Common Causes of Lower Back Pain and Muscle Spasms

Sooner or later, almost everyone experiences a bout of lower back pain and/or muscle spasms. Shoveling snow, yard work, weekend warrior tasks, and even house cleaning can create the perfect storm for an episode of back pain. However, after 2 or 3 days of discomfort, most people are able to get back on their feet from these types of events.

For others, their lower back pain and muscle spasms don’t necessarily seem to be connected to any type of activity. Instead, their pain and muscle spasms seem to occur fairly regularly, perhaps even persistently.

Do you frequently have muscle spasms or pain in your lower back and/or around the hip area? You don’t have to suffer needlessly. There are treatments available to bring you back on your feet and help you engage in your favorite activities once again.

Why do Muscles Spasm?

In general, a normal, healthy person has strong and fit muscles. Strong muscles provide the necessary support and protection for important components of the body. This can include the spinal column, the joints, and other important structures.

Chronic muscle spasm attacks are often an indication of a structural issue within the body. If a person has an injured joint or a spinal column issue, nearby muscles may tighten (spasm). This is in an attempt to add additional protection and stability to the injured structure. The weaker a person’s muscles, the more likely they are to spasm as they attempt to perform their task of stabilization and protection.

Causes of Chronic Pain and Muscle Spasms 

The simplest cause of lower back pain or muscle spasms is a sedentary lifestyle. Especially as a person ages, if they don’t engage in regular exercise, back muscles become weak, eventually reaching the point where even minor activity causes discomfort and spasms.

Spinal Issues

More often, however, with aging comes some type of other dysfunction in the lower back. The discs between the bones in the spinal column begin to dry out and become brittle. They lose their ability to absorb shock within the spine. The discs also lose height and become compressed. Eventually, some of them may bulge and spill out over the bones in the spinal column.

In some instances, the tough, fibrous material covering the discs will actually tear, allowing the fluid inside the disc to leak. The leaked material then irritates nearby nerves. This latter condition, where a disc ruptures and leaks its contents, is commonly referred to as a herniated disc. A herniated disc can cause pain. In severe cases, it can cause numbness and tingling in the lower extremities (legs), as well as weakness. It’s important not to ignore these types of symptoms as doing so could eventually lead to permanent disability.

Spinal stenosis is another serious medical condition that can present symptoms similar to those that occur with a severely herniated disc. In this case, the canal where the spinal cord resides begins to narrow. Over time, the spinal canal may continue narrowing, eventually putting significant pressure on the spinal cord itself. Spinal stenosis is another serious medical condition that, if left untreated, can lead to permanent disability.

Hip Issues

Issues with one or both hip joints can also cause lower back pain and/or muscle spasms. Since the hips and lower back are located very close to each other, when a person experiences pain or spasms, they may assume they have a lower back problem. After undergoing testing, they may discover their issues actually stem from an issue with one or both hips.

The sacroiliac joints are found at the junction where the lowest part of the spine (the sacrum) meets on either side with the left and right hip bones (the ilium). Sometimes these hip joints abnormally rotate to the front or to the rear, and/or they may slide up or down. This can occur after a slip or fall or after a motor vehicle accident. When these types of injuries occur, sacroiliac joint dysfunction can cause muscle spasms and even nerve pain that mimics lower leg sciatica pain. As with the other issues such as disc herniation and spinal stenosis, it’s important to receive proper treatment for hip joint dysfunction as well.

If you or someone you know is experiencing lower back or hip issues, we can help! Please contact Cawley Physical Therapy & Rehab at 570-208-2787 or email us at: