Morning Misery: 5 Hidden Causes of Lower Back Pain When Waking
Updated March 29, 2023.
Generally, lower back pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal symptoms and a leading cause of hospital visits and absence from work. It manifests at varying intensities and may present with different aggravating and relieving factors. In some people, the back pain is worse in the morning upon waking and improves as the activities of the day go on.
Morning back pain may be due to activities performed before you sleep, the kind of mattress you sleep on, and how you sleep. Understanding these possible cases can help you limit the risk of morning lower back pain and walk with optimal spine health.
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1. Poor Sleeping Posture
If you notice back pain in the morning when you wake, it may be because of your posture. A poor sleeping posture places pressure on the spine, causing the natural lumbar curvature to flatten out, and leading to pain. This is most common in people who sleep on their stomachs but may also happen in people who sleep on their backs and sides without proper support.
How to Fix Your Sleeping Posture
You should take note of your body position when you go to bed, wake up at night, or wake in the morning to get an idea of how you sleep and to make corrections where necessary. Ideally, you should place a pillow under your lower abdomen if you want to sleep on your stomach—though you really shouldn't. If you're sleeping on your back, you should place a pillow under your knees for support. While you can place a pillow between your knees and under your chest if you sleep on your side.
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Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes widespread pain in the muscles all over the body, including the back. It can also cause anxiety, fatigue, memory and mood issues, restless sleep, and tension headaches. Fibromyalgia is common around age 45, and more prevalent in women than men. When it occurs, fibromyalgia can also cause lower back pain that worsens in the morning.
3. Mattress Quality
The mattress quality, thickness, and firmness can influence the quality of your sleep and also predispose you to back pain. Also, mattresses degrade with time and shouldn't be kept longer than about 10 years. Any mattress quality that affects the normal curvature of your spine can predispose you to low back pain.
Aim for Better Quality Mattresses
Generally, the best mattresses are those that promote a neutral spine. While no consensus on the quality of mattresses can do this, medium-firm mattress surfaces are believed to relieve lower back pain. Additionally, you should get rid of any mattress that is more than 10 years old.
4. Spinal Stenosis
Lumbar spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back, leading to a compression of the nerves that exit through the canal. The compression causes pain and numbness that can radiate from the back to the leg. Spinal stenosis can be aggravated by the way you sleep, causing more pressure to be placed on the nerves during the night and leading to severe pain in the morning.
5. Degenerative Disc Disease
Disc degeneration occurs when the intervertebral discs begin deteriorating as a result of ageing and natural wear and tear from prolonged and repeated use. DDD causes intense pain which is worse in the morning and may radiate to the legs; it typically improves with movement.
How to Relieve Morning Back Pain
If you suffer from morning back pain, you can do the following to find some relief, even if you're unsure of the cause:
A combination of stretching and strengthening exercises can help you maintain optimal spine health, reduce any pain due to compression, and improve your flexibility. There are a variety of stretches that can be done, with the most common being the knee-to-chest flexion exercise, cat pose, child’s pose, etc.
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Low-grade inflammation during the night may cause or exacerbate pain, so using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications around your bedtime can significantly affect the rate of inflammation and reduce morning back pain.
Consider supplementing your diet with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving components, like those in our Unwind Drops for muscle relaxation and Unwind Muscle Rub to relieve sore muscles with the help of a massage.
Consult Your Doctor
Though there are many hidden causes of lower back pain in the morning, many of them are difficult to diagnose without proper medical intervention. If you experience painful symptoms even after trying the tips listed here, or if your pain worsens over time, consult your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan so that you can live pain-free.