What Causes a Stiff Back: 7 Common Stiff Back Causes

Is your back feeling a little stiff? Back stiffness is a common ailment that affects many people, particularly among those in the older demographic. The treatment options for back stiffness include physiotherapy, exercises, meditation, and in more severe cases, surgery.

The pain of back stiffness can range from being mildly uncomfortable to intensely debilitating. No matter how severe your back stiffness is, it will lead to some degree of inconvenience and nuisance in your daily movements. The tension in your back will make it more difficult to stand, sit, walk, or reach down to the floor to pick up an item.

A stiff back is commonly caused by muscle spams, arthritis, or a myriad of health conditions. Let's learn more about what causes a stiff back:

Cause #1: Poor posture

Poor posture can cause a stiff back.

How often do you slouch in your office seat, at home, or in your car when out for a long drive? Improper posture, either when sitting or standing, may cause a stiff back. You may not feel the discomfort now, but the long-term effects of this poor posture may be devastating to your back health.

Poor posture increases the pressure on the spine discs, causing the back muscles to lose strength. A poor posture could also reduce the supply of nutrients to your spine. Correct this posture by sitting up, then forming a right angle between your upper body and your thighs. This ensures proper circulation of blood and nutrients throughout the back muscles and spine. Doing this also activates the core muscles.

In addition, prolonged sitting also causes back stiffness. It's important to perform a few basic movements and back exercises to keep your muscles moving, especially when you are sitting at home all day.

Cause #2: Muscle tightness around the thighs

The muscle tightness around your thighs can cause a stiff back.

You may be wondering what the muscles around your thighs have to do with your back stiffness. The hamstring is a short muscle that connects to the lower back. If these muscles are tight or strained, they could affect the curvature of your lower spine. This disrupts the exact alignment of your spine to the pelvis, causing back stiffness.

Hamstring muscle tightness can be easily managed through targeted stretching. Depending on your condition, you might be recommended to visit a chiropractor for recurring treatments.

Cause #3: Muscle or ligament strain

Muscle or ligament strains can cause a stiff back.

A strain is an injury to a muscle or a tendon. There are various ways in which you can strain your spinal ligaments and back muscles. This might occur due to a sudden fall or a blow that forces a joint out of its normal position. The strain could also be caused by improper lifting techniques or overstressing the back muscles.

Some strains may become chronic after prolonged use or from the repetitive movement of these muscles. Other factors that increase the risk of back strains include curving the lower back excessively, being overweight, or having weak back and abdominal muscles.

Cause #4: Arthritis

Arthritis is a common cause of a stiff back.

Arthritis is one of the most common stiff back causes for many people. Arthritis is defined as the inflammation of one or more joints, which results in pain and stiffness that can worsen over time. If you have a stiff back, you may have rheumatoid arthritis, a type of arthritis that affects the spine specifically.

Osteoarthritis, also referred to as facet arthritis, is the most common form of spinal arthritis. This condition develops with wear and tear, gradually affecting your lower back. Osteoarthritis slowly breaks down the cartilage between the joints, resulting in inflammation and severe pain. If you had suffered an injury to your back in the past, this may catalyze the development of degenerative arthritis of the spine.

Cause #5: Shrinkage of spinal discs

When spinal discs shrink, this may cause a stiff back.

Spinal discs are shock-absorbing pads between your vertebrae. Their main function is to distribute loads within your spine. As you age, some of the discs undergo changes that cause them to degenerate, thus inhibiting their functions.

Among the effects of spinal disc degeneration include a breakdown in the fibrocartilage component and loss of water. These changes cause spine stiffness, which is felt mostly during movements that involve bending. Luckily, there is a treatment for this condition, which involves physical therapy, meditation, and losing weight in some situations. Surgery may be necessary for the more severe cases.

Cause #6: Sciatic nerve pain

Your sciatic nerve pain can cause a stiff back.

Sciatic nerve pain occurs when there is inflammation in the root of a nerve originating from the spine. This nerve inflammation may cause the pain to radiate to the leg and the foot, resulting in what is known as lumbar radiculopathy. This condition can be extremely painful.

Treatment is available, but it varies depending on the severity and cause of the nerve inflammation. You may be put under prescription medicine, physical therapy, or injections. Alternatively, you may have to undergo surgery. In some less complicated cases, you can alleviate the pain by simply resting the injured area and avoiding too much movement.

Cause #7: Tight hip flexors

Tight hip flexors contribute to the causes of a stiff back.

Hip flexors are the muscles around the top thighs that connect the upper leg to the hip. Tight hip flexors can be caused by prolonged sitting or activities such as jogging and cycling. These tight flexors create a pull on the pelvis, resulting in pain and stiffness on the lower back. Other than the back stiffness, tight hip flexors may also cause issues with the knees and sacroiliac joints.

It is impossible to completely prevent tight hips. However, you can minimize the pain intensity by getting up from your sitting position every few hours. You can also mitigate this condition by doing warm-ups or stretches before and after every workout.

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