When your back muscles are stiff, it may feel like you can barely move. Muscles in the back have a tendency to seize up, preventing you from moving within your full range of motion and making your body feel almost frozen. Surprisingly, there are a number of reasons why stiff backs occur, and finding out what triggered yours is the first step in seeking out a treatment plan that actually works for you. Here are a few potential reasons why you may be suffering from a stiff lower back.
1. Muscle Sprain or Strain – Depending on the severity of your condition, a low back muscle sprain or strain could be a best-case-scenario reason why you suffer from stiffness. A back sprain occurs when an episode causes injury to either a muscle or tendon in your back, while a back strain occurs when a ligament in the low back is torn. Time, rest, massage therapy, and non-invasive pain treatments can help you find some relief when an unexpected injury turns to lasting pain.
2. Ankylosing Spondylitis – This form of inflammatory arthritis can cause pain and stiffness all over the body, including in the neck and low back. In fact, a loss of flexibility in the back is usually one of the earliest indicators of ankylosing spondylitis, and this inflexibility can lead to a permanently hunched-forward posture. It is a lifelong condition that usually starts in the lower back.
3. Ruptured Disks – Ruptured disks, also known as herniated disks, occur when the rubbery center disk pushes through a crack in the exterior and compresses the spinal cord, triggering pain, numbness, stiffness, and weakness. Usually, those who have a ruptured disk will also experience symptoms in the legs or buttocks, including sharp pains and weakness. As a result of the herniated disk, pressure may be placed on the nerves in the spinal column, causing sciatica.
4. Poor Posture – Spending hours a day hunched over your keyboard or sitting in a non-supportive chair can cause pain, stiffness, and weakness in the lower back and trunk. Even a slight forward bend of the spine can cause serious and permanent damage, affecting your range of motion. However, making the commitment to sitting up straight or wearing posture-correcting devices can help ease away some of the pain while also providing a number of other benefits.
5. Poor Sleep Position – You know that sleeping in a strange position can leave you feeling stiff, cranky, and achy in the morning. A poor sleep posture can put undue pressure on your spine, even flattening its natural curvature, which doesn’t feel good when you wake up. There are a few simple things you can do to avoid slipping into a routinely bad sleep posture, such as changing your position, using a knee support pillow, or replacing your mattress.
6. Spinal Osteoarthritis – Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease that occurs when the protective cartilage at the ends of the bones wear away, causing pain, stiffness, and tenderness. Although we most often associate osteoarthritis with pain in the knees and hips, the fact is that your neck and lower back are targets too. In the lower back, this condition is sometimes referred to as lumbar osteoarthritis. X-rays can help determine if OA is to blame for your back pain.
7. Tightness in the Hips – When one part of your body is weak, the rest of your body suffers. In this case, tight muscles in the thighs and hip flexors—especially tightness in the hamstrings—can affect the curvature in the lower spine, knocking it out of line and causing severe stiffness. Doing exercises to strengthen the hip and thigh muscles can do wonders for the lower back.