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What are Common Causes of Morning Back Pain?

Anna T.
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Morning back pain is most often caused by sleeping poorly, especially if the pain tends to go away as the day progresses. Bad sleep that causes back pain in the morning may be due to an uncomfortable mattress or pillow. It could also occur when a person slept all night in an awkward, uncomfortable position. Another thing that may contribute to morning back pain is poor posture, both throughout the day and during sleep. Arthritis or a pinched nerve could also cause morning back pain.

If a person suspects that his back pain is related to how he is sleeping, he can usually eliminate the problem by trying to improve his sleeping situation. A pillow that has gone flat can cause a person to have to sleep with her head at an uncomfortable angle for her body. Additionally, a worn out mattress that is unpleasant to lie on does nothing to comfort a person with tired muscles that need rest. Replacing pillows and mattresses may take care of morning back pain problems. If it does not, the back pain is likely related to something else.

People with poor posture tend to have more problems with back pain in the morning than people who stand and sit up straight. A person who makes a conscious effort every day to improve his posture may wake up in the mornings with less pain. It is also probably a good idea for a person to practice good sleep posture. In most cases, sleeping on the stomach contributes to more back pain than sleeping on the back or side. Changing positions throughout the night may also be beneficial because it keeps constant pressure off certain parts of the body.

Arthritis is a common morning back pain culprit. Many people begin to have problems with arthritis when they reach their late 30s or early 40s, and the symptoms are often the worst first thing in the morning. Arthritis usually gets better as the day wears on and a person gets up and begins moving around. Another possible cause of morning back pain are pinched nerves. These can happen during the night simply from sleeping in the wrong position for too long. The only way for either arthritis or a pinched nerve to be correctly diagnosed is through a doctor, and a person with chronic morning back problems should see one as soon as possible to make sure the pain isn't caused by a more serious problem.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Anna T.
By Anna T.
Anna Thurman is a skilled writer who lends her talents to The Health Board. Her ability to research and present information in an engaging and accessible manner allows her to create content that resonates with readers across a wide range of subjects.
Discussion Comments
By serenesurface — On Jul 07, 2013

Whenever I sleep on my stomach, I have morning back pain. I only sleep on my side with a pillow in between my legs or on my back with a pillow underneath my knees now. The back pain has disappeared.

By turquoise — On Jul 06, 2013

@ddljohn-- I had the same issue for a while. My doctor said that muscles relax at night and that can cause back pain at night and in the morning. It doesn't make much sense to me, but I guess that's the best explanation for it.

Have you changed your bed recently? I also have a herniated disc and I've noticed that when I sleep at someone else's house, I wake up with terrible back pain. It can take days and even weeks for the back to adjust to a different mattress.

You might want to consider getting a one time steroid shot to relieve inflammation in your back. There are also back strengthening exercises for lower back pain that you can do.

By ddljohn — On Jul 05, 2013

I know the cause of my morning back pain, I just don't know why it happens.

I have herniated disc in my lower back but it only causes pain in the morning. Everyday, I wake up with a stiff and painful back. I have trouble walking for an hour or two every morning. And then somehow, the pain and stiffness disappears and I'm fine for the rest of the day, until the next morning.

I go through the same thing every single day. I'm baffled. Shouldn't I have pain all day or no pain at all? Why do I only have pain in the mornings? What should I do for lower back pain relief in the mornings?

By MrsPramm — On Jul 03, 2013

I find that sitting in one position for hours on end can often lead to having lower back pain for several days. I try to regularly do some exercises for relieving lower back pain. The exercises need to be gentle and you need to do them every couple of hours or so to give your back a break from bending over your computer.

By KoiwiGal — On Jul 03, 2013
@pleonasm - It's also worth saying that if you want your mattress to last longer, you have to flip it regularly in different directions, so the springs are given a chance to recover.

People with bad backs are almost always going to be better off with a firm mattress as well.

I disagree with the idea that everyone can just make a few changes and free themselves from back pain though. Unfortunately, for some people, it's always going to be chronic. The spine is a very delicate arrangement of bones and nerves and it doesn't take much to damage it. By all means, seek some way to relieve your pain, but don't feel like a failure if you can't find it. Chronic lower back pain is very common for a reason.

By pleonasm — On Jul 02, 2013

It is so important to have a good mattress, particularly if you experience a lot of back pain. You can't just go for decades in between replacing your mattress. This is particularly true of people who are overweight. I'm overweight myself, and unfortunately it tends to wear out my mattress more quickly.

They say you should change it every five years, but I just wait until it's obvious that it's getting too uncomfortable. Lower back pain is not something that people should endure, thinking it's just a normal thing. If you've got it, make changes until it goes away.

Anna T.
Anna T.
Anna Thurman is a skilled writer who lends her talents to The Health Board. Her ability to research and present information in an engaging and accessible manner allows her to create content that resonates with readers across a wide range of subjects.
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