Back Spasms

I’ve been dealing with back spasms for years. But for years, I didn’t know they were back spasms. I get them in my upper back (either my lats or traps). Mostly my traps. The thing with them is, it affects my neck more than it does my actual back. For years, throughout high school, college, and a few years after, I never nailed it down. I thought I simply got stiff necks. They were sometimes brutal and would last a month if not more.

After college, and during probably one of my worst episodes, I saw a doctor, who was useless. He simply told me to “take it easy” and prescribed muscle relaxants and pain relievers. Neither worked.

I then saw a chiropractor. He was more of a witchdoctor in my opinion. He explained subluxations and energy flows. Needless to say, that was useless too.

I had tried hot/warm showers, Ben Gay, heating pads, etc. Nothing worked.

Eventually they would go away. But only after they would take their toll on my quality of life.

Then it happened. I was sitting at my desk at work one day and it felt like someone had stabbed me in the back with a knife. Right on the inner side of my shoulder blade. And low and behold, my neck became stiff. Prior to this, I guess they would come on during sleep, because I never felt it start to manifest before.

I was able to reach my hand down my back and touch that spot. There it was. It felt like a tight knot. Each press of my finger brought on a little relief, but not enough to get it to go away. At least I found the root cause.

I had then researched it some more and found out about trigger points. I believe a little bit of everything. There are a lot of quacks online, especially in the massage/homeopathic area. There was once an excellent diagram of trigger points online, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere amongst the quackery out there. I trusted this diagram, because it mapped out exactly where I felt the pain come on, and exactly where it affected (the neck area).

This was a major discovery.

That day at work was still brutal, despite my discovery. But on my way home from work on the train, I forced my back (especially the spot) into the back of the seat. It kind of brought some relief. The whole way home I couldn’t wait to get the wet heating pad working on this spot. See, prior to this I had the heating pad on my neck—in the wrong spot.

I got home and made sure to get myself comfortable, remote in hand, phone in reach. And I just laid on the heating pad for hours. Yes hours. It felt relieving (which was a breakthrough), but definitely not the cure. Yet. It was at some point near the hour and 45 minute mark that I felt the muscles in the spot start to twitch. The twitching got less and less intense the more I kept the heat on it. They soon went away entirely.

This is the point, which I tell my wife to this day, where the “edge” comes off. There is still a lot of discomfort, but it’s far more tolerable. But it’s not completely over yet.

A few more heating pad “sessions” usually does the trick. Usually hours apart. What used to be a month or more long ordeals now get ironed out in a few days. They also seem to have gotten less severe. Light ones I can usually “iron” out in a day. More severe episodes (like the one I’m still fighting now) and last 3-4 days. Again, with the severe edge off after the first heating pad treatment.

That said, I’ve researched it a bit, and through trial and error and careful evaluation, I’ve found any of these can trigger my back spasms. Of course the more combinations, the more likely I’ll get one:

1) Falling asleep on my couch, which is soft and offers no back support.
2) Drinking too much caffeine. Sometimes I feel other muscles twitch if I over do it.
3) Stress. I have a somewhat good handle on stress, but sometimes it can get the better of me.
4) Being run down. From lack of quality sleep, or colds, or running around too much.
5) Being dehydrated.

I probably don’t have the best posture when I sit, which probably doesn’t help, but those 5 seem to be the culprits.

I have since been able to avoid them for the most part. But once they come, I know how to manage them. Which I’m so glad I found out how.

I never got this “officially” diagnosed, but I’m certain muscle spasms is it. I’m good at putting 2 and 2 together and sorting through the legit vs. garbage online to come up with extremely likely causes. Like how I diagnosed my own gall stones, much to the disbelief of a misdiagnosing doctor (not the same one who was clueless about my neck). I’ll write about the gall stone diagnosis too. And my ever lessening respect for a lot of doctors.