Does your back feel like someone’s inserted a steel rod into your spine overnight?
Do you have to wait a few minutes before standing up and getting out of your bed in the morning?
I hear that story nearly every week from patients. So what causes your back to feel so stiff in the mornings and feel so much better within an hour or two of waking?
The answer is one of two posiibilities:
- You have wear & tear in the joints of your back
- You have inflammation and swelling around the joints or disc in your spine
Let’s have a look at the first cause. Wear & tear of the spinal joints. This is usually caused by age or overuse. As we age the spinal joints wear. In particular, the joint surfaces become worn and not so smooth. They rub against each other and don’t move as well. This causes the stiffness in the lower back as well as other spinal joints. This stiffness becomes worse with rest. The more you rest the more stiffness there is. So you can imagine if you rest for 8 hours overnight, you’re going to wake up feeling stiff in the morning. You generally start to feel better after an hour or two, once you start moving and lubricating the spinal joints.
The other common cause of morning back stiffness is inflammation and swelling due to injury. Most inflammatory conditions are worse in the mornings and even during the night. When you’ve got a disc problem the inflammation causes swelling in the lower back joints, muscles, ligaments and other sensitive tissues. This swelling builds up overnight and if it is significant, it can compress pain sensitive structures, causing you pain that disturbs your sleep. The swelling builds up because you are lying still. So it’s at it’s worst when you wake up in the morning after you’ve been ling still for a long period. It will start to improve once you start to move around. This is because the swelling gets dispersed by the body. As you move, the swelling moves. However, be careful, the more you move the more your swelling could develop, causing you more pain and stiffness.
Either way, whatever the reason for your back stiffness, sleeping on a poor bed will make it worse. Read about choosing the right bed in this article.