We get asked a lot, “What does it mean when your lower back is hard?”

I’m sure you know exactly what that feels like: you wake up after a night’s rest and your muscles feel stiff and hard to the touch. Or you’ve taken a nap or spent a couple of hours sitting down, and when you go to stand up, it feels like your lower back is going to lock up.

Lower back muscle stiffness is a very real and very common problem, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to impair your mobility.

We’re going to answer the question “What does it mean when your lower back is hard?” and give you insight into what’s causing the pain and stiffness.

You’ll learn not only the root of the problem, but what you can do about it!

What Does it Mean When Your Lower Back is Hard? Understanding the Cause

There are a few things that may be responsible for the stiffness in your lower back:

  • Lower back muscle injury – If you lifted something too heavy or twisting incorrectly, you likely felt a spike of pain, perhaps even a little pop or a sensation like your muscles rippling. This is a fairly common injury to the muscles of your lower back. Usually, it happens as the result of strain or excessive pressure being placed on your back. The muscles will swell up and grow hard/stiff as a means of protecting the spinal column from damage.

  • Lumbar strain – This is a strain directly to your vertebrae. Maybe it’s a slipped disc, herniated disc, or damage to the cartilage between your lumbar vertebrae. Whatever the damage is, your body triggers an inflammatory response that causes the tissue around the strained joint/s to swell up. The muscle hardness and stiffness is typically accompanied by pain, and it will continue to be stiff and painful for a few days (or even weeks) as your body repairs the damage.

  • Arthritis – This is more common among senior citizens, but it can happen to athletes and anyone who places too much strain on their lower back joints. Essentially, the cartilage gets worn away so much that the bones start grinding against each other painfully. Your body attempts to prevent damage to the bones, so it inflames the tissue (muscles and joints) around the injury site. This leads to muscle stiffness in your lower back.

There are a few other causes that may be behind the stiffness in your lower back—including sciatica, spinal stenosis, skeletal abnormalities, radiculopathy, and tightness in your legs and glutes—but in the majority of cases, the cause is one of the main three listed above.

What Does it Mean When Your Lower Back is Hard? Here’s the Cure!

The good news is that pain, stiffness, and swelling in your lower back is usually only temporary. Your body is a self-healing machine with all the built-in capabilities to make repairs and restore anything broken or worn down (including joints, bones, and muscles).

Inflammation, which causes stiffness, is one of your body’s primary healing mechanisms. That swelling and hardness is a sign your body is making repairs.

But you can speed up the healing process with a few simple actions:

Apply ice and heat – Ice helps to prevent swelling, so it’s highly recommended you apply it immediately following an injury. Heat increases circulation and helps to accelerate healing. Use a combination of ice packs and hot pads to reduce pain, stiffness, and inflammation.

Exercise – It may sound like the last thing you want to do when your back is painful and stiff, but it works! Walking is actually an amazing choice, as it helps to lengthen your spine and restore proper function of the lower body and lower back joints. Make it a point to walk around for 30 minutes EVERY DAY that you’re suffering from lower back pain or stiffness.

Stretch – There are some amazing and highly effective stretches that can help to loosen up stiff, tight lower back joints. The best include:  Knees to Chest, Hip Circles, Pelvic Tilts, Cat-Cow Pose, Reclining Single-Leg Stretch, Corpse Pose, and Legs-Up-The-Wall. These will help to stretch out the joints and muscles, improving your mobility.

Anti-inflammatory medications. NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen will help to combat the swelling and pain in your lower back. The less swelling there is, the easier it will be for your body to send blood and nutrients to the damaged area to make repairs—meaning the faster you will heal.

Get a massage – Massage therapy can be an excellent treatment for hard, stiff muscles and joints in your lower back. You will need to let the therapist know that you are experiencing pain and where the pain is located, but they will have experience using massage as a physical therapy to combat inflammation and improve joint mobility.

Try all of these cures, and you’ll find that your lower back hardness vanishes surprisingly quickly!

Alleviate Back Pain and Get Your Life Back on Track

Dealing with back pain and don’t know why? Let us help!

Back on Track is our solution to help you address all manner of back pains. Whether you can pinpoint it to a specific injury or you’re just sick and tired of feeling achy all along your spine, you’ll benefit from the unique and highly effective techniques shared through this course. You’ll take back control of your spinal health and, as the name suggests, get your life back on track.