Tight Muscles in the Upper Back and Neck

Tight Muscles - Upper Back

A lot of pain that occurs in the upper back and neck is due to tight muscles in the neck, shoulders and upper back. We look at the symptoms, causes and possible treatment options in more detail.

Symptoms of tight neck muscles

Symptoms of tight upper back muscles include aching and discomfort in the upper back and neck area, reduced range of motion in the neck and tenderness around the neck and shoulder blades. The athlete may get relief from stretching the muscles and applying heat in the form of hot packs and warm baths.


Tight muscles in the neck is a chronic condition which develops gradually, slowly getting worse until the individual seeks treatment. This is generally different from a neck strain which is most short-lived and usually resolves itself after a few days.

The tight muscles do not allow as much blood in them as is needed and therefore they do not get the energy and nutrients they need to stay healthy. Therefore tight muscles weaken and then tighten up further, so a vicious circle has begun.

Overuse causes small micro tears in the muscles. The muscles then tighten up to protect themselves. Poor neck stretching routines, particularly after training. If the muscle is not stretched to its natural length regularly it may adaptively shorten. If you have a sideways curve in the spine, known as scoliosis then some muscles will be put under more strain than they can cope with.

Poor posture is a major cause of neck pain. The head is a very heavy object and if you position it just a few centimeters the wrong way this can considerably increase the work the muscles of the back and neck have to do.


See a sports massage therapist for regular sports massage that will help keep the muscles relaxed and toned. View our sports massage demonstrations. Stretch properly and regularly.

Concentrate on good posture until it becomes second nature. A good taping method can encourage you to maintain correct posture. Use strengthening exercises to strengthen the weak muscles of the back.

A professional therapist may also use ultrasound therapy or other forms of electrotherapy to assist in relaxing the muscles.