What are upper back muscle spasms?
Back muscle spasms are involuntary contractions of the muscles in the back.
Any one of these groups can be affected by spasms. However, in this article we will be discussing about spasms that primarily affect the muscles that are present in the upper back region, namely the trapezius muscles, both minor and major rhomboid muscle groups, the erector spinae, as well as part of the latissimus dorsi muscles.
It must be noted that spasms in the back do not always represent a cause for concern, regardless of the region they affect. In many cases, they tend to disappear on their own with sufficient rest.
However, if the problem persists, there are both management and treatment options available. On the other hand, if the problem worsens, it should not be ignored, and you should seek immediate medical help from a specialist.
With that being said, in today’s topic we’ll cover the causes of spasms in the upper back, what symptoms accompany these spasms, as well as what treatment options are available depending on the severity of the condition.
What causes upper back muscle spasms?
Muscle spasms do not necessarily appear due to issues with muscles in the back, such as muscle strains and sprains, and well as weak and untrained muscles. Sometimes they can be triggered by spinal disorders such as:
- Arthritis of the spine
- Damage to nerves in the spine
- Injury to either the muscular or skeletal tissue in the back
- Herniated discs
- Poor posture
- Other spinal disorders
How do upper back muscle spasms manifest?
When you have spasms in the back, your muscles will involuntarily contract and feel tense. There may be pain between the shoulder blades, as the spasm occurs in the cervical section of the spine.
If the spasm occurs in the lower or middle regions of the back, the pain may manifest in these two regions instead. On the other hand, pain from spasms in the upper back can refer to the lumbar or thoracic spine.
At times there may also be weakness or numbness along the back, if the spasms have been caused by a pinched nerve.
However, in general, back spasms can cause pain, numbness and weakness along any section of the back.
The diagnosis process usually starts with a physical examination where the affected region will be inspected by a specialist to detect any visible abnormalities or changes to the tissue. If there is not enough evidence to indicate that muscle spasms cause you this specific set of symptoms, you may be referred to have further tests, such as X-rays, CT scans or MRI scans.
These additional tests may also help detect any underlying medical conditions that could be affecting your spine, and ultimately your muscles.
Treatment for muscle spasms is not always necessary as they are oftentimes not serious and tend to go away on their own after a while. However, to speed up the recovery process, to manage symptoms while they go away or to treat more severe cases of muscle spasms, you might want to consider these typical treatment methods:
- Muscle relaxants. If your spasms are disrupting your daily life and are particularly inconvenient, muscle relaxants can help reduce their frequency and intensity.
- Physical therapy can be especially helpful for long-term treatment.
- Using either an ice pack or heat therapy can help alleviate symptoms associated with muscle spasms. Make sure that you wrap the pack in a towel or soft cloth to avoid direct contact with the skin.
- Strengthening weak muscles. Because your spine is responsible for supporting the upper body and keeping it upright, it bears a heavy load that requires the assistance of muscles in the abdominal and back region. When any of these muscles are weak, they can succumb to the pressure of your body, causing spasms to appear. You may find that by strengthening weak muscles in your core, spasms in your back will go away.
- Sometimes rest is the only necessary thing to make spasms in the upper back go away, especially if they have been caused by an overworked spine.
- Anti-inflammatory medication can temporarily reduce the pain, but do not treat the spasms.
Surgery should be a last resort to treat the underlying spine condition(s) that cause spasms in the back muscles and should only be reserved for severe cases that did not respond to less invasive treatment methods.
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