The common causes of back stiffness are muscle spasm or arthritis of the spine, especially in the lumbar region. People who are suffering from the arthritis of the lumbar region, have progressively worsening symptoms over the years. Muscle stiffness is also caused by an acute trauma due to heavy weight lifting by wrong technique or any other cause. Neck stiffness or back stiffness limits the mobility of the person feeling oneself incapable. The worsening of the stiffness may turn one clenched muscles of the shoulder blade into a painful shoulder also cause a tension headache.
There are many causes of a stiff back some of which are listed here:
1) Tightness of Hamstrings
Hamstring muscles are present on the back of one’s thigh. These muscles are bulky and large and may become tight due to some reasons, e.g., sedentary lifestyle or not stretching the muscles before work out. Tensed hamstrings increase the pressure in the pelvis which in turn increases the strain in the lower back causing stiffness.
2) Poor Sitting Posture
Majority of the people spend almost 8 hours a day sitting down they do not maintain proper sitting posture. Side effects of these ill sitting postures are:
- Stress on the lower back muscles
- The strain on the lumbar region of the spine
- Normal curvatures of the spine are lost gradually.
3) Disc Herniation
Due to age-related or any pathological wear and tear changes in the intervertebral discs, it becomes bulged causing disc hernia which is a very painful condition. The back muscles of the affected area go in spasm causing stiffness of back.
4) Muscle or Ligament Strain
Spinal ligaments and muscles of the back are fatigued due to heavy weight lifting and thus strained. It can also be caused by a severe jerky movement which is sudden.
Osteoarthritis is an inflammatory condition which affects the cartilages of joints thus their shock absorbing effect is reduced. Vertebrae gradually become unable to move against each other and tightness of lower back results which causes stiffness in the back.
6) Sciatic Nerve Pain
Sciatic nerve pain is a painful disease in which root of the sciatic nerve is pressed, and severe pain occurs in the lower back radiating towards buttocks and one or both legs. This condition also leads to stiffness in the back.
Ways to find the root cause
As you know, many conditions may lead to the back stiffness. Thus the doctor needs proper history and a good physical examination to know the root cause and treat accordingly. Certain investigations may also be required, i.e.
- CT scan
How can I relieve my back stiffness?
If you are suffering from back stiffness, following household remedies may help your stiffness.
- Heat – Heat enhances the blood flow and relaxes the muscles thus joint pain is reduced. Heat can make your inflammatory condition better.
- Ice – Ice causes vasoconstriction thus pain is numbed, and swelling is decreased.
- Motility – Bedrest increases the back stiffness; you should carry on with light activity such as yoga. Do not perform activities that twist or bend the body.
- Painkillers – Over the counter pain reliever medicines are acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, and These drugs reduce swelling and pain and thus also reduce stiffness.
- Relaxation Techniques – Controlled deep breathing, meditation and tai chi helps in relaxation of the muscles of the body including back muscles. Thus discomfort, ache, and stiffness are
- Massage – Massage therapy decreases the spasm of the back muscles resultantly reducing the stiffness.
Alternative care of back stiffness
Some non-drug alternative approaches are also recommended for the treatment of back pain and stiffness. These include
- Low-level laser treatment
- Cognitive behavioural therapy
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction
- Multidisciplinary rehabilitation
- Exercise makes the muscles of the body stronger including back muscles and avoids a backache in the coming time.
Alarming signs and symptoms
You must go to a doctor if you notice some alarming signs and symptoms regarding your back stiffness. These features include:
- If you are experiencing the backache for more than two weeks.
- If your back stiffness is so severe that you are unable to perform your daily activities
- If your back stiffness aggravates in the morning.
- If you feel pain or swelling in the joints and muscles
- If you are a patient of arthritis or have any underlying disease.
When to get medical treatment?
You should treat yourself immediately if you are suffering from the following symptoms:
- Pain in eyes or visual loss
- Weakness in the legs or abnormal sensations in the legs.
- Loss of control of the function of bladder or bowel.
- Unusual fatigue or fever.
Commonly prescribed drugs for back stiffness are hydrocodone, acetaminophen, oxycodone or opioids. These are always used with the advice of a doctor. Antidepressants and steroids also help in improving the condition. Remember, you do not take any medicine without your doctor’s advice.
It is a common practice treatment modality. Radiofrequency ablation electrically excites the specific nerve thus it becomes less sensitive to the pain signals, and pain is not felt thus feeling oneself more comfortable.
It will be good to know for you that back stiffness has good prognosis generally and is relieved if the underlying cause is diagnosed and treated successfully.
It is the last modality of intervention for chronic pain and back stiffness if the underlying cause is a herniated disc or a pinched nerve. Rhizotomy is a surgical procedure in which the nerve sending pain signals from back to the brain is sectioned. This modality addresses the any diseased condition of the nerves but not with a herniated disc.
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