man with muscle pain and tight muscles in neck

How Can Stiff and Tight Muscles Result in Back Pain & What to Do

Oh, the pain and agony of the tight muscle, it's time to break out the percussion massager for those tight back muscles! Stressing your muscles tends to make them tight and painful for days after you have overdone the work that hurt your back.

How are you supposed to sit up, walk, or even continue working out with muscles so taunt you can't move without sharp pain? Percussion massagers, warm compresses, and anti-inflammatory medications can help to loosen the bands of pain. Prevention is worth its weight in gold, though.

cause of muscle stiffness and muscle pain illustration

Why do tight muscles hurt?

Overdoing workouts, moving heavy items, not drinking enough water, and stress are the culprits behind sore muscles. What actually makes them hurt though, especially when you can't remember what could have made them hurt?

The answer is more chemically and biologically related. When you stress a muscle, it releases lactic acid. Cooling down, relaxing, and drinking enough water flushes out the acid pretty quickly. However, if it is allowed to just stay in the muscle it irritates the newly damaged (from working out or stretching) muscle and allows it to swell up and become stiff.

What happens when you loosen tight muscles?

Finding yourself in a situation where your back muscles are too tight can be one of the most uncomfortable things to endure. So, what happens when the muscles actually loosen?

In order for them to loosen the lactic acid level and inflammation must subside. Then the muscle relaxes, reducing pain and soreness. It is important to continue to hydrate to ensure the acid levels do not increase.

Rest is very important at this stage. Allow your muscles to recover from the ordeal and work your way back up gradually to not cause harm to the muscles. However, bed rest isn't the answer, it can actually cause more harm. 

How can tight muscles result in back pain?

Stiff and tight muscles can be debilitating. If a larger muscle in your lower back becomes sore and tight it will severely decrease your movement.

Tight muscles cannot expand and contract as they normally do cause pain when the muscle is moved. Certain movements are meant to elongate the muscle and contract them to keep your body moving the way you desire it to. Tightness reduces this ability and pain is the body's signal that there is something wrong.

What causes stiffness in the back?

Muscle stiffness, especially back stiffness, can be caused by many factors. These include (but are not limited to):

  1. Heavy workouts
  2. Inadequate stretching
  3. Dehydration
  4. Mental stress
  5. Improper lifting techniques
  6. Sudden injury (think car accident)

Reducing the workout-related risk is the first step to reducing muscle fatigue and tightness after workouts. Learning how to properly lift (boxes, weights, couches) with your legs reduces the stress placed on the core and reduces injury to back muscles.

Learn more about how much water you should really be drinking while working out here.

How long does a stiff back last?

Pain levels vary per injury and per person. Now two people experience pain the same way. The duration of back pain will also depend on what caused the pain.

Stress-related pain, usually in the upper back, neck, and shoulders, can typically subside quickly. Reduction of stressors, relaxation techniques, anti-inflammatory, and even a nap can reduce and relieve the pain.

Injury and workout-related pain can be a bit harder to get rid of. Sudden sharp pains that show no signs of relief after three to four days of complete rest should be evaluated by a doctor. Most severe pain will begin to lessen after three days and continue to be sore and less painful for days to weeks afterward.

When should I worry about a stiff back?

First off, if the pain was sharp, sudden, and accompanied by a popping sound at the time of impact or movement, you'll need to see a physician quickly. There may be more than muscle tightness going on.

Persistent back pain that lasts more than a week at a moderate to severe level should be evaluated. Light to moderate back pain that accompanies workouts can be normal, as your goal is to create small tears in muscles to force more muscle to grow.

However, if the pain becomes chronic, lasting more than a few weeks, or reoccurs with frequency, the pain should be evaluated. There can be an underlying medical cause for the continued pain.

What is the fastest way to relieve back pain?

The steps to relieving back pain vary by the people you ask. Stress pain can be relieved with hydration, exercise, and breathing routines in most cases. However, relieving other types of back pain may require these steps to reduce the soreness:

  1. Light exercise- cardio, yoga, stretching
  2. Alternating hot and cold compresses- no more than 15 minutes at a time and 15 minutes apart
  3. Targeted stretching
  4. Evaluate your shoes- they may be the culprit
  5. Reducing sedentary behavior- get up from the couch, desk, or chair once every hour at least
  6. Sleep better- muscles need to heal while you sleep not getting enough can cause more soreness
  7. Increase your water intake- if you are working out the 8x8 water intake is not enough

Back pain can be your body telling you that it needs something (more movement, more water, less stress). Or the opposite could be true. Evaluate when the pain began to figure out why your pain is persistent, then implement the appropriate technique to reduce the pain.

Learn more about 10 muscle soreness treatments here.

Are percussion massagers good for tight muscles?

One of the best ways to loosen tight muscles is with a massage. Percussion massagers allow individuals to reach tight muscles and use the massage technique to break up the lactic acid for easier disposal. Using a percussion massager after workouts can actually prevent the excessive build-up of the acids and reduce soreness and pain.

Be active in your own back pain recovery by adding a percussion massager to your pain relief kit. VYBE has several versions of percussion massager guns that can assist with reducing or eliminating pain. Choose between their Flex, Pro, Premium, or V2 guns for the best fit for your pain!


Contributing Writer: Tammy Jeannice