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What Causes Lower Back Stiffness In The Morning

Some Common Reasons For Morning Lower Back Pain

How To Cure Back Stiffness In The Morning

Sometimes the causes for your morning lower back pain may be so simple you did not even think of them. The most obvious would be the quality of your mattress. If your mattress is more than 10 years old, lumpy and bumpy, you may be receiving no support. If your back is not supported while you sleep, the strain on your lower back magnifies. Your lumbar region carries the majority of that pressure during the day and if it does not have an opportunity for rest that pain will also magnify.

What Causes Morning Back Pain

Lower back pain in the morning is often a symptom of inflammation or structural changes in the spine that developed due to the constriction of space around spinal discs or nerves. If the problem that is causing the pain is temporary or it is corrected, the pain may lessen when an individual wakes up and starts to move the body.

Other Signs Of Inflammatory Back Pain

Back pain at night is one of the more obvious clues for inflammatory back pain, but there are other key signs to keep in mind as well. There are slightly different sets of criteria for inflammatory back pain, but generally speaking they include the following:

  • Back pain improves with exercise or activity
  • Back pain gets worse with rest
  • Back pain in the morning that lasts more than 30 minutes
  • Gradual, not sudden, onset

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Rest And Occasional Exercise Is Enough

This is a temporary measure and does not help the actual cause of why you have pain. If you rest too much rest and practice improper exercise youll just bring more injury to your spine.

This misunderstanding allows us to believe that you are already following a routine that is sufficient for protecting you. If only temporary measures are followed, then days which hurt less gradually become days with more uncomfortable symptoms.

Eventually, it becomes too recurrent and on a daily basis. If it continues to hurt in the morning, a different plan of action should be considered.

Muscle Imbalances And Tightness

How to cure low back stiffness in the morning

Below is a picture of a normal spine , and a spine of a person with lower crossed syndrome . Ideally, muscles are all used evenly and are balanced. Unfortunately, many people have lower crossed syndrome, and this usually results from lack of activity, prolonged sitting, poor posture, poor body composition , and lack of core stability. As you can see in the picture below, someone with lower crossed syndrome will have weak and often protruding abs, tight hip flexors , tight erector muscles in the low back, and inhibited, weak glutes.

People who have muscle imbalances such as lower crossed syndrome have a greater likelihood of experiencing low back stiffness in the morning, as they spend their days with abnormal stresses on their bodies. The already tightened muscles will tend to have greater tone than the weakened muscles- even while sleeping. The lack of movement during sleep makes the tight muscles feel even tighter , as they arent as warmed up as they are during the day.

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Treatment For Morning Back Pain

What should you do if you often wake up with back pain in the morning? The first step is to talk to a pain specialist to find the underlying cause that could be contributing to your issues. Sometimes, a simple lifestyle change can make the biggest difference such as replacing your old bed with a quality mattress.

Why Is My Back Pain Worse In The Morning

Morning back pain can cause stiffness, discomfort, reduced flexibility and mobility, and both sharp and dull pain. Sometimes these symptoms improve as the day goes on only to return the next morning. Why does this happen? Find out 4 reasons for your morning back pain in todays blog.

Louise Baillie

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Why Do I Wake Up Feeling Stiff

As we sleep, we have an increase if fluid in our discs. This fluid builds and it results in you being a little taller in the morning than you are in the afternoon. Donât believe me, try it out! The discs rely on this fluid to distribute force so you can remain flexible and strong. As we age our discs arenât as fluid filled and they lose some elasticity. This means you need to move to have the relief in the stiffness or tightness in your back. The lack of movement during the night means the disc canât move the nutrients in and out like it can when we move. This lack of movement, age, and some other factors results in morning stiffness and tightness.

Lack Of/too Much Physical Activity

How to Fix MORNING Lower Back Pain for Good


If you sit most of the day, it weakens your core muscles, which support your spine. A spine that is not properly supported is easily susceptible to injuries, such as strains, pinched nerves, bulging discs and herniated discs.


Exercising on a daily basis is a great way to get your blood flowing and your blood circulation increased .

Release those feel-good endorphins, and help clear nasty toxins from your body.

Swimming is also very beneficial for lower back pain.

Heres a good video showing 5 effective morning stretches for back stiffness:

If your lower back is stiff after working out , heres the #1 way to prevent it.

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How Sleep Can Contribute To Back Pain

Although there are many potential sources of lower back pain, how youre sleeping can be a factor. When youre sleep-deprived, your tolerance for pain is lower than it would be if you slept well. Studies have shown that losing sleep can heighten sensitivity to painful stimuli. In theory, sleep loss increases painful inflammation and getting enough sleep may reduce inflammation.

