Tensing muscles is the body’s way to prevent further damage and signal to us that we should take steps to help these muscles loosen up. If the necessary precautions aren’t taken, the condition of these muscles can worsen and lead to more serious issues. These issues can impact our ability to move and cause chronic pain throughout the body, including the lower back.
Back muscle tension expresses itself throughout our lower body and can even impact the muscles of the pelvis, hips, and upper legs.
Often, tight lower back muscles come with a range of symptoms such as spasms, cramps, stiffness, and pain. These pains can range from constant, minor aches, to full-on incapacitating discomfort.
Tight back muscles can stem from a range of possible causal factors. Strenuous bouts of physical activity, dehydration, awkward posture, or a poor mattress can all impact how tight our lower back muscles are and may cause the symptoms mentioned above.
While it is normal to feel tension after such activities, if it does not subside within a few days, it may be time to take precautionary measures to ensure the health of our muscles.
Muscle Tension and Pain
Muscle tissue is made of cells which can contract and expand in order to produce movement throughout the body. The cells which make up muscle tissue are typically long and slender, leading them to be known as “muscle fibers”. These muscle fibers are well supplied with blood vessels which keep them oxygenated and healthy.
Along with the network which supplies blood and oxygen to these tissues, they are also connected to and controlled by the nervous system which sends electrical impulses to produce contractions when we need to move.
In a similar sense, nerves found within the muscles send diagnostic signals to the brain which give it an idea of the condition these muscles are in. When these nerves sense any sign of damage, they produce send impulses to the brain which create a pain response within the damaged area.
If the muscles are dehydrated, overused, or suffer an acute injury, they tense up to prevent damage to these underlying structures. When they tense up, the nerves in these muscles lose their blood supply and send a pain response to the brain. This is the reason tense muscles create pain. Without an adequate supply of blood to the nerves within, the body sends a signal out to tell us to find a way to relieve the issue.
Relieving Back Tension at Home
The underlying issue may be different for every instance of back tension, but all of the following treatments will suffice to provide at least temporary relief. The benefit to these treatments is that they can all be performed in the comfort of one’s own home, without the added cost of an expensive doctor’s visit. If these treatments do not provide the necessary relief, it may be time to consult a physician to examine for deeper issues.
Back Muscle Endurance and Tension
A variety of muscle issues stem from a lack of muscular endurance. The lower back muscles are especially susceptible to these types of issues as they are often untrained or too weak. These muscles must be ready to contract and expand repeatedly throughout the day, especially given physically demanding jobs or recreational activities.
Spending a few minutes each day stretching these muscles and holding those positions can help strengthen the muscle fibers therein and help expand the endurance of these muscles over long periods of use.
Popular stretches for lower back muscles include:
- Prayer Pose
- A popular move in yoga, this position stretches tight muscles throughout the lower back and can be especially helpful as soon as one climbs out of bed.
- With the knees to the floor and the buttocks resting on the feet, stretch the upper body forward and extend the arms as far ahead as possible. Hold this pose for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat in intervals of 5 for the most effect.
- Pelvic Thrust
- A move used for accessing the deepest muscles of the lower back, pelvic thrust can help increase blood flow to these muscles and make them more stable for longer periods of time.
- With the knees tilted and feet and back flat on the floor, tilt the lower back and pelvis upward and hold this pose for up to 30 seconds or until the muscles tire. Release and repeat in intervals of 5.
- Knee-to-Chest Curls
- As we’ve said, the condition of lower back muscles can affect the muscles in the upper legs, hips, and pelvis as well. This exercise helps loosen the muscles in these areas in order to provide better support for the muscles of the lower back.
- With the body laid flat on the floor, pull one leg towards the chest, gripping at the outer thigh with the knee bent. Bring as close to the chest as possible, hold for 15 seconds, deepen the stretch a bit further, hold for another 15 seconds, then let go. Repeat in intervals of 5.
These stretches help not only loosen the muscle fibers in the lower back, but overtime, they can add supportive muscle tissue to these areas, lessening the load the current lower back muscles have to bear.
Stretching these muscles is an important part to keeping a healthy blood flow in these areas as well as increasing the amount of muscle tissue therein. For many suffering from lower back pain and tense muscles, this may not only provide immediate relief from a flare-up, but may also provide prolonged benefits which prevent such breakouts.
Over-the-Counter Solutions to Back Tension
Alongside stretching, regular use of over-the-counter medications has been shown to help alleviate lower back tension and provide relief to the symptoms therein. From topical ointments to low-dose medication, there are several options a person may choose when dealing with their lower back tension.
- Topical Ointments
- ICY HOT and vicks are two variations on the same treatment. These topical ointments often contain a mix of menthol, aspirin, and lidocaine which provide a cooling sensation, warming sensation, or both. These treatments may be enough to relax the muscles, relieve tension and eliminate pain.
- Ibuprofen, naproxen, & acetaminophen
- The ever-popular solutions to most common body pains, the effects of these medications have been proven throughout history. These medications increase blood flow and decrease painful swelling caused by tension.
