Many people feel discomfort from chronically tight muscles in their lower back and/or their neck and upper back. It is not normal for muscles to continuously be tight. This article will discuss why muscles undergo a state of tightness and how relief of this type of muscle pain can be achieved.
As a practicing chiropractor of over 35 years I’ve heard many patients describe neck, upper back or low back pain in terms of having constant tightness, tension, stiffness or spasm in their muscles. Let’s discuss muscular function in terms of what is normal and abnormal.
We all know that muscles attach to bones. When muscles contract, they move our bones through a certain range of motion. We also know that when we overuse our muscles, they can become sore and go into some degree of spasm. The spasm might be mild, or it could be severe. Usually, this type of tightness of the muscles, eases over the course of several days as the body heals itself. I tell patients that if their muscles are sore and tight after overuse, it will probably diminish and resolve in 24-72 hours. This is normal healing of muscles.
Others, however, describe muscles that are in some degree of tension and stiffness all the time. It may get worse, at times and then lesson, but it never goes away. This is a sign that something is wrong and needs to be checked.
I recall a patient who was a professional baseball pitcher and had come to see me. He had just become a member of the team in the city where I live. His complaint was that he was having ongoing tension and tightness of the muscles in his upper back. This was interfering with his ability to pitch normally. I asked him what he had done previously to help with the problem. He said that he had the trainers on his team give him massages and help him with a stretching routine. He said that it gave him some temporary relief but didn’t completely resolve the problem. When I examined him, I found that he did indeed have spasms of the spinal muscles of the neck and upper back. However, the reason this was occurring was because he had a deeper problem. My exam revealed that he had misalignments of the spinal bones of his neck and upper back. His muscles were tight and in spasm because they were trying to stabilize the deeper spinal misalignment so that he didn’t hurt himself any further.
I told him that the body will always try to protect an injured area. In his case, his muscles were chronically tight and in spasm because they were trying to protect the deeper spinal misalignments. I said that while we don’t like our muscles to be tight and sore, we have to respect that they are protecting us from allowing the condition to worsen.
I treated him by utilizing chiropractic spinal adjustments to correct the misalignments of the spinal bones of the neck and upper back. After his first treatment he immediately felt the muscle tension loosen and relax. He said: “Wow, they never did that for me in the trainer’s room!” I replied by letting him know that chiropractors are the preeminent healthcare providers when it comes to correcting spinal misalignment by chiropractic adjusting and manipulation. It took several more treatments for his muscles to fully relax so that he could resume pitching normally.
Most people who go to a chiropractor find that having a chiropractic adjustment is a pleasant experience because it helps release some tightness of the muscles. The number of visits a patient will need to attain pain relief of their tight muscles will be dependent on how long they’ve had the condition and its severity.
In summary, tight and painful muscles should heal after a few days of rest. This is completely normal. However, if muscles are tight, stiff or in spasm and are chronically causing pain it is most likely due to a deeper spinal misalignment. If this is the case it would be wise to seek safe, gentle chiropractic care for muscle pain relief.