Changing Your Sleep Position
Simple adjustments to your posture can improve your level of comfort when you wake up and, in some cases, can relieve morning back pain completely. You can also try placing supportive pillows around your body to help keep your spine correctly aligned while you sleep:
- a pillow underneath your knees if you sleep on your back can align the spine better and reduce lower back pain
- a pillow between the legs of a side sleeper better aligns the hips and spine
- a pillow underneath the lower abdomen of a stomach sleeper can reduce the curvature in the lower back
Stretch When you Wake Up
Morning back pain can often be relieved by stretching right before you get out of bed. While you’re lying on your back, reach your arms over your head and reach your feet in the opposite direction. Hold this position for as long as you comfortably can, then bring your knees to your chest. Stretching your lower back in this way can relieve any compression that occurred during the night.
Once you sit up, plant your feet firmly on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Reach your arms over your head and then sway from side to side. These stretches are some of the basic movements in the McKenzie Method for musculoskeletal care emphasizing patient empowerment and self-treatment.
Is it Time for a New Mattress?
If your mattress is old or not supportive enough it may not support your weight or body shape. This lack of support can cause pressure on your spine and cause you to wake up with back pain. Manufacturers recommend that mattresses be replaced every 10 years, or when you see visible sagging or indentations where you have slept. If you decide to get a new mattress, be sure to choose one that is comfortable and supportive.
If you routinely wake up with extreme morning back pain, or your pain hasn’t responded to self-care measures such as stretches and a new mattress, it might be time to consider more immediate relief. Ask your doctor if you can take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be another option for occasional back pain if you can’t take NSAIDs.
If over-the-counter medications don’t help, your doctor will probably send you for imaging and diagnosis to determine the root cause of your morning back pain and suggest a course of pain management therapy to relieve your immediate pain. Your doctor might also suggest exercise therapy to help correct the underlying skeletal or muscular problems that led to your pain.