Great question! One that I hear often from people with back pain. In fact, I’ve already had this same question twice this week and it’s only Tuesday as I write this.
Here’s what one person who called asked:
“I’ve tried all the things that are supposed to help tight muscles like heat, massage and stretching, but nothing seems to work, at least not for very long. So, why are my back muscles always so tight?”
Before I answer this question, I want you to keep in mind that while chronically tight muscles are a common problem for people with back pain, this problem isn’t exclusive just to the back. Other areas of the body can also have chronically tight muscles, often for very similar reasons. So, although I’m going to focus my answer on the back muscles, if you have chronically tight muscles somewhere else this may help explain why.
There are many muscles in the back that could be tight and painful. This can vary from one person to the next depending on their history and habits, but the most common chronically tight muscles that cause back pain are the muscles that run parallel to the spine. This a group of muscles called the “erector spinae”.
Yep, you guessed it! The job of these erector spinae muscles is to stabilize our spine and keep us upright. The muscles are made up of several smaller muscles, each spanning across a few spinal vertebrae providing stability from the lower back all the way to the top of the neck.
When the erector spinae muscles are chronically tight it’s often because of some weakness that has developed in another muscle or muscles. The most common weaknesses I see that contribute to tight erector spinae muscles and back pain are the large latissimus dorsi, transverse abdominis, gluteus maximus and gluteus medius muscles.
These larger muscles are designed to provide strength, power and support for our daily movements and activities. When these larger muscles are weak the erector spinae muscles tend to overwork and compensate. If this goes on for too long without correcting the weakness the erector spinae muscles become “rods of steel” that limit spinal movement and cause back pain. This can also lead to pain and problems in other areas like the hips and knees.
So the good news here is, if your back muscles or any other muscles in your body are chronically tight, this doesn’t mean you have to live with chronic pain. Even if it’s been going on for years. Even if you feel like you’ve “tried everything”. These muscular imbalances can be identified and corrected with the help of the right specialist.
HINT: If you’re looking for the “right specialist” to help you, you’re in luck. This is exactly what we do!
The potential of the human body is incredible, but please don’t fall victim to any promises of a “quick fix”. I’ve treated hundreds of people with back pain in my career and when it comes to correcting muscle imbalances, especially those that have developed over months or years, it’s going to take some time. It will require a little patience, some effort and a certain level commitment to rebuild your strength and restore normal movement patterns.
But I you promise it will be worth it!
And not just because you will have less pain, or possibly even no pain, but because of what NOT having constant pain means for you and your enjoyment of life.
I’ve seen transformations in my patients lives that they thought would NEVER be possible. It’s why I do what I do! There is no better feeling than watching someone go from not being able to walk from one room to the next and losing all hope, to hearing how much they’ve been enjoying dancing around the house with their grandchildren and doing everything they want to do WITHOUT PAIN.
You can transform your life too! A life where you can be as active as you want. A life where you can enjoy your family and friends and live life on your terms, instead of letting pain dictate what you can and can’t do.
Just take the next step and see where it takes you!
We can start with a simple conversation to find out more about what’s been going on and answer any questions you have. Then we can discuss how we may be able to help you and what your NEXT STEP should be.
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"Helping active adults FINALLY get rid of their aches, pains and injuries, so they can keep moving, stay active and improve their health naturally - without pain medication, injections or surgery."
Oregon City, OR
Dr. Julie Krueger