Not to worry, if it is a muscular cramp, it will pass by itself. Therapy can be used to soothe it, look why it happened and what you can do to prevent it happening again. Caution: There are cases of serious back cramping which don’t come under this category.
I have just had a spell of this myself. Last week I made an unguarded lift in a client session and was awarded with a fantastic muscular spasm to guard the right side of my lumbar back. When you move your body, the different parts work in a beautiful harmony creating motion. When I lifted, I did not engage my core muscles to stiffen the lower back area and my brain was of the opinion that I was about to compromise the integrity of my lumbar back.
You don’t need to consciously squeeze your core in a lift, if your body is working as it should. As many of us spend far too much time sitting, the core activation becomes easily compromised and needs more conscious effort.
In my case it felt as if the right side of my back was in a vice. I did stretch it immediately by bending forward. I also put some Cryoderm Cooling Gel* on the site to numb it down a bit. I knew that nothing drastic had happened and that I needed to convince my nervous system about it, hence moving and using cold gel. I could have used a pain killer, if I was inclined that way. This is the place where it is good to have one, if you are going to have it. You need to stop the pain cycle in its tracks. Obviously not the gel nor the pain killer is a licence to be stupid and load the muscle. The goal is to allow gentle movement.
I have relatively little problems with my back, so when something like this happens, I study it avidly ‘from the inside’. I got nerval pain down towards my sacrum and snaking around my hip and along my groin. Interesting how many nerves got tickled by this incident!
The only thing I did to ‘heal’ my back was gently massage the cramp away and keep moving/bending forward with good core muscle control. I did amuse my office colleagues in the beginning of the week by starting my morning with weird stretches for all the lower back connective tissues that felt stiff. (I do work in an office a couple of days a week). I also threw in couple of myofascial releases as I have rather flexible body and can access my own lower back.
A week after I am fine. Yesterday I still felt the ghost of the cramp. I kept using the cold gel occasionally, so my brain wouldn’t get into habit of ‘knowing’ that the lower back hurts. Nothing was damaged as such, but the muscles got bit bruised in the process. Initially they were sore to touch and in the end they felt just internally bruised. It is actually very hard to properly damage your back in the course of normal day to day life. Back is a strong structure, so keeping yourself calm about it is a big part of getting better.
What can you do to avoid this type of lower back injury? Keep your core strong and awake! I have previously pointed towards this little five-minute routine. You do need to have relatively healthy joints to be able to benefit from this particular one.
*Cryoderm is a cooling gel that I use myself. I like it because it has really high menthol content capable of killing even neural pain. It does not have any ibuprofen in it, only essential oils and minerals. I do sell it as it is only available from therapists and some online retailers.
Warning! Do not buy from Amazon, the UK distributor has not sold the product to anyone trading through Amazon.