Another factor that can increase back pain is your response to pain medication when youre sleep-deprived. In a study of healthy normal adults, the analgesic effects of codeine are diminished in sleep-deprived individuals versus non-sleepy individuals. Sleeping well may help your pain medications work better.

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, its 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 wont suffer the consequences the next morning.

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When To See A Healthcare Provider

If you have morning back pain that is severe, gets increasingly common or is present every morning, or is accompanied by other symptoms, be sure to see your healthcare provider. They’ll want to look for possible causes of your pain including injury, illness, or another medical problem.

Some conditions, including fibromyalgia and lupus, may cause periodic bouts of back pain that clears up in between, so also report any back pain that comes and goesespecially if you experience fatigue, rashes, or cognitive dysfunction at the same time.

Back pain that radiates down your leg may be due to a herniated disc or sciatica .

Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about the intensity, nature, frequency, and duration of your pain as well as any symptoms that appear to be related to it.

What Makes My Joints Stiff In The Morning

Pain in Lower Back

Image: Bigstock

Q. Why are my joints so stiff when I wake up? Is there anything I can do about it?

A. Stiffness in the back, knees, or feet is a common complaint I hear from older individuals. People often say, “I’m just getting old,” but old age alone does not cause morning joint stiffness. It is usually an indication of worn joints, muscle tightness, or inflammation from arthritis.

As your joints get older, the spongy cushion of cartilage begins to dry out and stiffen. The joint lining also produces less synovial fluid, which lubricates the joint. Weak muscles and stiff tendons also tend to tighten during sleep. Osteoarthritis, , and rheumatoid arthritis, , both can trigger morning stiffness.

The average episode lasts only about 10 to 15 minutes. The stiffness goes away as you move and warm up the joints and muscles. However, stiffness from rheumatoid arthritis may last more than an hour.

You cannot reverse the effects of joint aging, and while certain medications can help manage arthritis pain and inflammation, stiffness can still occur. Still, you can reduce the severity and frequency of morning joint stiffness by being more active and engaging in exercise to increase muscle strength and flexibility. Maintaining a healthy weight also can help. Finally, don’t be swayed by joint health supplements, such as glucosamine or chondroitin. These do not appear to help manage symptoms in the long term.

William Kormos, M.D.

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Fix A Bad Sleep Posture

As you probably know, sleeping on your back, without a pillow, is the healthiest sleeping posture.

But who sleeps like that?

Only a few people find this sleeping posture comfortable.

Most of us like to sleep on our stomach, or on our side, and some of us love to curl up on our side with our knees bent towards our stomach.

The problem is:

All of these positions cause our spine to get out of alignment, and our muscles stretched or shortened for too long .

Some of us unknowingly sleep in all kinds of awkward positions, which reduce blood circulation and cut oxygen supply to their muscles.

The simple solution to bad sleeping posture?

The Full body Pillow

Your pillow is more than your night-time hair styler.

A full body pillow will keep you sleeping in the right posture through the night and your back muscles relaxed and resting.

A good body pillow is long enough to give you full body support and encourages you to sleep in the best position .

When your spine is aligned and the weight of your arms and legs is divided equally, your blood circulation is optimal and your muscles can fully relax while you sleep.

You wont believe how incredibly helpful a body pillow can be until you try it for yourself.

Check out my post about the top 3 body pillows for back pain to help you choose the best one for you.

The Dangers Of The Cycle Of Morning Back Problems

As you go to bed, the following extensive chain of events occurs:

  • Natural endorphins or medications metabolize and the inflammatory symptoms reappear
  • Loose and warm muscles begin to cool down, reducing circulation
  • Muscles that were mobile throughout the day stop moving, reducing flexibility and circulation
  • Mobile and free joints come to rest, allowing the muscles to tighten and the joint space to swell
  • Looser muscles once in motion, stop, leading to muscle tightness and stiffness
  • Muscles which are already tight, become tighter due to all of the above factors
  • Reduced joint space from tightening leads to impingement of nerves and discs
  • Over tightened muscles cause antagonistic muscles to lose activity
  • The lumbar spine becomes arched, irritated and inflamed from these imbalances
  • Imbalanced muscles along with tighter joint spaces, contribute pressure on bulging discs
  • Increased disc pressure impinge on nerve roots affecting downstream sensitivity and motor function
  • Inflammatory pain contributes to generalized anxiety and interrupted sleep
  • Your sensitivity discomfort becomes heightened, increasing your need for medication
  • What once was believed to be appreciated as a restful period, actually becomes an ordeal of severe discomfort.

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    The Scariest Type Of Morning Back Pain: Inflammatory Back Pain

    The closest thing to back pain that is truly prominent in the morning is inflammatory back pain , or spondyloarthritis.3 Although IBP is well known to medical science, it often eludes diagnosis, its biology is mysterious, and morning symptoms specifically are a stumper, as unexplained as joints that ache before a storm. Its just something IBP does.

