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What Do Back Spasms Feel Like?

When you are experiencing a back spasm you can feel the muscles in the back tightening up and contracting abruptly. The twitching sensation from the muscles are involuntary and have been described by patients as being as sharp and startling as a heart attack. Muscle spasms have even caused some patients to head for the emergency room. Despite the unexpected and intense nature of back spasms, in most cases the pain is merely a warning and not an indicator that you have sustained a bad injury. You could be experiencing back spasms for many different reasons.

Why Am I Having Back Spasms?

If you experience a back spasm for the first time it could be for a variety of reasons. The severity, frequency, form of relief, and onset of back pain, can all help determine the source. Back spasms are incredibly common and an estimated 80% of adults will experience one in their lifetime. A few common causes of muscle spasms include:

Back Injury or Strain

An injury to the muscles, tendons, or ligaments in the back make the back more prone to experiencing spasms. Heavy lifting is one of the most common causes of back spasms. Sports that demand the back to turn or move sharply can also be a large contributor to a spasm (including golf or football). The muscles can tighten in an attempt to protect themselves from further injury.


Overworking muscles can lead to strain, which can result in spasms. When muscles are worked too hard they run out of energy and fluid and muscles become over-excitable. This means that a forcible contraction is more likely to occur. Athletes who engage in intense physical activity can experience this form of spasm, as well as individuals engaging in an unfamiliar physical activity that their body is not used to.


The muscles around the spine provide stability for the spinal structure. When the muscles are weak, they become more prone to injury and do not maintain the upright structure of the spine as effectively. Strength training can reduce muscular imbalances and stretching the muscles regularly can warm up the body to guard against strain or injury.

Dehydration or Depletion

Muscle cells require enough water, glucose, sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium to allow for proper function. When the body is dehydrated or lacking electrolytes, the muscles are more prone to cramping up or having a spasm.

Existing Condition

Certain medical conditions or preexisting conditions can cause muscles to spasm more regularly. A few of these conditions include sciatica, herniated discs, or arthritis. A muscle spasm is the body's reaction to a detectable anatomical problem that is seeking your attention and is often triggered by inflammation. Take your body's advice and go to a doctor to get the underlying condition checked out.

A couple lifting boxes together.blog-bannerCalming Back Spasms

There are easy ways to reduce and calm the onset of back spasms. It is important to stay hydrated and provide your body with its daily recommended dose of vitamins and nutrients to ensure your muscles are not depleted. It is also essential in preventing injury and spasms, to warm up muscles before physical activity. Stretching the muscles (without overstretching) can promote circulation and oxygenation. If a muscle begins to spasm you can gently stretch the affected area to find relief. If a muscle has been damaged or strained you can take an anti-inflammatory to calm the pain and protect against unwanted spasms. You can also find relief with DR-HO'S pain relief products. The Pain Therapy System stimulates the muscles to reduce chronic or acute muscle pain and the Circulation Promoter allows water, nutrients, and oxygen to reach the muscle groups throughout the body. Make sure to download DR-HO'S Guide to Understanding Pain to learn more about your symptoms.

More Information About Back Pain

View Dr-HO'S Back Pain page to learn more.


  1. 2016 Burke, Stephanie. Spine-Health. "What Is Your Back Muscle Spasm Telling You?"
  2. 2016 Wedro, Benjamin. MedcineNet. "Muscle Spasms."
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