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What Is Going On With Lower Back Pain in the Morning That Goes Away?

What Is Going On With Lower Back Pain in the Morning That Goes Away?

Dr. Michael Derry, DPT, PT, OCS Jacksonville, Florida
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Lower back pain that goes away in the morning isn't uncommon. In fact, most of my patients report this and it's normal. It's something that I often see in those who have had a history of back pain or have mild arthritis. The great news is that there are ways to prevent it and improve it.

Is it Normal to Have Lower Back Pain in the Morning and Pain Relief Strategies

Waking up to lower back pain in the morning isn't ideal but It's not uncommon to experience some degree of morning lower back pain. I see this in most of my patients. I know it's not convenient but it can be addressed.

Various factors could contribute to this discomfort, including history of back pain, arthritis, or even the way that you are built.

  • Prior back pain makes that area of your back more sensitive, thus you are more aware of that area of your spine.
  • Arthritis is inflammation of your joints. So that inflammation sits there all night resulting in lower back pain or stiffness int the morning.
Some like to blame their mattress for morning back pain but I am the type to encourage change in the person before they change their environment.

Lower back pain in the morning doesn't mean you have underlying "issues" that may need comprehensive pain management strategies to manage, it just means that your body is craving something and you have to give it what it needs.

Often times, when you have back pain in the morning that fades as the day progresses, it's often an indicator that the issue may be easily addressed rather than serious spine concerns.

For those grappling with persistent morning back pain, it’s essential that you stretch before bed and when you wake up in the morning. This is the easier way to improve morning back pain that is sustainable and very low risk. I would rather learn how to improve how my back feels verses try to buy an expensive pillow or mattress!

Morning pain relief can be improved with nightly stretches and a good morning routine. Here is what I have seen work in many of my clients.

Remember, if the pain persists or you want someone to help you through this, it's wise to consult a physical therapist who can help tailor a pain management plan that is specific to your needs.

While lower back pain in the morning that goes away as the day progresses is relatively normal, it shouldn't be a daily challenge.

Identifying Morning Back Pain Causes: From Degenerative Disc Disease to Arthritis

Degenerative disc disease, a natural consequence of aging, can often be a cause of morning back pain. The discs in your back get smaller as we age and that decrease in size leads to stiffness and a reduction in cushion. That said, these are both normal things and you should not think of your back as frail or at risk. It's just a consequence of living.

Likewise, arthritis is often a cause of morning back pain or stiffness. Low-grade inflammation which can tighten the back during sleep, further exacerbates lower back discomfort that often results in morning stiffness that improves as the day goes on.

Nearly all humans above 20 years old have arthritis so this should not be concerning. One easy way to reduce arthritic pain or low grade inflammation would be learn what foods are inflammatory in nature. There is a connection between what you eat and back pain.

As we consider all these factors, from arthritis to disc degeneration, addressing morning lower back pain can not only improve your mornings but also contribute to a pain-free, more active lifestyle.

Addressing Persistent Morning Back and Lower Back Pain Issues

Experiencing lower back pain in the morning is a common discomfort that many of clients face and often accept as a normal part of life.

With my care, the goal is to alleviate your lower back pain effectively and learn how to manage it for the long term.

We first identify the root causes and explore certain diagnoses such as degenerative disc disease, or arthritis. Most of my clients have received an MRI for their lower back and while not recommended or necessary, we always discuss its findings.

Everyone's back pain is unique but often times addressing morning pain involves stretches and reviewing sleep positions. These are simple ways to improve morning discomfort.

Practical Exercises to Alleviate Morning Lower Back Pain: Morning Mobility and Evaluate Sleep Position

Waking up with lower back pain in the morning can be a daunting start to the day, but the good news is, there are effective strategies for obtaining pain relief. If you’re struggling with back pain in the morning, incorporating a morning mobility routine can greatly impact your spine health and reduce pain!

Here is a great morning mobility routine to help alleviate morning lower back pain


  • Lumbar Rotations
Lumbar Rotation Starting Postition
Lumbar Rotation Starting Position

With this movement, you are going to start on your back and bring your feet up close to your bottom.

Lumbar Rotation
Lumbar Rotation Exercise

Then you will begin to rock your knees side to side. You will be able to feel this in your lower back! Breathe out at the end of each rep and do about 10 on each side.

  • Knees to Chest
Knees to Chest Exercise
Knees to Chest Exercise

Begin this exercise by starting on your back and bring your knees up to your chest. Give yourself a pull towards your chest and then release back down. Do this 10 times with a one second hold.

  • Glute Stretches
Glute Stretch
Glute Stretch

Start on your back again, and grab your knee with the opposite hand. Then pull your knee to the side and you should feel a stretch in your lower back. Do this on both sides for 10 second holds.

  • Cat Camel
Cat Camel
Cat Camel Stretch

Begin on your hands and knees with a neutral spine and head.

Cat Camel Exercise
Cat Camel Exercise

Bend your spine up to the sky and dip back down. Do this for about 20 reps. Slow and controlled movements!

  • Prayer Stretch
Prayer Stretch
Prayer Stretch

Begin on your hands and knees again. Put your arms out in front and then sink your bottom back into your legs. You will feel a stretch here. If your knees hurt, just don't go back as far. Do this for 10 reps.

  • Thread the Needle
Thread the Needle
Thread the Needle

Begin on your hands and knees. Take your right hand and thread it through. Then come back around and reach all the way up as far as you can.

Thread the needle
Thread the Needle

Do this exercise for 5 reps on each side.

Gentle stretching can ease stiffness in the lower back, improving your mobility for the day ahead.

Your sleep position plays a critical role in managing low back pain

A good rule of thumb is to try to have a pillow between your legs to align your hips so that your back isn't under extra strain. I do this myself and it makes a huge difference.

Tip: Use a larger pillow than you think! You want to fill the space between your knees.

For many individuals, low back pain upon waking is associated with underlying conditions such as a degeneration or arthritis. However, addressing factors like your sleep position can mitigate some discomfort.

In conclusion, experiencing lower back pain in the morning is a common issue, often stemming from factors such as a history of back pain, mild arthritis, or degenerative disc disease. The good news is that this discomfort can be addressed and improved through proactive measures. While it may be tempting to blame external factors like mattresses, the emphasis should be on personal habits and routines.

Dr. Michael Derry is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and board certified in orthopedics. He is very passionate about treating lower back pain and helping people build their resiliency. He has spent time assisting at universities as well as managing large clinics before starting his own practice in Jacksonville, FL.

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