Lower back cramps are a common ailment and have multiple potential causes. Figuring out the reasons behind your back cramps can help you find more effective relief faster. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of lower back cramps:
- Injury from accidents or exercise – damage to muscles, ligaments, or tendons
- Nerve tissue damage – from acute trauma or a chronic health issue such as a neurological condition
- Spinal stenosis – narrowing of the spine through arthritis, fracture, inflammation or other causes
- Mineral deficiencies – such as magnesium or potassium, which affect muscle function
- Dehydration – a lack of water impairs muscle function and increases the risk of tissue damage
- Kidney problems – kidney stones or infection can cause lower back pain and cramps
- Side effects of medication – some medications can affect muscle health
- Uterine contractions – lower back cramps often occur during menses as the uterine muscles work to shed the lining of the womb.
As you can see from the list above, many of the causes of lower back cramps are hard to avoid. In many cases, lower back cramps might not even seem connected to the underlying issue. When this happens, it can be hard to relieve lower back cramps because the root cause remains unaddressed.
If you have lower back cramps that are severe, persist even after conservative treatment, or that become worse, seek medical assistance. Also seek medical help if your lower back cramps are accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty urinating
- Pain when urinating
- Blood in your urine or stool
- Other changes in urinary output
- Difficulty with bowel movements
- Numbness or altered sensation in your lower limbs
- Difficulty walking.
If your lower back spasms arise after an accident or sporting mishap it is also a good idea to get checked out by your physician. This way, you can normally rule out the possibility of serious injury that needs immediate treatment.
Relieving Lower Back Cramps
For most causes of lower back cramps, rest and relaxation usually help. A warm bath, gentle massage, or a good night’s sleep can help the muscles to unwind and cease spasming. Other things to try include:
- Magnesium – the muscles need this mineral to relax, and a deficiency can cause cramps
- Drinking water – hydrating help muscles do their job
- Eating a healthy snack that contains carbohydrates – carbs are fuel for the muscles
- Flotation therapy – can help reset posture to give muscles a break and relieve cramps
- Acupuncture – to disrupt faulty nerve signals that cause muscle spasms
- A cold compress – a cold compress can help keep inflammation at bay (12-15 mins every two hours)
- A warm compress – to relax muscles by increasing circulation and oxygenation
- Gentle stretching – it’s important to relax, but be careful not to stiffen up through inactivity.
In most cases these conservative treatments for lower back cramps are very effective. Given a couple of days or rest and conservative treatment, most lower back cramps will resolve of their own accord. If they persist, however, it is a good idea to talk to your physician.
Lower Back Cramps and Medications
If you take any medications that may be affecting your muscles (such as statins), kidneys, or nerves, your physician may decide to alter or reduce those medications. In other cases, lower back cramps thought to be connected to an ongoing nerve condition may warrant additional medications such as muscle relaxants or low dose antidepressants like amitryptiline.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, or natural anti-inflammatory products can also help relieve lower back cramps. Muscle pains and nerve problems can also be a sign of uncontrolled diabetes, and vitamin B12 deficiency, as well as other issues. As such, it is best to tell your physician about all the symptoms you are experiencing. Some seemingly disconnected issues might be part of the same problem.
Further Strategies for Lower Back Cramp Relief
Physical therapy can also help prevent and relieve lower back cramps. A qualified physical therapist can help analyze your posture and movement and suggest exercises to strengthen your back and correct any postural issues that might be causing your cramps.
Physical therapists might also make lifestyle and ergonomic suggestions, such as avoiding wearing high heels, and reorganizing your work station. Buying a new mattress can also help, as can quitting smoking, achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight, using appropriate back pain relief products, and making sure to practice correct lifting techniques and get regular exercise.
Where symptoms are connected to a spine problem such as spondylolisthesis or scoliosis, back surgery may be recommended. This is a last resort for most patients and is normally only suggested after all other options, including cortisone injections have been exhausted.