Tense muscles in your back make it hard to live the well-deserved life you desire. It’s an unwanted discomfort you don’t need. Discovering how to relax back muscles at home will free you from pain, aches, and physical limits related to tense or stiff muscles. Fortunately, relieving tense back muscles at home is as simple as doing some stretches, using free resources, or participating in light exercise classes. The freedom from discomfort, pain, and a limited physical life lies in discovering how to unwind your muscles.
Relax Tight Back Muscles At Home
Tight muscles don’t need to be a pain. The Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute blames old injuries, new trauma, repetitive overuse, or poor posture as the common causes of tension in the back muscles (9). Various methods can relax tense muscles at home.
Using Hot Or Cold Packs At Home For Back Tension
Dr. Mark Wang from the Desert Institute for Spine Care recommends using ice or heat to relax your back muscles (21). However, ice is best for acute back injuries and exercise stiffness. Meanwhile, adding heat creates better blood flow to the back muscles and healing.
How To Use Ice To Relax Back Muscles
Dr. Mark Wang recommends using these methods to relax your back muscles with ice (21):
- Ice massage therapy – Gently rub an ice cube over your back and where it feels stiff for 20 minutes, or get someone to help you.
- Cold compress – Place a frozen bag of peas or an ice gel pack from the drug store over the affected area, and leave it for 20 minutes.
How To Use Heat To Relax Back Muscles
Dr. Wang also recommends heat therapy for back pain and stiff muscles (21):
- Electric heating pads – Apply an electric heating pad to the affected area and set the timer for 10 minutes.
- Hot showers – Have a hot shower to run water down your back for 10 minutes.
- Adhesive heat wraps – Use adhesive heat wraps under your clothes at work.
- Hot water bottles – Apply the bottle to your stiff back area for 10 minutes.
Dr. Wang explains that heat therapy damages your skin, so limit your hot water bottle, shower, or electric heating pad time (21). In addition, only use water you can bear, not boiling water. Meanwhile, consult a doctor before using it if you have a chronic illness.
Researchers at the Bergische University in Germany also warn against using heat therapies under certain health conditions (5). Please avoid using heat therapies if you suffer from heart disease, diabetes, dermatitis, hypertension, or peripheral neuropathy.
How To Use Ice And Heat To Relax Back Muscles
Finally, Dr. Wang suggests relaxing back muscles and warming up for exercises with ice and heat (21). Start with heat before you exercise to relax your muscles. Then, use ice to soothe them after training. Only use heat and ice for 10 minutes each.
Simple Anti-Inflammatory Habits To Relax Tense Back Muscles
Some daily habits can reduce back pain, relax muscles, and help you overcome the discomforts of living with stiff back muscles. Sometimes, inflammation causes back stiffness and pain, says Dr. Natalie Faith from the Florida Medical Clinic (20).
Mechanical and inflammatory back pain and tension are different (20). Exercise is excellent for both. However, the Pain Treatment Centers of America says you can relax tense back muscles caused by inflammation, by targeting inflammation (3).
Here are three daily habits to relieve tension in your back muscles:
- Stay hydrated – The Pain Treatment Centers of America recommends staying hydrated to fight inflammation that causes muscle stiffness and aches (3).
- Get enough rest – Harvard University explains how sleep deprivation leads to cytokine release and inflammation (14). So, get enough rest.
- Meditate – A study published in Biological Psychiatry proved how mindfulness meditation reduces inflammation (4). Mindfulness meditation reduces an inflammatory biomarker in your blood to stop inflammation.
How To Relax Back Muscles With Stretches And Exercise
How To Exercise To Relax Back Muscles
Diaphragmatic Exercise To Relax Lower Back Muscles
Permar Physical Therapy in Prescott says only two minutes of diaphragmatic breathing reduces lower back pain and tension (11). It also works to warm up for back exercises. So, follow these instructions for relief from tense muscles and pain in your lower back:
- Lie down on your back with flat feet and bent knees.
- Rest your hands over your abdomen.
- Slowly inhale a deep breath through your nose.
- Your hands will rise with your rib cage and abdomen.
- Press slightly down on your stomach as you gently exhale through your mouth.
- Repeat the exercise 5 times as you consciously pay attention to your relaxation.
