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Why Are My Lower Back Muscles Always Tight

Sitting With Your Spine Curved Forward


When you sit for a long time, the following changes occur in your spine:

  • Increased pressure within each spinal segment3
  • Reduced strength in the muscles of your upper and lower back3,4
  • Decreased nutrient supply to the spinal tissues3

When you sit on the edge of your chair or hunch towards your computer, the strain on your spine is moreand can cause stiffness and pain.

See Identifying Incorrect Posture

A sedentary lifestyle can exacerbate these changes, causing spinal stiffness to develop within an hour of sitting.4

To avoid back stiffness, use an upright sitting posture. Roll your shoulders back with the ears over the shoulders and the upper arms parallel to your torso. While sitting in an office chair try to avoid constant use of the backrest and sit upright to activate your core muscles.

Easy Tips To Relieve Stress

Stress affects the body in a variety of ways,from mood swings and headaches to weight fluctuations. However, an often overlookedside effect of stress is neck and back pain. Over time, repetitive bouts ofstress can cause musculoskeletal issues in these regions of the body.

When we get stressed out, the body naturally releases certainhormones. Adrenaline is associated with the ancient fight or flight phenomenonthat heightens our blood pressure, increases our blood supply, and causes themuscles around our spine to tense and spasm in case we need to flee the sourceof the stress. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone it interferes with avariety of functions. Elevations in cortisol can lead to loss of muscle massand increases in fat accumulation.

“Stress affects the body in a variety of ways, from mood swings and headaches to weight fluctuations. However, an often-overlooked side effect of stress is neck and back pain. Over time, repetitive bouts of stress can cause musculoskeletal issues in these regions of the body.”

Kavita Trivedi, D.O.

Data suggest that adults know stress affects their spines. Online survey participants ranked the No. 1 perceived cause of their neck and back pain as follows:

  • Stress: 29 percent
  • Spinal disc herniation: 21 percent
  • Sitting at a desk at work: 20 percent

Here Is A Simple Test For Tightness Of The Iliotibail Band

Ask your child to stand with the feet a hand breadth apart and parallel to each other for twenty seconds. Is this position comfortable, or is it boring.

Now let your child stand with the feet about 20 cm apart for another 20 seconds. Does this feel better? Less boring? Even quite young children are quite clear about which position they prefer.

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Back Muscle Endurance And Tension

A variety of muscle issues stem from a lack of muscular endurance. The lower back muscles are especially susceptible to these types of issues as they are often untrained or too weak. These muscles must be ready to contract and expand repeatedly throughout the day, especially given physically demanding jobs or recreational activities.

Spending a few minutes each day stretching these muscles and holding those positions can help strengthen the muscle fibers therein and help expand the endurance of these muscles over long periods of use.

Popular stretches for lower back muscles include:

  • Prayer Pose
  • A popular move in yoga, this position stretches tight muscles throughout the lower back and can be especially helpful as soon as one climbs out of bed.
  • With the knees to the floor and the buttocks resting on the feet, stretch the upper body forward and extend the arms as far ahead as possible. Hold this pose for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat in intervals of 5 for the most effect.
  • Pelvic Thrust
  • A move used for accessing the deepest muscles of the lower back, pelvic thrust can help increase blood flow to these muscles and make them more stable for longer periods of time.
  • With the knees tilted and feet and back flat on the floor, tilt the lower back and pelvis upward and hold this pose for up to 30 seconds or until the muscles tire. Release and repeat in intervals of 5.
  • Knee-to-Chest Curls
  • How Lumbar Compression Hurts Your Back

    Why Are My Muscles Always Tight? Muscle Tightness

    In approximately, well, 100% of my clients , Ive found compression through the lower back area.

    Some people have so little space between the bottom of their rib cage and the top of their pelvis that I cant even fit a finger between the last rib and the hip bone!

    This not only creates a lot of back tightness and pain. Over time, prolonged compression in this area can result in scary spinal conditions like degenerative disc disease, bulging or herniated discs, and sciatic nerve pain.

    And from a purely aesthetic point of view, reduced space between your ribs and pelvis kind of makes your waistline disappear.

    Its not uncommon for my clients to notice that they look taller and leaner after we work in this area of their body. Ive also had people tell me that the jeans they just walked in wearing an hour prior now fit more loosely and comfortably around their waist.


    I show you how to get lasting relief from lumbar compression in my Posture Rehab program. But if youre not ready to make the commitment to a full-body posture overhaul quite yet, here are four stretches that work when your back is tight and sore:

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    Stretch Your Hip Flexors

    Tight hip flexors cause your pelvis to tilt forward, tightening the muscles of your lower back. Stretch the hip flexors once or twice a day with a kneeling hip flexor stretch for relief.

    How To:

  • Get down on your right knee with your left knee bent in front of you at a 90-degree angle and your foot flat on the floor.
  • Place your hands on your hips and maintain an erect spine.
  • Keeping your hip points facing forward, begin to lean forward until you feel a stretch along the front of your right thigh.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch sides.
  • Why Your Back Muscles Hurt

    This may sound suspiciously like common sense, but your back muscles hurt when you pull them too far or place them under too much strain.

