How I Manage Lower Back Spasms
Last updated: April 2022
Walking down the stairs, I suddenly fall to my knees and grasp for the banister. The muscles in my lower back are seizing up and freaking out and I can’t move. Other than crouch on all fours and brace through it there is nothing I can do; I have no control until the spasm stops.
Has this ever happened to you?
I experience frequent back spasms with my ankylosing spondylitis
Whether they are a direct symptom of my AS, or a side effect of the fusion in my hip joints throwing everything out of whack, I don’t actually know- but for me they are a common occurrence nonetheless.
The first time I ever had a spasm it took me by complete surprise. My husband and I were on our way out to walk our dogs and I yelled as I fell to the ground in our front entry. It wasn’t the pain that made me scream, but the sudden loss of control and involuntary movements of all of the muscles in my lower back. It scared us both, and while that was my first back spasm, it definitely wasn’t my last. Over time I have learned to manage the spasms, and what to do on what we call particularly “spazzy back days” to help ease the pain.
When I start to feel a spasm happening, I stop exactly where I am
Whether I’m just walking around my house, or walking around at work, I have learned that the quickest and most comfortable way to let the spasm pass is to just stand still and let it do it’s thing.
Once I’ve stopped what I’m doing I grab onto something nearby (the counter, a handrail, a nearby piece of furniture, or even just the wall) to give my body a little extra support. I stabilize my legs, giving my upper body as much support as I can, and I take deep inhales and slow exhales as I let the spasm work through my muscles, eventually easing.
People close to me can tell what’s going on, and will watch me wait it out with a follow up of simply asking “back spasm again?” People who haven’t seen it happen before might uncomfortably ask “are you ok..?” Stopping in place and bracing myself for the spasm can feel a little awkward, but I’ve learned to do what is going to work best for my body and not worry about how it may seem to other people--and it’s definitely less awkward than collapsing to the ground at the mercy of an uncontrolled spasm.
Spazzy back days
Spazzy back days, or the days when I’m having more than just a single back spasm, are comparable to flare days in how I manage them. I can’t push exercise or physical activity too much or it’ll get worse, but sometimes really low-key yoga, swimming, or walking can help loosen the irritated muscles. I also spend a lot of time sitting with my heat pad--20 minute sessions every few hours to try and loosen up my back. At the end of a spazzy back day, I lay flat and breathe deeply, consciously letting all of my muscles relax and rest.
When I started experiencing back spasms I was incredibly frustrated. This uncommon (or maybe just not talked about?) symptom wasn’t something I was prepared for, and left me feeling defeated and frustrated.
Every uncontrollable twitch still frustrates me, but I try to remember that this is just another part of my autoimmune disease that I am learning to navigate, and that I will not let defeat me. Over time I have learned to work through the spasms, and have learned how to help ease the tension that turns a single spasm into a full-blown spazzy day.
Do you deal with back spasms as well? What tricks have you learned to navigate them and ease the muscle pain? I would love to hear from you in a comment below!
Have you ever had to take a leave of absence from work due to your symptoms?
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