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Mornings Worse For Your Lower Back Pain: What is Your Back Telling You?

Mornings Worse For Your Lower Back Pain: What is Your Back Telling You?

Dr. Michael Derry, DPT, PT, OCS Jacksonville, Florida
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I have seen many clients who experience lower back pain when they wake up. Unfortunately, it is more common than you might think! My clients usually wonder if it is a sign of something serious, if they need to change their mattress or pillow, or even if they just need to take some medication to get it to go away. Lets dive into some of these most commonly asked questions!

When Should I Be Worried About Lower Back Pain?

Like I said before, a lot of people are worried that their lower back pain in the morning could be a sign of something more serious. Finding the cause of back pain is difficult.

Morning stiffness is the most common symptoms that I see in those with lower back pain.

Here are some things that I ask my clients to figure out if something more serious is going on with their lower back pain.

- Recent fevers

- Night chills or sweats

- Any unexplained weight loss or weight gain

If they have experienced any of these things, I would likely recommend seeing their primary care provider.

If the answer to those questions are no, then you might just need an evaluation from a movement specialist such as a physical therapist. An evaluation by a physical therapist can help you understand why you may be experiencing lower back pain when you wake up and how to help that pain.

Physical Therapy Evaluation
Physical Therapy Evaluation

What's The Best Sleeping Position for Lower Back Pain?

When talking about lower back pain upon waking up in the mornings, lots of people want to talk about changing their mattress, pillow, and even sleeping position. While changing these things could possibly help, we want to focus more on changing your body instead of your environment.

Changing your body first can possibly save you thousands of dollars on a new mattress that you may not have needed!

Sleeping positions are different for everyone. For those who sleep on their stomach, lower back pain upon waking may be a little more common. This is because when you are on your belly, the joints in your spine are closed and shorted. This can make many people feel stiff and achy.

The ideal sleeping position is on your side. This is because there is a curve in your spine while on your side and that allows for some space in your joints!

Side Lying Sleeping Position

Although there are better sleeping positions than others, there are still other things you can do to help with your lower back pain in the morning other than changing the way you sleep!

How to Get Relief From Lower Back Pain in the Morning? 

Some people have said they have been told to use heat or even pain killers in the morning to relieve their lower back pain. Neither one of these options are great long term options- let me tell you why!

Heat is not a long term fix for lower back pain in the morning. Although it may help in the moment, it is not going to make your lower back pain in the morning go away.

Also, not great taking pain killers to get rid of your morning back pain. This is because pain killers come with risks, especially if you have to take them daily when you wake up. Long term use of pain medications (like Acetaminophen) can lead to liver damage, increased risk for heart attack or stroke, kidney damage, and gastrointestinal issues.

Risks from Pain Medications for Back Pain
Risks with Pain Medications for Back Pain

The fix that you are looking for can be found by just incorporating one simple habit into your daily routine! Stretching in the morning and at night. Just by doing this one exercise, you will feel relief from your lower back pain without all of the risks of taking pain medication.

1 Simple Daily Stretch for Morning Lower Back Pain

The answer to your morning lower back pain is to stretch before you go to bed and right when you wake up. The benefits of this are that you are stretching out your spine to remove some of the inflammatory stuff that built up in your joints throughout the night. This simple stretch can help you improve your mobility and it takes very little of your time in the morning!


Standing Lower Back and Leg Stretch

Morning Stretch for Lower Back Pain
Morning Stretch for Lower Back and Leg
Morning Stretch for Lower Back Pain
Morning Stretch for Lower Back Pain

For this stretch, all you need to do is prop your foot up on something. It can be your bed, a chair, your stairs, whatever you have!

Then you are going to hold onto something for balance. Next, just bend forward and come back up. This stretch may feel like a hamstring stretch - but we are working on our lower back here. So make sure you feel that stretch in your back!

Do this for about 12 to 15 reps on each side before you go to bed and when you wake up in the morning, and I think you will experience some relief in that lower back pain when you wake up in the morning.

In conclusion, by identifying potential red flags and adopting simple lifestyle changes like adjusting sleeping positions and incorporating daily stretches, you can find relief without resorting to medication or expensive purchases. Prioritizing your spinal health through proactive measures ensures a restful night's sleep and a pain-free morning routine.


1. Oliveira CB, Maher CG, Pinto RZ, Traeger AC, Lin CC, Chenot JF, van Tulder M, Koes BW. Clinical practice guidelines for the management of non-specific low back pain in primary care: an updated overview. Eur Spine J. 2018 Nov;27(11):2791-2803. doi: 10.1007/s00586-018-5673-2. Epub 2018 Jul 3. PMID: 29971708.

2. Delitto A, George SZ, Van Dillen L, Whitman JM, Sowa G, Shekelle P, Denninger TR, Godges JJ; Orthopaedic Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. Low back pain. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2012 Apr;42(4):A1-57. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2012.42.4.A1. Epub 2012 Mar 30. PMID: 22466247; PMCID: PMC4893951.

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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