Identifying and Treating Back Pain & Back Spasms
How to get from a “pain in the back” to “back in action!”
As a trainer and coach I often hear my clients, friends and family complaining about having pulled/thrown out their back. (Or how their spouse or significant other has done the same.) Hence my purpose for putting together this quick video and post all about treating back pain and spasms with my dear friend and movement specialist coach, Chloe Levray.
When you get injured, it is as important to find the reason WHY you got hurt, rather than simply focusing on healing the injury.
If you fail to understand and treat the reason for your injury, or if you simply don’t look closely enough, you will likely face similar injuries (or worse) INDEFINITELY…
So today with Chloe, we discuss:
- HOW to approach a new injury
- WHAT to look out for
- WHY the injury could have happened, and
- HOW to heal back pain at home and prevent further harm.
More ways to move pain free… GOATA MOVEMENT!
Proper Back Movement
One of the first things to keep in mind is how your back and spine are meant to move. When you understand this, you can avoid motions that are potentially dangerous, and practice those that support your natural movement.
The cervical spine (i.e., the 7 vertebrae in your neck area) are flexible to allow you to look around side-to-side and up-and-down. However, their main purpose is to support your head, so in actuality, the muscles of your neck are meant to stay mostly stable.
The thoracic spine (i.e., the 12 vertebrae of your mid back) are connected to your ribs and are meant to protect the heart and lungs, so have limited movement. However, the muscles around these vertebrae support the wide range of motions of your arms and shoulders. Therefore, these muscles are meant to be flexible and readily mobile.
The lumbar spine (i.e., the 5-6 vertebrae of the lower back allow for a wide range of bending and twisting motions. Because of this, the muscles must deliver an incredible amount of stability. In fact, they bear the majority of your body weight and are what keep you upright.
“Alignment is the key to effortless movement”
If any one of these areas is not functioning properly, another region will try to compensate. That is when you are asking for trouble, because what that really means is: an area of the spine is trying to do something for which it is not designed. So, we need to keep all areas of the spine in balance and working properly. When any section of the spine is out of alignment, you are likely to get injured.
Causes of Back Pain
As you just heard, many people experience back pain over the course of their lifetime. This type of injury is common due to the increasingly sedentary lifestyle of modern times. Sitting at a computer all day tends to cause us to either look up or down at a screen for too long. This can cause neck stiffness and lead to spasms further down the spine. Additionally, the “shrinking in” and “hunching over” postures commonly associated with typing on a computer lead to even bigger issues. This type of sitting can cause abdominal and hip flexor muscles to become shortened and tight. At the same time, rear muscles like your hamstrings and glutes become lengthened and weak. Needless to say, this imbalance will usually lead to physical problems.
The above are examples of how the “under-use” of muscles can lead to back pain. However, back spams can also be a product of “over-use”. If you exercise your muscles (any group of them), they will start “pulling” as they become stronger. If your body is not ready to counter this, then you may also end up with an imbalance and an injury.
How to Prevent Back Pain
Thankfully, there are ways to prevent back injury. If you do a lot of sitting for your job, use ergonomic positioning and make sure to get up to walk around and stretch periodically. Or even look into getting a standing desk. Of course, hit the gym and do yoga and stretching on a regular basis, as well. If you are an athlete, be sure to work all muscle groups evenly in order to keep things in balance. Also be sure to stretch properly before and after workouts. Additionally, everybody can benefit from using proper techniques and positions for bending, reaching, and even sleeping.
Rehab for Back Pain and Back Spasms
After physically assessing where your body needs help, it is time to begin rehabbing. The most commonly needed things are:
- Strengthening of the hamstrings and glutes, while also stretching to maintain/increase their flexibility
- Strengthening of core muscles – all abs and obliques, across the front as well as around the sides and back.
The idea is to do a wide range of exercises that provide support -and thus protect- the back.
“Movement is the best rehabilitation.”
It may sound painful, but fixing your back problems won’t happen by resting. Sure, you may need a day or few off when the injury first occurs. But if you want to get better, you need to work out the muscles involved with the back injury. Many back injuries can be treated at home. My recommendation is to:
Rest – Ice – Assess (and repeat daily)
Rest: Stop whatever you are doing that is causing the immediate pain. Take things easy.
Ice: Apply an ice pack in order to prevent/reduce swelling and further inflammation.
Assess: Grade your pain on a scale of 1-10 and determine if you need urgent medical help. If you can, also try to figure out which muscle groups need help. Below, we have listed some assessment and rehab exercises for treating back pain such as a common back pull or spasm.
- Hip Mobility
- In-Line Lunge Halo
- Forward/Reverse Beast Walk
- Lateral Beast Walk
- Hip Bridges
- Single Leg Hip Bridges
- Side Plank Clam Shells
- Bird Dog
- Kettlebell walks (different variations include bottoms up, by the side, overhead, overhead and by the side, bottoms up overhead)
When you get to the point where your pain is tolerable (about pain level 8 or below), then use those same motions to rehab the weak area. As your pain dips below level 6, then you can start applying a heat pack to the affected areas before workout. This will increase the blood flow, loosen up the area, and promote healing.
- Choose 4-5 movements from the assessment exercises that didn’t cause pain higher than a 3. (On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being highest pain.)
- Take those 4-5 movements and perform 5-10 reps each in 1-2 sets. Do this 3 times a day.
Getting Back In The Game
Although back pains are fairly common, they are also preventable and treatable at home. Hopefully the information above has given you a better idea of why back spasms and strains occur, and what you can do to avoid them. But if you do have any back pain, follow the given advice, and you should be back on your feet in no time.
Please let us know if you have any comments or questions, as well as any other tips you may have about relieving back pain. Drop a comment below or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.