Updated July 13, 2016

back spasms

Why do I keep getting Back Spasms?

Warning Signs, Pain, Sources

The first warning sign, is actually misinterpreting the warning sign.

Even though everyone suffers from an intense back spasm at one point or another, most fail to regard their experience as anything to be concerned about.  We wait for the spasm to subside, sometimes with the aid of medication and then identity the experience as isolated.  We also relate the spasm to the particular activity we were performing at the time as the cause. In the vast majority of cases, the cause is not the activity involved, but a chronic problem where the body is failing to meet the demands of the activity.

Aside from serious issues such as disc, nervous, or disease conditions, most spasms are related to muscle conditioning.  With the support of proper hydration, nutrition, and a reasonable level of activity which does not overextend core muscle groups, you can then begin to address key deficiencies that lead to recurring back spasm.

Warning Signs In Depth

Prior to a spasm, we are not consciously thinking about what particular movement we are in the midst of performing.  We carry out hundreds of small movements during any given time of day without paying any attention to our posture, balance, or the strain on our spine, muscles and joints.  We don’t consciously think about what we should do to avoid a possible spasm during each movement.  It is only natural that we are not able to prepare ourselves for every single event.

At the height of a spasm, your back, which previously gave little warning of failure will suddenly engage in a very painful method of protecting itself from injury.  The pain that you feel from a back spasm is not simply an indication of an injury sustained due to the movement you were performing at the time. It is a warning sign of a deeper and more pervasive problem with your back that is worsened during the movement.

Not realizing this, many people may miss the true issue with their back, as they resolve to avoid that specific movement going forward, thinking this alone will eliminate future spasms.

Pain Can Deter Us From Correcting Our Spasms

The point at which the spasm is triggered and the pain is the most intense is a very emotional experience for those who suffer from back spasms. There is an urgent need to save ourselves from a very crippling situation. Immediate care is needed, as it feels as though we are unable to move in any way. Any movement that is made seems only to worsen our pain.  As this reality sets in, emotions run very high and we become desperate for help.

Usually, painful experiences from very traumatic events can be recalled for a very long time.  What we struggle to remember about these events are the details of the circumstances surrounding it, such as what we did to trigger the problem.  In the case of a back spasm, we will remember how we felt, perhaps where it occurred, when it happened, what were doing, but we tend not to remember why it started in the first place.

This is sometimes difficult to do since we are not naturally inclined to analyze every single detail of our actions, let alone physical movements at any given time.

Recurring Back Spasms is like a House of Cards

Using the analogy of a house built with playing cards can help one understand how to reverse common back spasm issues.

Stage 1

A healthy core along with all supporting muscles groups and joints are each a ‘moveable card’ that make up the house.  As long as they are placed correctly, they provide support for the house.

Stage 2

As each card becomes less aligned or is re-positioned incorrectly, the chances of part the house collapsing becomes more likely.  When sufficient cards are affected, the once stable structure, becomes less stable but still appears intact.

Stage 3

At this point the house appears just as stable as the one in Stage 2 but is far from keeping the house supported. Here, a back spam occurs because the last stable card is removed from its position.  Other cards are no longer able to provide the remaining (superficial) support needed and the house falls.

Stage 2 is where most of us lie and rarely do we ever return to Stage 1 

This is because we believe that we have found adequate measures to return to Stage 1 when in fact we haven’t.  We are actually stuck in this stage because be build up the same house of cards with that last card ready to be removed again.

To prevent or reduce back spasm, we need to re-position all of the other cards and not just the last one.  Part of the reason that we do not do this is because pain relief occurs as soon as we replace that one stable card.  The first sign of such relief gives us reason to believe that we have fixed our back spasm.

Learning the Reasons to Avoid the Consequences

The injury is usually due to poor overall conditioning resulting in a lack of protection of our lumbar spine.  That area of the lumbar spine sends feedback to the muscles to protect it, by any means necessary. When the muscle surrounding the at-risk area is signaled to contract, it will contract as a full spasm.

This full spasm leads to many sources of pain.

Sources of Pain

  • First, pain is experienced in the muscle that was not sufficiently protecting the area of concern well.  That muscle becomes a source of pain from strain and overall wear..

  • The second source of pain is the muscle recruited to spasm in an effort to compensate for the failure of the first muscle. The constant firing from the nerves to contract this muscle well beyond it’s capacity is another source of pain.

  • The third source of pain is any injury to the area in question which was present even prior to the spasm.  This area would have been aggravated and injured for an extended period of time before the spasm even occurred.

  • Fourth, is the increased pain from the area of concern as the muscles that are in spasm will contract, thereby increasing the pressure on the muscles in that area to maintain stability and restrict movement as much as possible.

  • The fifth source is any other area(s) of the back which is now affected by new muscle imbalances that developed during the back spasm in the body’s attempt to recruit better support during the spasm

Finding an Effective Plan

These different sources and reasons of pain from a back spasm can make treatment very difficult.   Each area needs to be addressed in order to resolve repeated back spasms.   Without a proper plan of conditioning, one may resign themselves to acceptance of this type of injury.  The risks of doing so may be further injury in more critical areas of the spine along with possible permanent complications.

Rest and Pain Medication is Not Enough

Long term relief from recurring spasms requires more than rest and anti inflammatory medication.   It requires careful examination and evaluation of the daily activities and movement that you perform which may be triggering your back to spasm. 

 It is important to seek proper medical advice about recurring back spasms.   If a treatment plan that involves exercises and stretching is recommended  by your medical doctor, it is strongly advised that you follow it closely. 

A Common Mistake with Recommendations

In most cases, your family doctor or health professional will provide for you a list of recommended exercises and stretches to help you with your pain.  However, we tend not to follow them because we are generally left on our own to practice them.  We tend to try a few, favor some and ignore most of them over time.  Our pain then returns.  This time we believe that these recommendations were insufficient. 

What You Should Do

To avoid this mistake,  you should follow a plan that guides you initially from a state of chronic pain and gradually progresses you out of it.  This plan should then recondition you so as to help prevent your pain from returning.  This site is dedicated to providing its readers a full awareness of what they should both understand and do with respect to lower back pain.

Please search this site for further help.  If you find the information helpful, you will also find our guide offered a valuable resource in your need to address lower back pain.

On day one of your plan, I did the first half of stage 1 and my lumbar spine became unlocked for the first time I can remember. For a few hours, I knew what it was like to be pain free. “


For at home treatment see the Low Back Pain Program eBook.

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