Even early risers can feel daunted by getting up in the morning if they have lower back pain. Not only can it be tricky to get out of bed but tasks that are usually simple, like putting on socks, need great planning to perform.
Normally this pain/ stiffness eases off within half an hour or so of getting moving but it can lead people to wonder why it happens?
In this blog entry I’d like to look at this in some depth and come up with some solutions to the problem.
There can be many reasons why some people might suffer back pain when they get up in the morning.
Remember that pain is normally a self-protective mechanism i.e. if we feel unconsciously more vulnerable in the morning we will also feel pain as this limits our ability to do ourselves a mischief by accident.
For most people, morning back pain isn’t a symptom of a larger spinal issue, it’s a very useful way to protect you while you get moving and warmed up (thanks amazing nervous system and unconscious brain, we love you really!). However there are also a few common environmental causes of back pain:
Old or Bad Mattress: Firm bedding supports your spine better through the night, and well-worn, cratered mattresses may aggravate your back while you sleep. Similarly, old and unsupportive pillows don't help.
Poor Sleep Position: Sleeping on your stomach causes your lower back to extend, placing it under pressure.
Poor Ergonomics: Remaining motionless for long periods of time, poor working environment or furniture. Badly thought-out ergonomics may take a toll on your back and this may worsen at night when you are motionless for many hours.
If your back pain is caused by an arthritis, injury or pre-existing condition, there are steps you can take before heading out the door:
Try Heat: A morning hot pack or shower can loosen up your back and get you ready for the day.
Exercise Your Way Out of It: Before you start to do simple tasks like getting dressed even, take a short walk around the house, do some simple stretches, Exercise may be the last thing on your mind when you wake up with lower back pain but some very simple moves may go a long way to reliving pain and reducing risk of aggravating it more.
1. Back flexion stretch
While lying flat on your back, hug both knees into your chest and flex your head towards your knees, so you’re curled up in a ball. Hold for 10 seconds.
2. Hip stretch
Lie flat on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Rest the ankle of your right leg on the knee of your left leg. Link your hands around your left thigh and pull the thigh towards the chest. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat on the other side.
3. Supine twist
Lying on your back, place your arms on the ground with your palms down, so you’re in a T shape. Gently lift your feet until your shins are parallel to the ceiling. On an outward breath, lower your legs to the right, keeping your left shoulder on the ground if you can. Turn your head to look at your left hand, relax and hold for 10 seconds. Then bring your knees back to the centre and repeat on the opposite side.
4. Sitting flexion stretch
Sitting on the edge of the bed, reach both hands down to touch the floor. Aim to curl your spine into a ball as you do so. Hold for 10 seconds and slowly return to sitting. Repeat this a few times until you feel it eases any stiffness.
5. Side bends
While standing, slowly slide your hands down the side of each leg, going as far as you can until you feel any stretch or discomfort. Hold for 10 seconds and ease yourself back to standing. Repeat on the other side.
If you’ve sorted out the environmental factors that contribute to morning back aches, it might be a medical condition that causes those achy mornings. You’ll need to seek a professional diagnosis for treatment options.
Disc injuries: The tissue that sits between and cushions vertebrae may break down and inflame surrounding tissue, a condition known as a herniated disc. Also known as a slipped, a herniated disc’s pain is worse in the morning due to long stretches of inactivity when sleeping.
Inflammatory Back Pain: Inflammation caused by an autoimmune disorder may cause spinal tissue to swell and inflame during the night making you very stiff in the morning. You’ll likely need treatment outside of orthopedic care to address this issue.
Ankylosing Spondylitis: Swelling of the joints in the spine can cause pain and stiffness that is worse in the morning and often decreases throughout the day.
Spinal Stenosis: The narrowing of the spinal canal can put pressure on nerves, and is often irritated when you sleep. While it’s more common in older adults, it can affect younger patients, particularly those who suffered a spinal injury.
Morning back pain might be subtle, but it’s important to take it seriously. If you wake up with back pain for an extended period of time or the back pain is increasing in severity, you should see a healthcare professional who will be able to examine you, offer treatment options and lifestyle suggestions.