Blog Fitness How Can Stiff And Tight Muscles Result In Back Pain?

How Can Stiff And Tight Muscles Result In Back Pain?

Anyone dealing with persistent back pain knows just how debilitative and hard to manage the condition can be. From simple daily tasks to more strenuous work, it can be difficult to move freely and comfortably when your lower back is in pain. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to diagnose the cause of your persistent back pain, bearing in mind the complex anatomy of the muscles surrounding the spine. One of the most common culprits of lower back pain is tight and stiff muscles. This can be caused by a variety of factors – from sitting in one position for extended periods, to activities that use specific muscle groups (like running or lifting weights). In fact, any activity that places an excessive load on particular muscles can cause them to become tight and inflamed, increasing the pressure on your spine and resulting in back pain. Knowing that something as simple as tight muscles can result in back pain helps us understand the importance of correcting this condition and treating the underlying causes. Below, we discuss what causes tight muscles in the lower back as well as how to treat them for back pain relief.


How Do Stiff And Tight Muscles Result In Back Pain?

To truly understand the process that occurs slowly, unrelentingly over time to manifest as lower back pain, we must first understand the anatomy and working of the muscles in our back. 

The lower back is composed of several different muscle groups, each one responsible for a specific movement. 

The first group is the paraspinal muscles, which are divided into two sections: the erector spinae and transverse abdominis. The erector spinae runs along the spine, while the transverse abdominis wraps around it. Together, these muscles are responsible for supporting and stabilizing your spine (2). 

The second group of muscles is called the deep core muscles and these are responsible for providing stability and strength to your lower back. This includes your pelvic floor muscles, rectus abdominis (abs), multifidus and the diaphragm (1). 

When these muscles become tight and stiff, they are unable to provide the necessary support and stability for your spine. This results in increased pressure on the spine, which can cause the vertebrae to become misaligned and lead to back pain. 

That’s not all. Tight and stiff muscles can also cause imbalances in other muscles, leading to a decrease in range of motion and further aggravating your back pain (4). Finally, tight muscles can cause poor posture, resulting in increased stress and strain on the back muscles and spine. 

To briefly summarize the ways in which stiff and tight muscles can lead to back pain:

  • Decreased stability and support for the spine
  • Muscle imbalances leading to reduced range of motion 
  • Poor posture resulting in increased stress and strain on the back muscles and spine.
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Read More: Tight Back Muscles: Causes, Treatment And Prevention

What Causes Tight Muscles In Lower Back?

Tight and stiff muscles can be caused by a number of different factors, including:

Poor Posture

Many people don’t realize that how we sit or stand can have a profound effect on our posture and subsequently, the condition of our muscles. 

Some of the most common postural issues are rounded shoulders, slouching, and excessively arching the low back. All of these positions create an unnatural tension in the muscles of your back and can lead to tightness and stiffness in the lower back. 

These issues may be difficult to prevent because they develop over time, however they can be corrected with proper posture and focusing on strengthening the weak muscles

Sitting For Prolonged Periods

Sitting for long periods of time can cause the muscles in your lower back to become tight and stiff (13). This is because when you sit, the muscles are in a shortened position, which can prevent them from stretching fully. 

As a result, they become tight and unable to contract or lengthen properly, leading to back pain. 

Lack Of Exercise

Believe it or not, the human body was not built for a sedentary 9-5 lifestyle (9). Our muscles need to be stretched and exercised regularly in order to stay flexible, strong, and healthy. 

When we don’t get enough physical activity, our muscles become stiff and tight. This can cause the lower back muscles to become strained and lead to pain and discomfort.


Prolonged, chronic stress has a direct effect on the muscles in your body. When we are stressed, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol, which causes the muscles to become tense and tight. That alone isn’t an immediate problem; however, when this tension is held for long periods of time, it can lead to muscle fatigue and back pain (3).


Like all other muscles, the muscles in your lower back can become tight and sore if they are injured. This is because when an injury occurs, the body immediately goes into protection mode. The body will tighten up the affected muscles in order to protect them and prevent further injury.

Over time, this can lead to tightness and stiffness, which can cause pain and discomfort.

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How To Treat Stiff And Tight Muscles For Back Pain Relief

There are a number of treatments available to help relieve the pain and discomfort associated with tight and stiff muscles. 

Posture Improvement

As mentioned earlier, posture is a major factor when it comes to tight and stiff muscles. Working on improving your posture can be one of the best ways to reduce back pain (7). 

