Spinal muscles are made up of tissue that contracts when stimulated. When spinal muscles contract, the back and neck are able to move forward, backward, or from side-to-side; as well as bend, twist, and extend. This wide range of motion is made possible due to a complex system of muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones.
When you want to move your back or your neck, your brain must tell your spinal muscles to contract. A nerve impulse originates in the brain and travels through nerves in the spinal cord. This impulse, or signal, makes it way to the muscle in a fraction of a second, telling the muscle to contract, or move, in a certain way.
Occasionally, spinal ligaments and muscles become strained or injured. A muscle strain can occur when any muscle in the body is held in the contracted position for too long. Overuse like this can cause microscopic tears in muscle tissue, and the muscle will tighten, or shorten, to protect itself from further injury.
Many of us are familiar with the feeling of a stiff, aching neck and shoulders, which is often caused by a strained trapezius muscle in the upper back. The trapezius muscle – which extends from the neck to the middle back and across both shoulders – can become tight and sore after many hours working on a computer, driving, or sleeping in the wrong position.
Spinal muscles in the lower back, or lumbar spine, also are subject to strain, overstretching, or other damage. This can happen when a person lifts something heavy or uses a poor lifting technique. It can also happen as the result of a fall or an accident, poor posture, or repetitive movement.
Additionally, spinal muscles also can atrophy, or weaken, over time with the natural deterioration that comes with aging, making them more prone to strain. Other problems in the spinal column, such as a herniated disc or pinched nerve, can trigger a muscle spasm in the back or neck.
Most muscle conditions in the spine are not serious, but they can cause significant pain. In reaction to damage or injury, spinal muscles may stiffen, develop a dull ache, or develop a sharp, stabbing, or throbbing pain. Pain is another natural reaction by the body to reduce further motion and prevent injury.
With proper treatment, such as rest, physical therapy, hot/cold therapy, and anti-inflammatory medication, spinal muscles can repair themselves and symptoms should go away. If your symptoms persist, however, you may want to consult with the medical experts at Laser Spine Institute (LSI). LSIsurgeons perform minimally invasive, endoscopic procedures for many types of back and neck conditions. Contact Laser Spine Institute today for a free review of your MRI or CT scan.