    But contrary to common misperception, the underlying cause of this back muscle pain is not poor posture, how much you exercise or even your genetic history.

    Instead, poor posture can be strong evidence of the real cause. Exercise of the wrong kind can make it worse . And the good news is you can do something about this underlying cause of back pain regardless of your genetics.

    The root cause of virtually all non-trauma related back muscle pain and a major contributor to many back conditions like herniated discs are muscle imbalances.

    One way to visualize muscle imbalances and how they cause back pain is to think of your car. If the wheels are out of alignment, the tires will wear unevenly, making them more susceptible to an early blowout.

    Imbalanced muscles do the same thing to your back. Muscle pain results when one muscle or group of muscles overpowers an opposing set of muscles that get stretched out of shape.

    And heres the kicker many of the muscles affecting your back pain arent in your back!

    For example, sitting all day long leads to weak abs, glutes, and hamstrings which go unused much of the day. In the meanwhile, your hip flexors, quadriceps and lumbar muscles remain tight to keep you in an upright position.

    This video explains how muscle imbalances affect your pain, and how to fix them.

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    Exercise And Resistance Training

    People tend to associate strength training with becoming tighter. During exercise, muscles of course become very tense, and they may feel stiff the next day because of delayed onset muscle soreness. There is also the idea that strength training makes muscles shorter and less flexible.

    These concerns are unfounded. In fact, full range of motion strength training can increase flexibility, perhaps more than stretching. It creates local adaptations in muscle that may improve endurance and make them less likely to suffer metabolic distress. And exercise also has an analgesic effect and can lower levels of inflammation that cause nervous system sensitivity.

    Heres a personal anecdote. Back in the days when I did yoga I had much more flexibility, but my hamstring muscles always felt tight. Then I quit yoga and started doing a lot of kettlebell swings. My forward bend decreased a bit, but the feeling of hamstring tightness was GONE, even though I was working the hamstrings HARD. In its place was a feeling of functional strength and capacity, which I imagine decreased any perception of threat related to lengthening my hamstrings.

    Of course if you overwork your muscles from strength training and dont let them recover, they will get sensitive, tight and sore. But if you work them the right amount enough to create an adaptation and not too much to cause injury or prevent full recovery then you will make them healthier, stronger, and yes less tight.

    Lower Back Stretch: Plan A

    Why are My Hamstrings Always Tight?
  • Lie flat on your back on a yoga mat, a carpeted floor or even in bed. Bend both knees and plant your feet on the mat/floor/bed.
  • Gently draw your right knee in toward your chest for a gentle lower-lower back stretch.
  • Release that leg, return that foot to the floor, then repeat on the other side.
  • If you’re able to do so comfortably, you can also draw both knees toward your chest at once for a slightly deeper stretch.

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    Causes Of A Tight Lower Back

    Sports injuries, overtraining, and accidents can make your back feel tight. Even day-to-day tasks such as sitting can cause tightness.

    You also experience tightness in the lower back to compensate for a problem in another part of the body. Strong hamstrings and gluteal muscles can also contribute to this tightness.

    Having poor posture or improper shape when lifting weights or having weak core muscles may also play a role.

    Many other factors may lead to or complicate a tight lower back. These include the following sprains and strains, prolonged sitting times, ruptured disks, and obesity.

    What Causes Lower Back Pain

    Many injuries, conditions and diseases can cause lower back pain. They include:

    • Strains and sprains: Back strains and sprains are the most common cause of back pain. You can injure muscles, tendons or ligaments by lifting something too heavy or not lifting safely. Some people strain their back by sneezing, coughing, twisting or bending over.
    • Fractures: The bones in the spine can break during an accident, like a car crash or a fall. Certain conditions increase the risk of fractures.
    • Disk problems: Disks cushion the vertebrae . Disks can bulge from their position in the spine and press on a nerve. They can also tear . With age, disks can get flatter and offer less protection .
    • Structural problems: A condition called spinal stenosis happens when the spinal column is too narrow for the spinal cord. Something pinching the spinal cord can cause severe sciatic nerve pain and lower back pain. Scoliosis can lead to pain, stiffness and difficulty moving.
    • Arthritis: Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis to cause lower back pain. Ankylosing spondylitis causes lower back pain, inflammation and stiffness in the spine.
    • Disease:Spine tumors, infections and several types of cancer can cause back pain. Other conditions can cause back pain, too. These include kidney stones and abdominal aortic aneurysm.
    • Spondylolisthesis: This condition causes the vertebrae in the spine to slip out of place. Spondylolisthesis leads to low back pain and often leg pain as well.

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    Should I Run With Back Pain

    Running or jogging is a great way to stay healthy, and a great way to get a workout when going to the gym isnt an option. But what if running hurts your back? Or what if your back hurts when youre done? Why does this happen?

