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What are Paraspinal Muscles?

By Koren Allen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The paraspinal muscles are the muscles that run next to, and roughly parallel with, the spine. They consist of many small muscles that are attached to the vertebrae and control the motion of the individual bones, as well as assist with the larger motions of the whole trunk, or core, area. Together with other muscles, they help support the spine and keep it in proper alignment. They also limit the range of motion of the spine, which helps to prevent injuries to the disks and spinal cord caused by overextension.

In human anatomy, nearly all skeletal muscles work in pairs. While one muscle is contracting, or getting shorter, another muscle must get longer to allow movement. When a person bends forward, his paraspinal muscles are lengthening; when he stands up again, they are contracting to pull him back to a standing position. Paraspinal muscles on the left and right side of the body work together in the same way when the person bends sideways. When the person is not bending, the paraspinal muscles keep the spinal column in vertical alignment while he is sitting or standing.

Paraspinal muscles are thought to play an important role in preventing serious back injuries, such as a herniated disk. When a person experiences a back spasm, it is often a paraspinal muscle tightening up, which is a warning signal that his back is either bearing more weight than it should, or bending and twisting improperly. Paraspinal muscle spasms are extremely painful; the pain normally stops a person from doing whatever activity caused the pain, before a more serious injury to the disks or spinal cord can occur. In this way, a back spasm can prevent a serious injury, as well as protect an existing injury while it is healing. A paraspinal muscle strain, while very painful, will heal much more quickly than a disk injury.

The paraspinal muscles do not work alone; they are part of an interconnected network of muscles that wrap around the chest, abdomen, and pelvis. All of these muscles work together to protect the spine and allow movement within a safe range. Weak abdominal muscles make the muscles of the back work harder to compensate for the weakness, which can lead to a strain in one or more of the paraspinal muscles. Excess body weight, especially weight carried on the front of the body, can also contribute to an overload of the back muscles. Low back pain is one of the most common complaints of pregnancy, as well as in people who are overweight or obese.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon1000719 — On Nov 30, 2018

I have paraspinous muscle spasms, I have been injured in my lower back and it is still swollen and hurts all the time. what can I do? I have only seen my regular doctor. I am waiting for an MRI, but have not been approved. who should I be seeing for this?

By anon326095 — On Mar 20, 2013

How can one diagnose Paraspinal Muscle pull/tear? I believe I felt this tear on the right side of my neck all the way down, but I am having a hard time finding a doctor ho can test/image diagnose it to confirm.

By anon225230 — On Oct 26, 2011

I was in a accident in 1977 the doctors said it was a paraspinal muscle pull. Since then I have

disc surgery on L-4 in 2001 and I have had injections

with steroids and facet injection. Could all of this be related from as far back as 1977. And nothing seems to work even after numerous therapy sessions. What else can be done?

By anon214261 — On Sep 14, 2011

I have been diagnosed with paraspinal muscle spasms. I have pain and numbness on my neck which radiates to my shoulders down to my arms. Sometimes I get numbness and a tingling sensation in my legs too. I do have a headache and dizziness, which I have just ignored for a long time. Can anyone give me suggestions on what to do, please?

By anon151520 — On Feb 10, 2011

R.E ANNA- you may want to see your doctor about possible thoracic outlet syndrome as your symptoms are similar.

By anon116975 — On Oct 08, 2010

I have been diagnosed as having paraspinal muscle spasms, i looked it up, which is what brings me here. People who have posted comments all seem to have lower back pain, i don't. I have severe pain in my neck and shoulders as well as numbness and tingling in my arms and hands. Can anyone shed any light for me please? --Anne

By anon116265 — On Oct 06, 2010

I am not sure whether what affects me is Paraspinal muscles, but I get these awful spasms in my lower back, sometimes on the left or on the right.

I think it happens when I try to reach too far or carry a heavy load on one side. I do get quick relief by lying down immediately and press a hot water bottle to the affected area. --airam

By obsessedwithloopy — On Sep 24, 2010

The exercises to relieve lower back pain for me are rather simple yet very helpful.

I lay down on my back on hard surface, something like a carpeted floor. The soles of the feet are on the ground, heels pulled toward buttocks, knees pointing toward the ceiling.

When I put my hand under my lower back and the floor it has plenty of room there, because there is a slight arch in the lower back area.

Now the point is to eliminate that space. By squeezing and lifting the stomach muscles and pushing the lower back area into the floor, holding, releasing, and repeating a few times like that.

I have found this very helpful, and gets rid of my light pain.

I would use this exercise for discomfort. For a more serious problems a doctor should be consulted.

By anon111868 — On Sep 18, 2010

Rather than trying to self diagnose, anyone experiencing back pain should consult a doctor of chiropractic. Their expertise and knowledge of the spine will provide you with a diagnosis that is right for your body and an appropriate treatment plan. This will prevent you from possibly making your problem worse by trying to treat yourself at home, and can save you a lot of pain and time trying to figure out what your problem is.

By GlassAxe — On Jul 27, 2010

@ Istria- Exercise is the best medicine for lower back pain. Another exercise is a back extension. You will probably have to go to a gym for this, but it is worth it. When performing a back extension, you are locking your legs out in an extension rack and bending down as far as you can. You then use your back muscles to pull yourself back up. Think of them as an inverted sit up.

Eventually you will be able to incorporate weights, twisting movements, and spreading movements into the exercise. It is important to remember though that back exercises require proper form and adequate stretching. This would be a good exercise to perform after cats and camels and supermans.

By istria — On Jul 27, 2010

I have a couple great exercises that will help alleviate lower back pain. Just be sure to perform back exercises when you are not experiencing pain symptoms, as you do not want to aggravate the problem or cause a slipped disc.

The first exercise is a warm-up/stretch called cats to camels. Start on your hands and knees, and let your stomach hang to the ground. Arch backward and look up. Slowly begin to look down while sucking your belly button as far in as possible. Arch your back in the other direction.

The next exercise is a superman. Lay face down on the ground with your arms and legs extended, and lock out your knees and elbows. At the same time, lift your right leg and left arm off the ground as high as you can. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat with the other limbs.

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