    But dont panic! Although studies have confirmed that morning is a common time for inflammatory back pain to flare up, they have also shown that the connection is not strong or exclusive.4 In fact, most morning stiffness and pain is not pathologically inflammatory. Its just that IBP is the only official morning back pain culprit.

    The pain of IBP tends to be quite severe. If its not actually waking you up, its probably not IBP, or its a minor case.

    When should you consider the possibility of IBP? Basically if your morning back is particularly bad: nasty and very consistent morning symptoms. The diagnosis is also more likely if you have other signs of this kind of back pain. Heres a good inflammatory back pain quiz, and heres my own quick checklist of reasons to ask your doctor about spondyloarthritis:5

    When To See A Doctor

    Low Back Pain in the Morning? DO THIS!

    If the pain symptoms do not subside after a few days or weeks of rest, further evaluation by a doctor may be needed.

    Your doctor may recommend stronger medications like prescription muscle relaxants and/or opioids. They may also advise other interventions like injection therapy or surgery.

    If you feel you are unable to treat your pain symptoms at home, or find your pain increasing, reach out to a medical professional for an evaluation.

    If you find yourself suffering from lower back pain in the mornings and your days being severely affected, call Pain and Spine Specialists today! We are a team of highly qualified providers who will properly evaluate your symptoms and determine the best course of treatment. Let us help you return to full functionality so you no longer experience lower back pain when standing and/or walking. Call 703-8767 , 603-3560 , or 433-1905 and schedule an appointment today.

    You dont need to live with chronic morning back pain. Let us help you begin your journey to enhancing the quality of your life.


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    Change Up Your Sleep Position Or Mattress

    Switching to a more supportive sleep position can reduce lower back pain. Also consider how you can use pillows or invest in a new mattress to support better spinal alignment and relieve lower back pain.

    Research suggests medium firm mattresses are the best mattresses for back pain. In one study of people with low back pain, those who slept on medium firm mattresses reported lower pain scores both during sleep and upon getting up in the morning.

    Tips For Dealing With Morning Stiffness

    There actually has been a modified-release prednisone tablet developed. Taken at approximately 10 pm, the tablet delivers a dose of prednisone to the body about 4 hours later, which is considered the best time to suppress IL-6. Some clinical studies published in 2011 suggested that this is the best way to manage morning stiffness. The drug called Lodotra in Europe where it was approved before the US approval performed well in studies. The FDA approved it in 2012 under the name Rayos.

    If you have inflammatory arthritis, managing morning stiffness involves working with your healthcare provider to control the inflammation. No matter what type of arthritis you have, here are some tips which may help:

    • Sleep in a position that supports your joints.
    • Be sure that your bedroom or sleep environment is warm. Dial-up a comfortable temperature on the thermostat and use heating pads and electric blankets for extra warmth.
    • Before getting out of bed, do simple stretching exercises in bed to limber up.
    • When you first get up, take a hot shower. Standing under the warm water will relax you.
    • Do a few more exercises once your muscles begin to loosen up.
    • Easier said than done, but when you go to bed, let go of work, stress, or any problems. Consciously plan to escape stress to help reduce tension and allow your body to relax before falling asleep.
    • If possible, delay your activities until later in the day. If you work, consider requesting a later start time.

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    Overdoing Exercise The Day Before

    Regular exercise can help strengthen the back and reduce back pain. However, overdoing it at the gym or while playing sports can lead to morning back pain and stiffness.

    It is important for a person to pay attention to their posture during and after any intense physical activity. Properly warming up and cooling down can also help reduce back pain and muscle stiffness the following day.


    The following can help alleviate symptoms of exercise-related back pain:

    • applying hot or cold packs to the affected area
    • taking OTC anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen

    Inflammation Sleep Stress And Pain

    Causes of Morning Stiffness From Arthritis

    The link between sleep and pain is based on some superficially simple inflammatory biology: bad sleep is inflammatory and inflammation makes it harder to sleep, which is not widely appreciated. That means that sleeping badly can actually make it harder to sleep well!17 This is a vicious cycle every extremely frustrated insomniac is familiar with: being exhausted from a sleepless is not a guarantee that you will sleep well the next night.

    And that vicious cycle is relevant to night and morning pain, which is known to be significantly mediated by the immune system signalling molecule interleukin-6. IL-6 and inflammation are almost synonymous more of one means more of the other. Everyone knows that stress makes it harder to sleep, but how? Its not just because your mind is racing its because stress makes us produce IL-6, which is inflammatory, and inflammation in turn makes it harder to sleep! And then the bad sleep also makes us pump more IL-6

    And thats why its important to get your sleep!

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