Relief for Back Spasms

Hands on Lower Back PainBack spasms are seriously one of the most painful experiences that a person can go through. Time seems to stand still when experiencing the sudden sharp and oftentimes excruciating pain that comes with a back spasm. You can’t think of anything else besides getting rid of the pain.

A back spasm is defined as “A sudden, involuntary contraction of muscles in the back”. It is oftentimes accompanied with a very sudden surge of pain and typically lasts only a few minutes. But if you have ever had a back spasm, you are aware that those few minutes seem like eternity!

Typically the first thing to do to find relief for back spasms is to lie down and rest. Try to avoid any type of activity that can aggravate the back spasm. Now this doesn’t mean you need to go on strict bed rest, but rest just enough until the pain subsides.

You may also want to take anti-inflammatory medication, preferably an all natural one. While common drugs such as Ibuprofen and Naproxen do work, we recommend a natural anti-inflammatory that will give you the pain relief without all of the negative side effects.

Pain relief cream will definitely help as the healing ingredients will penetrate deep into the muscles and provide instant pain relief. Ice should be applied immediately for relief from back spasms. Some people get confused about when to use ice and when to use heat. In all cases of acute back pain, ice should be applied for the first 48-72 hours. The rule of thumb is to apply it for 20 minutes, remove for 20 minutes, and then reapply for 20 minutes. You can do this for 2-3 days after a back spasm has occurred. Make sure to not make direct contact with the ice and your skin.

After 72 hours it is recommended that you apply heat to the area, once inflammation has been reduced. Heat therapy will penetrate the muscles while bringing in healthy red blood cells.

Once the pain and inflammation have subsided, begin to perform light stretches to soothe the back. If your back spasm is a onetime event, you probably just strained your back muscles. However, if you have had them more than once and you deal with an achy back, you may want to check out our Muscle Balance Therapy page. You can learn all about how imbalances in our muscles are the second leading cause of back pain. But the good news is, they can be corrected with targeted stretches and exercises.

Filed Under: Back Spasm
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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20 thoughts on “Relief for Back Spasms”

  1. maria says:

    thanks Jesse for this.. I have often confused when to use hot and cold applications so thank you for clarifying!!

  2. James says:

    Thanks for the info Jesse,it’s confusing when to stop ice therapy and start using heat.

  3. Ayu says:

    thanks, Jesse. Very useful 🙂

  4. Jeannette says:

    Thank you for clearing up the ice/heat thing. In always second guessing myself on that one.

  5. Geeta Bhat says:

    Thank you very much Jesse. I often suffer with this horrible pain. Now I know what todo when it strike again to paralise me. Thanks a lot from the bottom of my heart.?

    1. Joan says:

      Needed that advice, injured my G.M during leg pull ups – had a homeopathic muscle relaxant injection. Still having a problem with inability to bend ( rather painful). I do believe that the muscle is still going into spasm, have soaked in a “magnesium” bath, heat pad and an anti-inflammatory topical cream. Have a problem taking A.Inf. tabs and pain killers. Any further suggestions – impatient after almost two weeks.

  6. Eleni says:

    Very useful information.Thank you!

  7. Bron gunn says:

    My pain is a burning pain in front thigh

    1. c s says:

      Did you find out if it was the L3-4 or L4-5
      Either one of these can Definitely cause pain in the front thigh.
      Maybe a bulge?
      Definitely have a MRI of your back to see if you are herniated disc of bulge.
      Hope this helps Bron,, Take it easy. C

  8. Helen says:

    Very helpful information. Thank you,

  9. Walt Christen says:

    Thanks Jesse for writing on this topic. I seem to throw my back out once a year. Very painful
    experience. Will try the ice then heat mentioned and see if it speeds the healing process.

  10. tri says:

    Thank you Ms Jesse for your recommendations on back spasm relief, esp the propitious time to apply ice in 72 hrs only then to heat application but always not in direct contact with the skin.Once the pain subsides one has to practice stretches and exercises as recommended by one’s medical doctor. Right, don’t you? From yr fareastern reader in Vietnam

  11. radhathumiah says:

    Thanks so much Jess 4 this useful ideas.Important notes must b taken into due consideration.Thanks once more for all ur useful information.

  12. esther maina says:

    thanks very educative

  13. Mercedes says:

    I have had pain with bulging disc and compressed sciatic nerve in my L5 for months. All this has caused left hip and leg sciatic pain. My left leg muscles are a mess. When I get spasms in the leg would ice be the way to go? Hard to walk and even more painful to sit. Sometimes heat gives me relief for chronic pain. But what should I try for spasm…ice first?

  14. Carolyn T says:

    Thanks Jesse: That was good info.!

  15. Shirley says:

    What about back and leg spasms caused by lumbar stenosis? Ice or heat??

  16. Admin says:

    Hi Tri,

    I recently had severe painful back spasms. I did visit the Dr and he gave painkillers which I needed for a few days then stopped them. I started off with ice for around 50-60 hours then switched to heat.

    Once I had rested and it all calmed down a bit I started using the Trigger Point system because although the pain was diminishing the trigger points still remain, so am using that each day. Then I progress onto gentle stretches.

    I did not get any advice from Dr on stretches but I use the Lose The Back Pain System and follow the stretches and advice that is right for me. Slow and steady is the key and work only to your tolerance.

    Admin (THBI)

  17. steve says:

    Shirley, Please understand that Stenosis can develop over time or can happen very quickly depending on what is causing the narrowing. Now, in time over time the body will state to make adjustments in posture and in functional mobility. and it is those adjustments in posture that we put a higher emphases, on correcting to eliminate the symptoms of Stenosis…

    We do that through our program called Muscle Balance Therapy:


  18. steve says:

    Mercedes, in your case it for sure sounds like muscle imbalances, postural changes causing changes in your functional mobility.

    I would love for you to learn more about Muscle Balance Therapy, as using ice or heat is just treating the symptoms not the root cause, and I want everyone to know addressing the root cause it the key to long term success:


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