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Have you ever gotten up in the morning and experienced unexpected lower back pain? You’re not alone. Back pain is common. It’s also often felt first thing in the morning, particularly upon moving from lying down to standing.
This pain is usually the result of stiffness from long periods of rest or decreased blood flow from sleeping. After moving around, symptoms usually subside.
While morning back pain can be periodic, some people experience it more often than others. This persistent pain can be caused by a number of issues, including:
If you notice back pain every morning, your sleeping posture could be the culprit. Poor sleeping positions can put pressure on your spine, causing its natural curve to flatten.
This can also cause back strain and uncomfortable pressure on your joints. If you frequently sleep on your stomach, you may experience back pain more regularly.
Consider changing your sleeping position for better sleep and spine health. Doctors recommend sleeping on your side or on your back with a pillow beneath your knees. If sleeping on your stomach is the only comfortable position for you, place a pillow under your pelvis or lower abdomen for support. This helps to take pressure off of your back.
If poor sleeping posture isn’t the cause of your back pain, it could very well be your mattress. Switching out your old mattresses for a new one can greatly improve your sleep.
Before choosing your next mattress, don’t be afraid to ask for professional recommendations.
Back pain during pregnancy is extremely common. Some women may experience this pain as early as 8 weeks into their pregnancy, but it’s most likely to become a problem between the fifth and seventh month.
Pregnancy can cause strain on lower back muscles. After sleeping for a long period of time, this lower back pain can be worse in the morning, causing prolonged stiffness and muscle tightness.
To reduce pain and discomfort, try stretching and using your legs to stand up rather than putting pressure on your back. If your pain persists, a warm compress may help alleviate discomfort.
Degenerative disc disease typically occurs without a major triggering event. It’s a natural result of aging and wear and tear on your body. This age-related condition occurs when spinal discs between your vertebrae begin to deteriorate.
This can cause intense pain and discomfort that may be worse in the morning. In some cases, disc degeneration causes no discomfort. The pressure inside the disc is higher in the morning.
Treatment includes steroid injections to relieve pain or pain medication. Your doctor or physical therapist may also suggest wearing a corset or brace for back support.
Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain. It’s believed that fibromyalgia amplifies pain by affecting how your brain processes pain signals. Though anyone is susceptible to fibromyalgia, it’s more common in women than in men.
Other symptoms associated with this condition include:
- restless sleep
- memory issues
- altered moods
- tension headaches
- irritable bowel syndrome
There’s no cure for fibromyalgia, but there are a number of pain medications available to help improve sleep and reduce painful symptoms. Your doctor may also recommend therapy or counseling to help improve your quality of life and to teach you ways to cope with this disorder.
If you do wake up in the morning with back pain, don’t despair — the following exercises and tips can help get you going while alleviating discomfort throughout the day.
Stretches in bed
One way to beat back pain is to make a habit of stretching right before you get out of bed. While lying on your back, reach your arms up above your head as far as you can. At the same time, reach your feet out in the opposite direction.
Then, bring your knees into your chest and hold for a lower back stretch. It may also feel good to gently rock from side to side.
Once you sit up, plant your feet on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Reach your arms up over your head again, then side to side for an allover stretch.
A plank works almost your entire body, particularly your core muscles. As your abdominals get stronger, you’ll put less strain on your back. Doing a plank can also alleviate minor back pain, especially in the lower back.
To do a plank, start facedown on the floor. Curl your toes and keep your forearms and elbows in line with your wrists. As you lift off the floor, push yourself into your upper back and keep your chin close to your neck.
Hold your plank for up to 30 seconds, crunching your abs tight as if you’re bracing for a punch in the stomach. You should also contract your glutes and thighs. Lower and repeat if desired.
You might remember the cobra stretch from yoga class. The mini-cobra uses the same basic movements but without overstretching your lower back.
To do a mini-cobra, lie on your stomach with palms facing down lined up with the sides of your head. Your elbows and forearms should also extend in straight lines to your palms. Slowly push your palms and forearms into the floor, lifting your chest up.
Keep your head looking forward and your neck straight. Hold the stretch for up to 10 seconds at a time, repeating up to 5 times total.
You may find back relief, especially in the lower back, by stretching your knees and glutes. One way to do this is through an exercise called knee bends.
To perform a knee bend, squat down as if you’re trying to sit back into a chair. Keep your knees bent at 90-degree angles and make sure they don’t track past your toes. Exhale on your way down, then inhale as you come back to standing. Repeat up to 10 times.
Get exercise throughout the day
Regular exercise throughout the day is key to alleviating back pain. Walking is among the best exercises, and you should aim for at least 10,000 steps per day. However, anything that gets you moving and on your feet can help keep your back strong.
Also, if you have an office job that involves sitting, it’s important to take frequent breaks. Stand up at least once every 30 minutes and stretch. Standing desks can also help keep the pressure off your back during the day at work so you won’t suffer the consequences the next morning.
Severe back pain sometimes calls for immediate relief. Ask your doctor if you can take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen. These are pain relievers that also reduce inflammation that may be contributing to your discomfort. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be another option for occasional back pain if you can’t take NSAIDs.
Another OTC option is a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine.
You can also try topical remedies. Turmeric and peppermint essential oils can help. Just make sure you dilute these in carrier oils, such as those made from jojoba or olive, or else they can irritate your skin.
Morning lower back pain is common. Pain symptoms typically improve within minutes of moving and stretching. However, if you begin to experience discomfort every morning, your pain may be indication of a bad mattress or an underlying medical condition.
If you notice worsening pain or other irregular symptoms, consult your doctor to rule out serious medical issues.