At-Home Physical Therapies
Physical therapy is simply an umbrella term for treatment by physical means. Massage, hot/cold therapy, and exercise are all valuable techniques for conquering lower back tension.
Self-massage may be difficult to perform in the lower back, so a partner is advised. Simple kneading of the lower back will suffice in providing temporary relief for tense lower back muscles. Applying topical ointments during the massage may boost the effects of both for relieving any pain caused.
Hot/cold therapy is simply the act of applying heat to relax the muscles in an area followed by a cold treatment such as an icepack to compress and numb these muscles. This act of relaxation, constriction, and numbness helps pull the lower back muscles out of their tense state slowly, so as not to shock the body and damage it further.
There are several exercise regimens specifically coordinated to increase blood flow and muscle mass within the lower back. Overtime, this extra muscle mass can help support the daily use of our lower backs and prevent tension in the muscles therein. Try these regimines next time you are experiencing lower back pain:
When to See a Doctor and What to Expect
If at-home treatments don’t seem to be helping, if episodes of lower back pain last longer than a few hours, or if the inciting factors for the back pain are becoming more and more miniscule, it may be time to consult a doctor about deeper issues within the lower back.
Some tension is normal, for any muscle in the body, and especially after long bouts of physical exertion. Tension is the body’s natural defense to prevent further damage to the various muscles in the body. It’s only when these episodes of pain from tension begin to impact one’s daily life that they should seek out professional help.
If muscle tension in the lower back is starting to impact an individual’s capacity to perform their day to day tasks, it typically means there is a deeper issue within the structures of these muscles.
Doctors will usually begin a consultation with a dive into the patient’s medical history. Has there been acute damage to the lower back in the patient’s past? Does the patient’s family have a history of lower back complications? Have there been any signs of a degenerative illness forming? Answering these questions will help doctors determine where to begin their physical examinations and what to look for.
Whether or not a potential causal factor was identified, doctors will almost always follow up the medical history analysis with a physical examination. Techniques such as palpation where doctors apply pressure to specific trigger points while the patient is in a specific pose, can help doctors determine where the issue lies and even what type of issue it may be (soft tissue damage, muscle damage, cartilage breakdown, etc.)
These physical examinations most often lead to the use of medical imaging technology to get a clearer view of the structures within the lower back.
MRIs, CAT scans, and Xrays are used to give doctors an image of the different structures within the lower back. Muscle health, tendon and ligament structure, cartilage stability, and bone health can all be examined using these techniques. All of these images can give doctors a clue in determining what is causing the muscles in the lower back to tense up and whether it is a symptom of something deeper.
Chronic muscle tension can be a sign of several deeper issues within the lower back. Arthritis, acute trauma (sports injuries or work and home place accidents), or osteoarthritis are some of the most common root causes of chronic lower back tension. These are issues which do not resolve themselves on their own and will typically require some kind of intervention.
If the at home treatments mentioned above did not provide substantial relief, doctors may prescribe stronger medication or may jump to surgical intervention if the issue is deep enough.
While these treatments may be effective, their side-effects – long recover periods, low success rates, and the abundant issues with regular use of medication – may point patients to seek alternatives.
For those seeking not only relief from their pain, but treatment for the underlying issues causing chronic lower back tension, regenerative therapy may be the solution.
While not a totally new concept, advancements in regenerative sciences have produced totally new treatments for those suffering from issues due to degenerated tissues. Most clinics offering these treatments typically use two means to achieve their effects – Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) or Stem Cell therapy.
Platelet rich plasma therapy uses stores of growth and healing factors found in a patient’s blood to create a treatment which helps boost the body’s reparative mechanisms. By extracting blood directly from a patient and isolating the platelets therein, doctors can reinject these concentrated cells directly into the site of injury and help create an environment suitable for repairs to take place.
Platelets are the body’s natural defense against damage. At the onset of any injury, the platelets in the blood will clump together around the injury then signal the body to send raw materials to this site in order to help rebuild the damage. By extracting and concentrating these cells, doctors have found a way to amplify their healing effects within the body.
Stem Cell Therapy
In a similar sense, stem cell therapy also extracts tissues directly from a patient in order to promote cell growth within a patient. These stem cells are harvested from a patient’s fat or bone marrow tissue where they are cultivated in a process which brings these tissues to an earlier, more malleable state.
Once in this state, these cells are known as mesenchymal stem cells and gain the potential to transform into any cell within the human body. After injection, they surround the area which is damaged and help repair the structures which seem to be broken.
At CELLAXYs, we apply both of these therapies using only the most advanced techniques in regenerative sciences. We don’t use 3rd party tissues and have found the most success with direct extraction from a patient. Furthermore, we use special medical imaging in order to inject the treatments where they will have the most impact. Combining these two techniques, we’ve provided relief to several patient’s with lower back issues which has lasted anywhere from 6 months to a year.
If you would like to learn more about how regenerative therapies may be able to help you with your chronic tight lower back muscles, contact the CELLAXYS offices today to set up a consultation.