Three days to fix the knot in my back: Go!
October 5, 2010 9:03 AM   Subscribe

Can a massage actually fix this back spasm, or will I feel good for an hour and then go back to being in pain? I have three days to get better so I don't have time to fool around. Yoga? Muscle relaxants? What's got the best shot at actually doing something?

I've got a back spasm of the type that would normally go away on its own in about a week--a big knot in my left shoulder blade with tightness going all the way down the left side of my back. I don't normally get these--maybe once a year. I have had a discectomy but that was at L5-S1 so I don't think it's related, and anyway it's not nerve pain but only muscle cramping.

I just overdid it last weekend in an athletic event and I need to overdo it again this weekend. I'm going, whether I'm better or not. But I'd prefer to be better. What, in your experience, has the best chance of being a quick fix for this?
posted by HotToddy to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Massage can definitely help. As does heat and gentle stretching. Also: put a tennis ball into a sock, throw it over your shoulder, and lean back against the ball, and you can massage it yourself. Maybe hang yourself from a pull-up bar now and again, it can't hurt and it stretches some things. Try some of that hot stuff that you rub in and it burns you, I don't remember what it's called but it's basically something like cayenne pepper in ointment form and it heats the shit out of the whole area. In my experience if you rub in too much and leave it in too long you can get a mild burn and your skin is red for a while, but fuck it, it's good for the knot. Take hot baths like a motherfucker. Also there are probably some drugs you could take to help, muscle relaxants or something, but I'm not the expert there. Also drinking some red wine at night probably wouldn't hurt.
posted by creasy boy at 9:13 AM on October 5, 2010

There are no quick fixes for backs. If you are determined regardless of how you feel to overdo it again, then try to get some muscle relaxers, learn some appropriate stretches, and contemplate a massage/soak in some hot water. Speaking as some one with chronic back pain as a result of arthritis in the spin/"fibromyalgia" spasms are a bitch and usually get worse when I overdo it. Which is quite often as I'm young, and I'd rather tell my body what to do instead of listening to it. Heat pads are great by the way.
posted by handbanana at 9:17 AM on October 5, 2010

Actually depends onwhat the backpain is caused by so there can be quick fixes. I had a ton of my back pain go away just by getting a new matress. My old matress caused me to get a lot of back pain.
posted by majortom1981 at 9:35 AM on October 5, 2010

anyway it's not nerve pain but only muscle cramping.

Muscle cramps along the spine function to stabilize the spine and prevent (further) damage.

The mere fact that you are having these quite probably means that your spine experienced something that damaged it, or at the very least threatened to damage it.

Your attitude is foolish.
posted by jamjam at 9:54 AM on October 5, 2010

Muscle relaxers/painkillers might be the answer you're looking for, even if your instincts are against them.

Don't know what you call them where you're from but up here in Canada, there's a thing called Robaxacet (over the counter/non-prescription). My attitude is never to take one for the first few days of a spasm (or whatever); just stretch and walk etc, let nature take its course. But if the issue's still nagging, I will then pop a couple of Robaxacet, usually at the end of the day as they tend to induce sleep. Nine times out of ten, I get a rather positive result.

Good luck.
posted by philip-random at 9:57 AM on October 5, 2010

It wouldn't hurt to try a couple of Advil first. When I got a back spasm last week I tried that and it actually helped.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:40 PM on October 5, 2010

A) Seeing a physiotherapist as soon as you possibly can will really help you. A physiotherapist can:

i) diagnose what your problem is, and tell you if you risk making it either temporarily or permanently worse by certain activities;

ii) treat the injury through physical manipulation;

iii) reduce your pain through treatments like therapeutic ultrasound that get heat up into your tissues to a depth up to 5 centimetres (far deeper than the heat from a heatpack penetrates);

Depending on how severe the pain is, consider seeing your GP about Valium (Diazepam) for the first two days of muscle spasm only. It will help you get some sleep despite the pain, and help stop the muscle spasm from becoming worse (you don't want to get caught in a [pain and anxiety makes you tense the muscles] -> [more pain] -> [so you tense the muscles more] -> [more pain] feedback loop.)

Diclofenac (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) is very helpful;

Taking magnesium tablets at bedtime will help. Magnesium relaxes the muscles (and brain). Some people find taking magnesium tablets can cause diarrhoea. I use Fusion health magnesium advanced brand, which I find is less likely to cause diarrhoea. Different brands contain magnesium in different formulations (e.g. magnesium citrate vs magnesium aspartate), and some formulations are more likely to cause diarrhoea than others;

Heat packs (microwavable wheatpacks) are very helpful. Heatpacks that you can tie on, so you can wear them while sitting up, walking, driving are especially helpful;

You may find that cold wind and drafts blowing on the muscle knot make the muscle spasm worse, in which case rugging up indoors and out can be helpful.

I am concerned that you will make the injury worse by competing again while pre-injured. Please try and see a physio to work out:

1) if it is safe for you to compete or if you risk permanent injury;
2) what techniques you can use to reduce the risk of aggravating the injury while competing.
posted by Hot buttered sockpuppets at 2:07 PM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice. So far I've taken hot baths, used heat packs, taken two Aleves, done some gentle stretching and gone for a moderate walk, and taken a Xanax donated by a sympathetic family member, and things are looking up. Will try the magnesium tablets tonight. If things keep up like this, I should be fine by the weekend.
posted by HotToddy at 3:29 PM on October 5, 2010

Why not get a massage? Unless people more experienced with back pain think it could cause damage, I would think at the least you would get some temporary relief, and it may solve the problem altogether.
posted by JenMarie at 3:52 PM on October 5, 2010

Sports massage sounds like exactly what you're looking for. Are there any good gyms or sports teams in your area? They could probably recommend a good person.
posted by runtina at 9:13 PM on October 5, 2010

For heat, Thermacare heat wraps (or the CVS brand version, which seems not quite as good but adequate) gives good heat and lasts a long time - at least 8 hours usually. I don't like the ones specifically made for backs, I think the neck/shoulder one stuck on the back is less unwieldy, but if you're not moving around it probably doesn't matter. I'd probably stick it on the shoulder knot anyway, since it's the source?

Diclofenac sodium for a few days might help to reduce inflammation and is not as annoying as constantly popping Advil - I know they're not exactly the same thing.
posted by mrs. taters at 6:51 AM on October 6, 2010

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