    Between long commutes in the car, long days in the office, and binge-watching our favorite shows on Netflix, we tend do more sitting than our bodies are built to do. Sitting for long periods of time increases the pressure on the discs in your spine, causes the muscles in your upper and lower back to lose strength, and can decrease the supply of nutrients to your spinal tissue.

    Avoiding back stiffness and pain from prolonged sitting can be allayed by sitting with the correct posture and performing a few basic movements and stretches to keep your muscles working. Roll your shoulders back with the ears over the shoulders and the upper arms parallel to your torso. While sitting in an office chair try to avoid constant use of the backrest and sit upright to activate your core muscles.

    Unexplained Acute Low Back Pain

    Why Are My Back Muscles Always So Tight?

    Unexplained low back pain means chronic pain that comes on gradually, over time, with no specific injury, event, or illness causing it.

    Common causes:

    • Prolonged sitting and lack of fitness can weaken back muscles and cause pain from lack of support.
    • Ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis.
    • Spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column that puts pressure on the spinal cord.
    • Certain types of cancer, in rare cases.

    Those most susceptible are over 30, overweight and/or pregnant, and not physically fit. Smoking interferes with healing after any sort of stress to the back.

    If there are additional symptoms, medical care should be sought: fever, unexplained weight loss, leg weakness or numbness, or trouble urinating.

    An exact diagnosis is made through blood tests and through imaging such as x-rays, CT scan, or MRI.

    Once more serious causes are ruled out, treatment may include medications to ease pain, swelling, and inflammation. Steroid injections are useful in some cases.

    Overall, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can be very helpful with easing chronic low back pain.

    Rarity: Common

    Top Symptoms: lower back pain, back pain that shoots to the butt, fever, back pain

    Symptoms that always occur with unexplained acute low back pain:lower back pain

    Symptoms that never occur with unexplained acute low back pain:buttocks numbness, thigh numbness, involuntary defecation, fever

    Urgency: Self-treatment

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    The Difference Between Tight Hamstrings And Short Hamstrings

    The key to understanding the difference between tight and short muscles is knowing that your muscles are not very smart. They do what theyre told, and the brain is the one in charge. Your brain is constantly aware of where your body is in space and trying to keep you stable. For example, when walking through beach sand, your brain tells your ankles, knees, and hips how to behave to stay balanced. If your brain feels like your body is unstable, it will call in extra muscles to help improve that stability. So it will tighten big muscles that are typically only used for large movements. This is how you get the tight muscles versus short muscles. Well, what is a short muscle then? This may be the case if a muscle has been tight, or put in a shortened position, for so long that the body adapts to having a shorter muscle. The easiest way to think about this is when people wear high heels. If done daily for a long period of time, the calf muscle will gradually shorten.

    Therefore, in order for one of your hamstrings to be shorter than the other, you would have to be sitting for 12 hours a day with one knee bent under your chair and the other outstretched in front of you. Now, onward to why hamstrings get tight!


    What Is Causing My Muscle Tightness

    If your muscle isnt shortened or hardened, what could be causing this sensation of tightness. Well, since we know that tightness is a subjective experience, we can consider it as being on the same spectrum as pain. In essence, the sensation of tightness is like a minor pain. As weve discussed in a previous post, pain is very complex and is influenced by many different factors. For example, two people with the same injury may have different amounts of pain due to factors such as stress, sleep, diet, mental health, and more. We can view tightness in the same way. While these other factors will play an important role in how much tightness you feel in your muscle, the tightness may also be related to a lack of movement. We often feel tightness after being in one position for a prolonged period of time. Our body loves movement, and when it doesnt move, it gets upset. Movement helps maintain blood flow to all parts of our body, and keeps our muscles, joints, and bones healthy. When we stay in one position for too long, it decreases blood flow to certain areas.

    The experience of muscle tightness may be our body trying to tell us that the muscle is not getting enough blood flow, and we need to do something to change that . Again, this is why stretching or massaging may be helpful , but if we continue to stay in prolonged positions, the tightness may keep coming back.

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    Stiff Lower Back: Causes And Treatments

    Dr. Bhavik Sheth, PT, DPT, CSCS, SFMA

    Dr. Bhavik Sheth, PT, DPT, CSCS, SFMA is a physical therapist and the co-founder of the Elite Movement Initiative, a physical therapy group. He earned his D…

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    Amid our busy, active lives, most adults experience a stiff lower back at some point. In fact, a 2017 study found that about one-quarter of US adults experienced lower back pain at least once in the last three months. Plus, low back pain is one of the most common reasons for a doctors visit in the US.

    Lower back pain ranges from acute to chronic, meaning it can last less than 4 weeks or sometimes up to 12 weeks. Chronic pain is often associated with arthritis and gradually becomes worse over time. Acute back pain lasts for a shorter period of time and is typically a result of strain or trauma to the area, which can cause the muscles in the back to seize up and spasm. In both cases, lower back tightness limits mobility and causes debilitating pain.

    Throughout this article, we outline some of the most common causes of lower back stiffness and simple ways you can find relief. We also highlight some more serious symptoms associated with low back pain and suggest when it is best to seek medical attention.


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