Morning Back Pain: Why is Back Pain Worse in the Morning?

Even if you’re an early bird, getting out of bed when you suffer from back pain can be daunting. As many patients know, a sunrise can leave them stiff, sore, and wondering why they have morning back pain.

In this article, we’ll look at morning back pain from a few different angles. We’ll examine the causes, signs and symptoms, and treatments for morning back pain.

We’ll also look at the impact morning back pain can have on your daily routine and what you can do to ease morning back pain.

someone grabbing their back in pain

Why Does My Back Hurt More in the Morning?

There are many reasons why some people might experience back pain when they wake up in the morning. Morning back pain is often attributed to the morning being the most vulnerable time for your spine.

This vulnerability can be due to what you do before bed or how you sleep, but your back pain might also be a sign of an underlying issue with your nervous system.

Back Pain in the Morning: What Are Some Possible Causes?

For many patients, morning back pain isn’t a symptom of a larger spinal issue, but a manifestation of other bad habits. Before seeking professional help, consider common environmental causes of back pain:

Bad Mattress: Firm bedding supports your spine better through the night, and well-worn, cratered mattresses may aggravate your back while you sleep.

Poor Sleep Position: Sleeping on your stomach causes your lower back to extend, placing it under pressure. Side sleepers who don’t bend their knees (or sometimes even prop a pillow between their knees) may also be irritating their backs as they sleep. 

Poor Ergonomics: Bad posture? Work in a bad environment? Your ergonomics may take a toll on your back that worsens at night when you’re still.

How to Relieve Back Pain After Waking Up

While morning back pain is often harmless and attributed to bad sleeping posture (which can worsen over time), it’s important to see a doctor if you wake up with extreme pain. However, if your back pain is caused by an 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.

Take a Painkiller: Acetaminophen reduces morning pain, while ibuprofen helps reduce inflammation in the morning, so it doesn’t get worse throughout the morning.

Exercise Your Way Out of It: While light exercise may be difficult first thing, low back stretches may help relieve morning pain.

Back Pain in the Morning Might be a Sign of a Medical Condition

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, but you may suffer from:

  • Herniated Disc: 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 or ruptured disc, 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. 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 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 doctor before your morning stiffness worsens.

About Orthopaedic & Spine Center of the Rockies

The physicians and staff of the Orthopaedic & Spine Center of the Rockies have taken great pleasure in serving the people of northern Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska since our founding in 1969.

Our orthopaedic surgeons have advanced training or board certification in surgery of the back and neck, hand and upper extremity (arm), hip, knee, shoulder, foot and ankle, orthopaedic trauma, and joint replacements.  

Contact one of our locations today to set up your appointment with one of our award-winning surgeons! Visit our website for more information on back pain and available treatments.

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