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Neutral Spine Exercise To Unwind Back Muscles
Esha Bhadauria from the KLE University’s Institute of Physiotherapy in India found that spine stabilization can reduce back pain (10). The pain reduction is thanks to muscles relaxing with a neutral spine. Follow these instructions to stabilize and strengthen your spine:
- Lie down on your back with bent knees.
- Raise your pelvis slightly to tilt it forward and backward as far as it goes.
- Slow down as you start inhaling deeply.
- Contract your abdomen muscles as you exhale and keep tilting your pelvis.
- The exhale must empty your abdomen.
- Repeat the inhale/exhale and lean for 60 seconds.
Upper Arm Exercise To Relax Upper Or Mid-Back Muscles
A study in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine reveals a new truth (12). Your upper body muscles affect your upper back. So, use this exercise to relax your upper back muscles:
- Lie on your back with relaxed arms at your sides and your bent knees.
- Don’t lock your elbows, but keep those arms straight.
- Breathe in and out while raising your arms to a 90° angle with the floor.
- Any pain will stop you from raising them further.
- Go as far as your arms are comfortable.
- Keep your body stationary while raising your arms.
- Hold them for 30 seconds before slowly bringing them back to your sides.
- Repeat this exercise 3 times.
How To Stretch To Relax Back Muscles
Harvard Medical School confirms yoga and gentle stretching can relieve back pain and relax muscles (24). However, seniors and people with trauma or degenerative disorders can injure themselves. Please consult with your physician before attempting stretches.
Yoga Stretches To Relax Back Muscles
Yoga stretches are risky if you don’t follow professional instructions. You’ll find video tutorials for yoga stretches that relax the tight muscles in your back. Find only video instructions from trusted yogis.
The Cobra Pose To Relax Tight Back Muscles
WebMD recommends the cobra pose to relax tight trapezius and erector spinae muscles in your back (23). These muscles connect to your spine, neck, and various parts of your back, so the stretch will relax tight muscles in your mid-back, lower back, and upper back.
The Corpse Pose To Relax Tight Back Muscles
WebMD recommends the corpse pose as a core-strengthening stretch to relax tight back muscles (19). The yoga stretch helps to relax all your muscles by focusing on your core. It’s a full-back relaxation technique and core-strengthening exercise to reduce future stiffness.
The Bridge Pose To Relax Tight Back Muscles
WebMD calls the bridge pose the ultimate back relaxer for those with tight back muscles (16). The bridge pose works your back muscles, hamstrings, and glutes. It relaxes your tight back muscles while strengthening your core and working on your neck muscles.
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Safe Physiotherapy Stretches To Relax Lower Back Muscles
The Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute shares three stretch exercises on how to get relief from lower back muscle stiffness and pain safely at home (9). The Institute recommends knee to chest, seated hamstring stretch, and cat stretch exercises for the lower back.
Knee To Chest
Follow these instructions to achieve the knee-to-chest stretch safely (9):
- Lie flat on your back with upward-bent knees.
- Use both hands to pull one knee to your chest.
- Hold it there for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Slowly return the leg to a flat position.
- Repeat the stretch with your other leg.
- Then, repeat the time with both knees coming to your chest.
Seated Hamstring Stretch
Follow these instructions to practice the seated hamstring stretch safely (9):
- Sit toward the edge of a chair with one leg stretched straight out.
- Bend your alternate leg.
- Maintain a straight back while slowly bending toward the straight leg.
- Keep leaning forward until you feel a slight strain on the back of the thigh.
- Maintain the position for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat the stretch on the opposite leg.
Follow these instructions to do the cat stretch safely (9):
- Go down on your hands and knees, with your belly and back sagging to the floor.
- Slowly arch your back while tugging your stomach muscles.
- Return to the resting position.
- Repeat five times.
What If Lower Back Muscles Won’t Relax?
Pain that lasts more than a week with at-home treatments is a cause for concern. The Cleveland Clinic recommends people with long-lasting chronic lower back pain seek medical help (22). Additionally, the clinic recommends you seek help when:
- You’re an older individual with a degenerative disorder like arthritis.
- You experience tingling sensations or numbness.
- The pain is severe enough to interfere with your daily life.
- You have unexplained symptoms like fever, weight loss, or bowel and bladder issues.
