What Are the Treatments for Back Muscle Spasm?

A back spasm is an abnormal contraction of the muscle that continues and does not relax. According to the Patient Education Institute, a library of interactive patient education used by hospitals and physicians, back spasms are the most common cause of back pain reported to doctors. Treatment should start as soon as possible after the injury or pain has started and should address any underlying conditions that are contributing to back spasms. These conditions may include obesity, posture, recreational activities and standing and sleeping positions.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.


Rest, ice, heat and compression are the first line of conservative treatment anytime an individual suffers back pain and spasms. The Spine Universe recommends the use of alternating heat and cold to reduce the inflammation, muscle spasms and pain. After the first 24 hours of treatment, some patients find heat comforting and others find ice works best.


The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases recommends that only non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin are used for an initial or acute back pain and spasms 1. When the pain becomes chronic, physicians may first try non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as naproxen, ketoprofen or prescription dose ibuprofen. Some people respond better to one drug over another, so your physician may consider using a different medication in the same category before trying something different. If the pain continues, physicians may try analgesics, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, to relieve the pain. Other muscle relaxants and anti-depressant medications are favored by some physicians, but others question their usefulness.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapists may use a variety of different treatmentto help relieve back spasms. According to doctors at Mayo Clinic, these approaches may include ultrasound, electrical stimulation and muscle release techniques 2. Once the pain has started to dissipate, the therapist works to improve flexibility and strength in the back and abdomen and to improve posture.


Chiropractic is a branch of medicine that is based on healthy alignment of the spine. According to the Spine Universe, chiropractors also believe one of the main causes of pain is the misalignment of the vertebrae in the spine. They use techniques that include:

  • palpation
  • pressure
  • massage
  • manual manipulation of the spine
  • exercise programs
  • lifestyle counseling

These techniques are used to reduce inflammation, swelling and pain.

Surgical Intervention

Back spasms can be caused by sudden twisting or turning or can be the result of other more significant bony changes to the spine. Surgery is rarely needed for spasms that result from injury or recreational activities. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases recommends that physicians and patients consider surgery if back spasms are unrelieved by non-surgical techniques and are the result of spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, or herniated disks 1.