How to Stop a Back Spasm

Woman practicing yoga
Take deep, careful yoga breaths when your back goes into spasm. (Image: Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)

Back spasms can be debilitating and put you on the sidelines. They may interfere with your ability to work or participate in hobbies. The first step is to find out what is causing your back spasm, since different diagnoses call for different treatments. However, no matter what the cause, there are some things you can do to help control the spasm.

Step 1

Woman doing yoga at desk
Gently stretch at the first sign of a spasm to help relax the muscles. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Stretch gently at the first sign of a spasm to help relax the muscles. Do not force or bounce the stretch. Just go deep enough to release muscular tension. Try lying on your back and bringing one knee at a time to your chest. Hold each knee gently for several deep breaths. Then place both feet flat on the floor. Lower both knees to one side toward the floor as far as you can without making your spasm worse. Hold for five to 10 deep breaths, and then go to the other side.

Step 2

Portrait of woman with hot water bottle
Apply heat ie: hot water bottle, heating pad or heat pack. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Apply heat to relax the muscle. Use a heating pad or a reusable heat pack and leave on for no more than 15 minutes. Once the pain from the spasm has subsided, apply an ice pack or ice wrapped in a tea towel to the affected area for up to 20 minutes. If your back spasm is caused by an inflammatory condition such as a disk injury or arthritis, then use ice over heat.

Step 3

Woman sitting in padmasana position, eyes closed, elevated view
Practice yogic deep breathing. (Image: Getty Images/Valueline/Getty Images)

Practice yogic deep breathing. When your back begins to spasm there is a natural tendency to tighten up to protect your back. Unfortunately, this can prolong your muscle spasm. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose and then exhale slowly and completely through your nose. On each exhale try to consciously relax the muscles in your back.

Step 4

Man with eyes closed
Close your eyes and use imagery. (Image: Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Incorporate imagery. As you exhale and try to relax the muscles, use imagery to let your body know what you want it to do. You can picture your back muscles in a knot that comes untied as you exhale. You can also picture a healing light entering your body as you inhale. Allow the light to warm and relax your back. As you exhale, let go of any holding or tension in your body. You can even imagine the light absorbing the tension, changing color and then leaving your body with the exhale.

Step 5

Try over-the-counter medications that reduce pain or swelling. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Try over-the-counter medications that reduce pain or swelling such as aspirin, Tylenol, Aleve or Motrin. There are also non-prescription medications that can be applied topically in the form of creams that produce sensations of heat and cold. In severe cases, you may need to see you doctor for prescription-strength anti-inflammatory medications or muscle relaxants.

Things You'll Need

  • Heating pad

  • Ice pack


The best defense is to take steps to prevent back spasms from occurring. This means using good body mechanics when you work and participate in hobbies. Learn what movements create spasms and then find better ways to move. Incorporate exercises that strengthen your core muscles into your workout routine. Strong abdominal muscles will take pressure off your back.


Consult your doctor if you experience chronic back pain or problems. There may be an underlying condition that needs treatment.

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