The Premiere Spine Institute also warns against exercise if you have injuries (6). Always get the go-ahead from your physician before starting core stretches and exercises to relax back muscles if you suffered a traumatic back injury or check any of the above facts.
Why Won’t My Back Muscles Relax?
The Premiere Spine Institute warns people against exercise if they have recent injuries or back trauma (6). Always get the go-ahead from your physician before starting any at-home back relaxation techniques if you suffer from a recent trauma or have an old back injury.
Can I Learn How To Relax Mid-Back Muscles?
Source One Physical Therapy recommends a yoga pose called thread the needle for mid-back pain and muscle stiffness (2). The stretch works the latissimus dorsi muscle in your middle back. Follow a video tutorial to do it safely without overstretching yourself (25).
Can I Learn How To Relax Neck Muscles And Back Muscles?
WebMD recommends the child’s pose to relax the trapezius and erector spinae muscles in your back (7). The trapezius muscles stretch into your neck and mid-back. The erector spinae muscles run along your spine. So, follow a tutorial to complete the child’s pose (17).
Why Can’t I Relax Lower Back Muscles?
The Cleveland Clinic recommends people with chronic lower back pain, degenerative disorders, and coinciding symptoms seek medical help (22). Unexplained weight loss, fevers, digestive issues, numbness, or tingling are more concerning severe causes.
The Bottom Line
You can relax tight back muscles through various stretches, exercises, and at-home methods that take minutes. However, always speak to your doctor if you have chronic back pain, degenerative disorders, or pain that lasts more than a week with at-home remedies.
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!
- 15-minute guided meditation for beginners – Release your biggest blocks (2023, youtube.com)
- 4 Stretches for the Middle Back – Source One Physical Therapy (2020, source1therapy.com)
- 4 Tips to Avoid Dehydration and Get Pain Relief (n.d., ptcoa.com)
- Alterations in Resting-State Functional Connectivity Link Mindfulness Meditation With Reduced Interleukin-6: A Randomized Controlled Trial – Biological Psychiatry (2016, biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com)
- A Role for Superficial Heat Therapy in the Management of Non-Specific, Mild-to-Moderate Low Back Pain in Current Clinical Practice: A Narrative Review – PMC (2021, nih.gov)
- Building a Strong Core Is Your Best Defense Against Back Pain (n.d., premierespineinstitute.com)
- Child’s Pose: Benefits and Instructions (2022, webmd.com)
- Cobra Pose For Beginners – Effective stretch for low back pain & herniated discs (2018, youtube.com)
- Common Causes of Stiff Back and How to Get Relief (joionline.net) (n.d., joionline.net)
- Comparative effectiveness of lumbar stabilization, dynamic strengthening, and Pilates on chronic low back pain: randomized clinical trial (2017, e-jer.org)
- Diaphragmatic Breathing Reduces Low Back Pain – Permar Physical Therapy Permar Physical Therapy (2016, physicaltherapyprescott.com)
- Effect of Upper-Extremity Strengthening Exercises on the Lumbar Strength, Disability and Pain of Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Study – PMC (2017, nih.gov)
- Exercise for the Prevention of Low Back Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Trials | American Journal of Epidemiology | Oxford Academic (2017, academic.oup.com)
- How sleep deprivation can cause inflammation (2022, health.harvard.edu)
- How to do Bridge Pose Perfectly (2020, youtube.com)
- How to Do a Bridge Yoga Pose (2022, webmd.com)
- How to do a child’s pose stretch (2017, youtube.com)
- How to do Corpse Pose | Savasana Tutorial with Briohny Smyth (2020, youtube.com)
- How to Do a Corpse Yoga Pose (2022, webmd.com)
- Inflammatory vs. Mechanical Back Pain – Dr. Natalie Faith (2021, floridamedicalclinic.com)
- Is Ice or Heat Better for Treating Back Pain? | DISC (n.d., sciatica.com)
- Low Back Pain: Causes, Diagnosis & Treatments (2021, clevelandclinic.org)
- The Benefits of Cobra Pose and How to Perform It (2022, webmd.com)
- The safe way to do yoga for back pain (2021, health.harvard.edu)
- Threading the needle – a thoracic spine stretch (2017, youtube.com)