Back pain is one of the most common health-related complaints in the United States, so if you have stiffness in this area, you’re not alone. In fact, according to research cited by the American College of Physicians, about a quarter of all Americans reported having at least one instance of lower back pain within the past three months. If this is what you’re dealing with, keep reading to learn about preventing and treating a stiff back.
It’s easier to know how to prevent and treat back stiffness if you know what could cause it in the first place. A common culprit is muscle or ligament strain, which may occur when you lift something incorrectly or try to move an object that’s awkwardly shaped or too heavy. If your spine-supporting muscle groups aren’t strong enough, you may also experience muscle spasms that cause even more pain. Additionally, back stiffness could be related to:
• Awkward sleeping positions
• Poor posture
• Arthritis that’s affecting your spine’s bones and joints
• A rare type of arthritis (ankylosing spondylitis) that causes inflammation and irritation between the spinal discs
Minor instances of back stiffness may respond well to self-care efforts. A good place to start with self-care is to apply ice and heat to the affected area. The cold eases inflammation and reduces related nerve irritation. If you have arthritis-based stiffness, heat—which can be in the form of a heating pad, heating gel, or a warm bath—increases blood flow and helps irritated or stiff soft tissues relax. Remember to avoid applying ice or heat directly to your skin. You may also notice improvements with self-care that involves:
• Avoiding twisting or bending movements and strenuous exercise
• Engaging in light activities such as walking and gentle yoga poses, since too much rest can make back stiffness worse
• Using over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications
• Performing meditation, tai chi, deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques
• Trying massage therapy to help tense spine-supporting muscles become more flexible
If your back stiffness is still a problem after a few weeks or your discomfort is getting worse, see your doctor or a Beverly Hills spine surgeon. The good news is surgery is rarely required for a stiff back that’s not producing additional symptoms, but getting an accurate diagnosis can boost your odds of responding well to recommended treatments. Some people with back stiffness also experience positive results with alternative treatments, such as:
• Chiropractic adjustments
• Cognitive behavioral therapy to change unhelpful ways of thinking
• Low-level laser therapy
• Mindfulness-based techniques to reduce stress
• A multidisciplinary approach to physical therapy or rehab
Sleeping on a comfortable, supportive mattress and paying attention to proper lifting techniques are a couple of the ways you could prevent back stiffness. You may also experience fewer instances of back stiffness if you stretch before getting active, watch your daily posture, and reduce your intake of sugary snacks, refined carbs, processed meats, and other foods that tend to cause or worsen inflammation.
If you’re suffering from a stiff back or you have any other questions or concerns about your spinal health, the experienced professionals at The Spine Institute are here to help. Our physicians are leaders in every aspect of spine care, including prevention, nonsurgical treatment, and state-of-the-art surgical techniques such as spinal fusion alternatives. Beverly Hills residents are urged to call one of our friendly representatives today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.