While seated, keep these in mind: 

  • Sit up straight, aligning your spine with the back of the chair. 
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed and down. 
  • Make sure your feet are flat on the ground. 
  • Avoid crossing your legs. 
  • Don’t hunch or slouch over.
  • Ensure your computer screen is at eye level. 
  • Invest in an ergonomic chair to support your spine
  • Use a lumbar support cushion to keep your lower back supported.

While standing, remember to:

  • Stand tall, keeping your spine straight. 
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed and down. 
  • Engage your core muscles. 
  • Roll your shoulders backward and down.
  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  • Avoid locking your knees. 

Yoga Stretches

Yoga is a great way to increase your range of motion, strength, and flexibility. It can also help to alleviate stress, which can be a major cause of tightness and stiffness in the muscles (2). 

Stretching is closely tied in with yoga and can also help to improve flexibility, reduce pain and tension, and increase range of motion (5). Think of these two techniques as a one-two punch to alleviate back pain.

It’s important to remember that everyone is different, so it’s wise to consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any treatment plan. If you are suffering from tight and stiff muscles, a chiropractor can determine the best course of action for your specific needs. 

Here are some of the best yoga stretches to relieve stiffness and pain in the lower back. The stretches mainly target the lower back muscles to increase endurance, flexibility, and range of motion:

1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

The idea behind this pose is to relax the lower back and stretch out the hips, thighs, and ankles. To perform it:

  • Sit on your knees with your big toes touching and your knees spread apart. 
  • Slowly lower your torso down towards the floor, keeping your arms extended in front of you. 
  • If possible, rest your forehead on the floor. 
  • Hold this pose for 30 seconds, then release. Repeat as needed, increasing the hold time as your flexibility improves.
  • To increase the intensity of this pose, try reaching your arms out to the side.
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To come out of the pose, press your hands into the floor to lift yourself up.

Read More: How To Relax Back Muscles To Unwind And Melt Away Tension

2. Cat/Cow Pose (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana)

This pose helps to stretch the lower back muscles and improve flexibility. To perform it: 

  • Start in a table top position on your hands and knees.
  • Inhale and arch your back, pushing your chest forward and keeping your head looking down. 
  • Exhale and round your back, tucking your chin into your chest. 
  • Continue to alternate between the two poses for as long as you can, aiming for at least 10 breaths. 
  • If you find it difficult to move your head, simply keep it in a neutral position.

3. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

This pose helps to open up the chest and shoulders, as well as stretch out the lower back. To perform it: 

  • Lie on your stomach with your legs outstretched and the tops of your feet pressed into the floor. Place your hands flat on either side of your chest, with your elbows bent. 
  • On an inhale, slowly raise your chest up off the floor while arching your back. 
  • Hold this pose for 10 breaths, then come back down to the starting position. 
  • You can also try widening your elbows to increase the intensity of this pose. 

4. Knee To Chest Pose (Apanasana)

This pose is great for releasing tension in the lower back, which can help reduce pain and stiffness. To perform it: 

  • Start by lying on your back with your legs outstretched. 
  • Bring one knee up towards your chest and hug it with both arms. 
  • Hold this pose for 30 seconds, then release and repeat on the other side.
  • For a deeper stretch, try to extend your top leg out in front of you while keeping the other knee bent. 

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy refers to all types of treatments used to help improve physical functioning, such as range of motion, strength, and flexibility. It can also be beneficial in relieving back pain and stiffness (12). 

Through physical therapy, you will learn various exercises that can help reduce pain and restore movement.

Some common types of physical therapy for stiff and tight muscles include: 

  • Strengthening exercises to help build and maintain muscle strength. 
  • Mobility exercises to help increase range of motion and flexibility. 
  • Hot/cold therapies to reduce inflammation and pain. 
  • Stretching exercises to help improve flexibility and balance. 

Strengthening exercises are simply exercises that work to build or maintain muscle strength and endurance. These exercises are important for injury prevention, as well as improving overall balance and coordination. Examples of strengthening exercises to combat back pain include:

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1. Pelvic Tilts

The pelvis tilt is a simple exercise that helps to strengthen the abdominal and lower back muscles. To perform it: 

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. 
  • Tighten your abdominals, then press down into your lower back to tilt your pelvis up. 
  • Hold this pose for 10 seconds, then relax and repeat. Aim for at least 10 repetitions. 
  • To increase the intensity of this exercise, lift one foot off the ground while doing the tilt.

