Back pain can be caused by many factors from poor posture to sleeping positions, which could contribute as a reason that your low back is in pain. Keep reading to learn more about why you might be waking up with low back pain and how you can fix it.
Lower back pain is the most common type of musculoskeletal pain experienced by adults, with 84% of people experiencing it at least some point in their lives, and 23% experiencing it on a chronic basis.
Some mild back pain in the morning is not unusual. In many cases, you can chalk it up to the normal stiffness you feel after staying in one position for several hours.
But, if you are still feeling pain after you have gotten out of bed and started to move around, there may be something specific causing your back pain. It could be an underlying medical condition, an inadequate mattress, or even your sleep position.
Why Does My Back Hurt When I Wake Up?
There are a number of potential causes for lower back pain in the morning. Here are some of the most common.
Unsupportive Sleep Position
If you feel lower back pain every morning after sleeping, your sleep position could be at fault. Sleeping in an unsupportive position can increase pressure on your spine and lead to back pain. When you sleep on your stomach, you are more likely to twist your neck out of alignment with the rest of your spine. Depending on the firmness of your mattress, your lower abdomen may also sink more deeply than the rest of your spine, uncomfortably stretching your back out of alignment. Either way, this sleep position could put you at a higher risk of lower back pain upon waking up. To prevent this misalignment, it may help to try sleeping on your stomach without a head pillow, and by placing a thin pillow beneath your lower abdomen.
Back sleeping makes it easier to keep your spine straight, but can still lead to back pain if you do not support your spine’s natural curvature. One study found this sleep position actually doubles your risk of lower back pain. To lower your risk and prevent discomfort, consider placing a pillow beneath your knees.
Side sleeping is considered the best position for avoiding back pain.
People who sleep on their side report fewer back pain symptoms, but it is still possible to press your spine out of alignment. You can prevent this by choosing a head pillow with a loft that matches the distance between your neck and your shoulder, and sleeping with a pillow between your knees to even out your hips.
Your sleep position can only do so much to relieve lower back pain in the morning if you are sleeping on an old, unsupportive mattress. If you have had your mattress for more than five years, it may be time to consider replacing it.
In one study, participants replaced their old mattresses, which averaged 9.5 years old, with new ones. Over the following month, their sleep quality measurably improved each week, as did their back pain.
Overall, medium firm mattresses reduced back pain symptoms by nearly half.
Even if your mattress is relatively new, it may just not be a good fit for you or your sleep position. It could be too firm or too soft to provide adequate support. In general, medium firm mattresses tend to reduce lower back pain more effectively than firm mattresses do.
Back pain is common during pregnancy. While it typically begins between the second and third trimesters, it can start as early as during the first four weeks. For some that are pregnant, their back pain worsens during sleep and can cause them to wake up. However, this type of back pain tends to resolve after birth.
During the pregnancy, placing a warm compress on the back can provide relief for lower back pain, as can regular stretching. When getting into and out of bed, using your leg strength instead of your back muscles to help you stand up can help prevent straining your lower back.
Sleeping on the left side with the knees bent is also recommended during pregnancy, to relieve discomfort and support fetal health. You can support your spine during sleep by placing pillows under your abdomen, between your legs, and against the small of your back.
Degenerative Disc Disease
More than 90% of adults over 60 have a degenerated disc. Degenerative disc disease can develop naturally with age, as the spinal discs between the vertebrae dry out and break down.
For some people, this process happens with minimal pain. For others, the pain can be intense and feel worse in the morning. For others, the pain can be intense and feel worse in the morning. Being overweight or obese can exacerbate disc degeneration and any associated lower back pain.
Treatment for degenerative disc disease may include pain medications, steroid injections, ice or heat therapy, physical therapy, acupuncture, and wearing a back brace.
Fibromyalgia affects up to 5% of people, with women being more at risk than men. The condition causes muscle pain, tension, and spasms throughout the body, including the back. Symptoms also include sleep problems, depression, and anxiety. Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, doctors may prescribe muscle relaxants and pain relievers to relieve symptoms. Therapies like massage, acupuncture, and physical therapy may also be recommended.
Other Causes of Lower Back Pain in the Morning
A number of other factors may contribute to lower back pain upon waking up. Lower back pain can be caused by other medical conditions and lifestyle factors such as:
- Kidney stones
- Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression
- Occupations that require heavy lifting, pushing, or pulling
- Old age
- Physical injury
- Poor fitness
- Spinal cord problems like sciatica, spinal stenosis, or herniated disc
- Weight gain