If you suffer from chronic lower back pain, there’s a good chance that getting out of bed in the morning is the most challenging part of your day. If you’re afflicted with immobilizing pain first thing in the morning you are not alone. Many patients of our New Jersey spine specialty practice tell us that they wake up each morning wondering whether it’s going to be one of “those” days where just standing up is excruciating. Some say that they wonder whether they’ll be able to get past the pain in order to make it to the bathroom. The good news is that if you are experiencing the same thing, your problem is both common and solvable.
First let’s take a look at exactly what is happening because without this information, it’s easy to imagine that something terrible happened while you slept.
There are two common reasons for back pain in the morning. The first is simple stiffness and muscle tightness that comes from lying still and prone for 7+ hours. As important as it is to get a good night’s sleep, it leaves you vulnerable to this scenario.
The second thing that can happen has to do with the fluid found in your vertebral discs. When you are horizontal through the night, that fluid naturally shifts. Moving to an upright, vertical position represents a change in position, and if an individual disc (or discs) is unhealthy that process can take more time. When the fluid doesn’t move into position quickly, it leaves you without the cushioning that you need between your vertebrae, and that leads to intense pain. The problem is made worse by the physical motions involved with getting out of bed. Those movements don’t require a thought when you’re feeling normal, but if the fluid doesn’t fill in quickly then you’re likely to see stars when you move too quickly.
So now that you know what’s happening, what’s the right way to address it?
You need to take the shift in position slowly and methodically. Start by shifting from whatever position you slept in to lying on your back and gently pulling your belly button towards the mattress. This may seem basic, but it is the first step in movement progression, and should be followed by slowly sliding one heel at a time into a bent knee position.
At this point you can relax your abdominal muscles and then slowly roll over onto your side, facing the end of the mattress. This motion reduces twisting and minimizes stress on your spine, while putting you in position to get out of the bed. From here you can bend your knees so that your feet lower to the floor while simultaneously pushing your upper body up with your top hand and bottom elbow. From here you should be able to stand.
Be sure to take your time through these motions, taking deep breaths if you are feeling pain. The more time you give the fluid in your discs to return to equilibrium, the less pain you are likely to feel.
If you are experiencing significant pain in the mornings, it may be time to seek help. Contact out New Jersey spine specialty practice to set up an appointment with one of our physicians.