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2. Glute Bridges

This exercise helps to strengthen the glutes, hips, and lower back. To perform it: 

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. 
  • Lift your hips off the ground, pressing into your heels to help support you. 
  • Hold the pose for 10 seconds, then relax and repeat. Aim for at least 10 repetitions. 
  • To increase the intensity of this exercise, add a dumbbell or exercise ball. 

3. Planks

Planking is a great way to strengthen the core and lower back muscles, as well as improve posture. To perform it: 

  • Start in a pushup position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your feet hip-width apart. 
  • Engage your core and slowly lower your body down until you are resting on your forearms. 
  • Hold this pose for 10 seconds, then relax and repeat. Aim for at least 10 repetitions. 
  • To increase the intensity of this exercise, try lifting one leg off the ground at a time. 

Mobility exercises are also a type of physical therapy used to improve flexibility and range of motion. These exercises can help reduce stiffness, increase blood flow, and alleviate pain. Examples of mobility exercises for back pain include: 

1. Hip Flexor Stretch

The hip flexors are a group of muscles in the front of the hip that are responsible for flexing your hips. Tight hip flexors can cause pain and stiffness in the lower back. To perform the hip flexor stretch: 

  • Start by kneeling on one knee with your other foot flat on the ground. 
  • Push your hips forward and gently squeeze your glute. 
  • Hold this pose for 30 seconds, then release and repeat on the other side.
  • For a deeper stretch, try to extend your top leg out in front of you while keeping the other knee bent. 

2. Lumbar Rotations

Lumbar rotations are a great way to stretch and relax the lower back muscles. To perform them: 

  • Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. 
  • Cross one leg over the other and rotate your hips to the side. 
  • Hold this pose for 10 seconds, then relax and repeat on the other side. Aim for at least 10 repetitions. 
  • To increase the intensity of this exercise, try keeping your shoulders and head pressed into the ground as you rotate. 
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3. Hamstring Stretch

Stretching the hamstrings can help reduce tension in the back and pelvic area. To perform this stretch: 

  • Start by lying on your back with one leg straight and the other bent. 
  • Lift your straight leg up and hold onto it with both hands. 
  • Gently pull the leg towards your chest and hold for 30 seconds, then release and repeat on the other side. 

Hot and cold therapy is also used to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain (10). Heat therapy can be applied in the form of a hot water bottle, heating pad, or warm bath. 

Cold therapy can be applied in the form of a cold compress, ice pack, or refrigerated gel packs. It is important to know when to use which type of therapy depending on the type and severity of the pain. 

Should You Use Over-The-Counter Medications For Stiff And Tight Muscles?

When it comes to treating back pain, over-the-counter medications can be effective but should be used with caution. 

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen can help reduce inflammation and pain but can also cause stomach irritation and increase the risk of bleeding (11). 

Muscle relaxants, such as cyclobenzaprine, can help reduce muscle spasms but can also cause drowsiness and impaired thinking (6). It is important to talk to your doctor before using any over-the-counter medications for back pain. 

We recommend some lifestyle changes such as increasing your activity levels, maintaining a healthy diet, and getting regular massage therapy to help reduce stiff and tight muscles. Working on both your sitting and standing postures is also advisable. 

If these measures do not bring relief, we recommend consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist to get a comprehensive assessment. A customized treatment plan will be effective.

The Bottom Line

When dealing with back pain, the best course of action is to use a combination of physical therapy, mobility exercises, and hot and cold therapy. Taking steps to improve posture, strengthen core muscles, and stretch tight muscles can all help reduce stiffness and pain. 

If the pain persists, it is important to seek medical advice.



This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. Anatomy, Abdomen and Pelvis: Anterolateral Abdominal Wall (2022,
  2. Anatomy, Back, Muscles (2022,
  3. Association between chronic low back pain and degree of stress: a nationwide cross-sectional study (2021,
  4. Consensus Definition of Muscle Tightness From Multidisciplinary Perspectives (2020,
  6. Cyclobenzaprine (2022,
  7. Effect of an exercise program for posture correction on musculoskeletal pain (2015,
  8. Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life (2011,
  9. Lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic diseases (2014,
  10. Mechanisms and efficacy of heat and cold therapies for musculoskeletal injury (2015,
  11. Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) (2022,
  12. Physical therapy (2020,
  13. Sitting for Too Long, Moving Too Little: Regular Muscle Contractions Can Reduce Muscle Stiffness During Prolonged Periods of Chair-Sitting (2021,
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