Waking Up with Lower Back Pain? [Causes & How to Fix It]


Waking Up with Lower Back PainIf you ever woke up with severe lower back pain, you’re in good, if unfortunate, company. Many people wake up every morning with symptoms of stiffness and tightness in the lower back. This chronic morning back pain can impair flexibility and impede ability to walk or sleep comfortably. If these symptoms aren’t addressed and their cause remedied, the problem only worsens, recurring every morning in increasingly aggravated form. In this article, we’ll explore the causes of lower back pain in the morning and how to get rid of it, once and for all.

Causes of Lower Back Pain

Before examining lower back pain that occurs specifically in the morning, it’s important to understand the causes of lower back pain, or even just back pain, in general. It is difficult for doctors to diagnose the source of a patient’s back pain, as there can be many different causes. What’s more, a person’s back pain may caused by a single factor or several in combination.

Muscle pain of any sort, including both dull and sharp varieties, and in any region of the body, including the lower back, is most often caused by some form of weakness in one muscle, or set of muscles, and a corresponding overuse of a compensating muscle or group. This muscle weakness can be caused by insufficient muscle development or conditioning, improper positioning or alignment of the muscle, or illness or injury, causing muscle inflammation, infection or other damage.

As a result of any of these problems, the surrounding vertebrae, joints, ligaments, tendons, discs and other tissues can experience wear and strain, causing increased pain. Any such problems in the lumbar region may impact a disc and place pressure on a nerve. When this happens, the body undergoes a process known as “muscle guarding” whereby the lower back muscles spasm and stiffen in order to protect those parts of the body from further damage. Muscle spasms and muscle guarding both tend to require some form of medical treatment in order to vanish completely.

Medical Conditions That Can Cause Lower Back Pain

Certain medical conditions can also cause lower back pain, and if any such condition is involved, medical treatment should be sought immediately. These conditions include the following:

  • ankylosing spondylitis
  • facet joint injury
  • fibromyalgia
  • osteoarthritis
  • osteoporosis
  • pregnancy
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • ruptured disc
  • spinal stenosis
  • sprained muscle

Typically, if any of these conditions are involved in one’s lower back pain, it will also present a number of other symptoms unrelated to back pain as well.

Why is My Lower Back Pain Worse in the Morning?

Waking Up with Lower Back Pain
Waking Up with Lower Back Pain

So far, we’ve examined risk factors that can lead to lower back pain in the morning or at any time of day or night. Next, we’ll examine what causes certain lower back pain to feel worse in the mornings.

Experts suggest the most common causes of lower back pain in the mornings are the following:

  • fibromyalgia
  • myofascial pain syndrome
  • inflammation that’s either pathological from autoimmune disease or chronic with age
  • sub-optimal sleeping position

Other common causes of morning back pain include being overweight, a poor diet, lack of regular physical activity, insufficient sleep and a cool or damp environment. Improving in any of these areas can go a long way toward eliminating those factors that can tend to perpetuate and exacerbate morning back pain.

The Self-perpetuating Cycle of Morning Back Pain

Morning stiffness and tightness in the lower back can be somewhat of a self-perpetuating cycle. Because the symptoms diminish throughout the day, often seeming to disappear just before bedtime, people often ignore the problem, deciding that, if it goes away over the course of the day, it can’t be that serious or important.

The problem with this way of thinking is that such repeated inattention to the root cause or causes of morning lower back pain only leads to an unwitting overuse of the muscles already under strain. Ignoring the problem leads, in turn, to the recurrence of that pain the following morning, only in aggravated form. Eventually the intensity and duration of the pain starts to increase, impeding more and more aspects of daily living.

Symptom Relief for Morning Back Pain Only Treats Symptoms

Many people with lower back pain in the morning try various methods of relieving the symptoms of their pain so they can go about their day. This may include pain medications and muscle relaxers, setting up pillows for ideal spinal alignment, controlling climate and buying the “perfect” mattress. Other people simply take rest breaks whenever necessary until the pain subsides.

The problem with these approaches is that none of them get to the root of the issue, which tends to be structural in nature. Muscles do not simply return to their optimal positions during rest. Typically, they require some form of retraining.

Similarly, muscle guarding does not automatically disappear during periods of rest. On the contrary, unless the trigger for the guarding is resolved, the condition may only worsen, regardless of a person’s state of activity or rest.

Furthermore, treating only the symptom of the problem is a significant part of the reason why the pain feels worse in the mornings. As the symptom relief takes hold, the body is fooled into believing that the issues causing the pain have been resolved when, in fact, they have not. This leads to the same daily habits and behaviors perpetuating the problem. Over the night, as a person sleeps, the recurring issues aggravating the core structural problems and the fading of any symptom relief taken produces a pronounced and noticeable recurrence of the pain the following morning.

How to Fix Morning Lower Back Pain

Many people accept being sore and stiff every morning as simply another unfortunate, unavoidable part of life, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Properly performed stretches and exercises can go a long way toward helping to diminish and, ultimately, eliminate lower back pain in the morning and at any time of day or night. Many people erroneously assert that exercise only aggravates back pain, but this is only true if the exercises and stretches in question are being performed improperly.

Tips for Stretching and Exercising Back Pain Away Properly

Stretches and exercises should always be performed gently and incrementally. Never push yourself too hard or overextend yourself, lest you produce the opposite result from what you’re seeking and only worsen the problem. Don’t exercise too soon after eating. Be sure to breathe fully and steadily as you stretch or exercise. Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercising to prevent overheating.

Stretches that are effective in helping to relieve morning back pain can be as simple as sitting in a chair and bending forward to touch your toes or lying on your back on the floor and bringing your knees to your chest. Avoid stretches and exercises that twist your spine.

Exit the Bed Consciously

One last tip for getting rid of morning back pain is to start your day right by avoiding triggering a problem the moment you get out of bed. Many people who experience morning back pain actually wake up feeling fine, only noticing the pain as soon as they get out of bed. What they may not realize is that the pain didn’t exist until they exited the bed, and, more, it only came into existence because of how they exited the bed.

If you’re twisting your body at all when you exit the bed, you’re twisting the spine, which risks causing or aggravating any number of misalignments or impactions. Likewise, if you’re sitting up sharply, you’re likely jarring the muscles, potentially prompting new or renewed sources of pain.

The proper and healthy way to extricate yourself from bed is to roll slowly and consciously onto your side and use your arms to carefully help push yourself up into a seated position with your legs dangling over the side of the bed. From here, use your legs instead of your back to rise to standing.

By making certain basic lifestyle changes and seeking medical assistance where needed, you can be free of morning back pain, once and for all, and get back to living life fully and comfortably again.


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