechanical forces on injured tissues and related joint structures. Studies show that back braces however, DO NOT prevent injuries but serve as a reminder to avoid improper movements.
  • Elevation: Most commonly applicable in extremity injuries to help circulation.

Conservative Care: Non-drug, non-invasive care including chiropractic, acupuncture or other alternative approaches including, massage, and biofeedback. If necessary over the counter pain medication may be helpful. Caution is advised as, all medications, including over the counter may have potential side effects.
Multiple quality evidence based studies have shown that many people with acute spinal muscle pain obtain relief from Spinal Manipulation. Chiropractic care is effective to help relieve pain, improve joint and muscle function. Muscle spasms are associated with the spinal joints (facets). The spinal joints can become hypomobile, affecting sensory nerve endings. SMT restores joint mobility and thereby relieving the associated pain and muscle spasms.

Chiropractic Care: Chiropractors are well trained in manual methods including SMT (spinal manipulation treatment). Joint manipulation restores function, removes pressure on nerve endings, or “pinched” joint structures. SMT may be combined with other physical methods, Ice, heat, laser light, muscle balancing methods, etc., followed by rehabilitative exercises. Chiropractors may also offer dietary advice and lifestyle counseling.

What to expect when seeing a chiropractor: All 50 states require licensing by a state Board or Agency. A good qualified chiropractor will take a thorough case history, followed by a physical exam. X-rays are not always required. Many non-traumatic incidents without RED FLAG indicators. E.g., serious fall or trauma, history of prior diagnosed degenerative arthritis or disc disorder without radiating pain do NOT require an immediate set of x-rays. Once a diagnosis is made the treatment provided is conservative care.

Chiropractic Treatments include:

  • Spinal manipulation- light force or instrument (activator) manual joint adjustment.
  • Physiotherapy: includes, ice, heat, light therapy
  • Muscle techniques: massage, muscle balancing method and
  • Rehabilitative exercise: yoga, stretching, gym methods, therapeutic ball exercise or weight training

With rare exception Conservative Chiropractic care for back spasm is safe and effective.

Moses Jacob, DC
Author: Moses Jacob, DC