Morning Back Pain
Got Morning Back Pain? I bet you'd like to wake up in the morning and 'hop out of bed'! We have clients who are experiencing relief from YEARS of morning low back pain with some of the following suggestions. We will bet that if you follow some of these ideas, you may be able to get out of bed a little quicker in a week than you did this morning.
There are several reasons you may have discomfort in your low back when waking up in the morning...we work with the ones that are muscular in nature, since we are massage therapists. You will want to rule out other more serious reasons with your doctor, of course. Let's start with some of the common reasons you may be experiencing low back pain in the morning, but may not be aware of:
1) Sleeping posture. If you are experiencing morning back pain, you must pay special attention to your sleeping position. If you are sleeping on your side, or even WORSE [insert scary music here], on your belly, you are setting yourself up for a number of chronic postural issues. These sleeping positions cause morning back pain (as well as
), even in people who are otherwise comfortable and have healthy low back muscles!
Why is belly sleeping so bad? Lying on your stomach tilts your pelvis forward, 'scrunching' your low back muscles and shortening them slightly. In addition to that postural mess, every belly sleeper we know pulls one knee out, and some more flexible clients have been known to pull a knee up their side, close to their chests (for those less flexible souls, it really is possible). This causes the glutes, IT band and hamstring muscles on that side to get tight and short, along with the deep leg rotating muscles under your glutes, in your rump. The price you are paying with morning back pain is worth the time it takes to retrain yourself to sleep on your back! Please don't send us a note about how hard it is to sleep on your back...when mine hurt enough, it became remarkably easy...
2) Sitting at a desk all day. OK...if you ARE sleeping on your back, like a good client, the likely cause of morning back pain is tightness in your hamstrings or hip flexors from your daily activities-ESPECIALLY if your 'daily activity' is working all day at a computer being really INACTIVE. Sitting for extended periods of time shortens all of the muscles in your upper legs, which causes unhealthy pressure on the muscles attached to the pelvis, including all those in your low back. The free stretches you can download and/or view and print out below, are specifically to loosen these muscles.
The muscles which cause the pressure, which can cause morning back pain are the same muscles which get shortened from sitting: glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors and abdominals.
When my morning back pain kicks up, it only takes some time doing some really good hamstring and hip flexor stretches, and I wake up the next day back to normal.
Right-Click here to download the GTS Massage Stretches for Low Back PDF file. (or just click to view in another window.)
**SPECIAL NOTE** When I stretch, I hold it for a full 90 seconds-2 minutes...if you don't time it, you will probably not hold it long enough. Always remember to NOT push beyond your comfort zone. The reason we hold the stretch so long, is that there are sensors in your muscles which contract for 45-60 seconds of the stretch, to keep you from stretching into a tear. SO, by stretching beyond this period of time, it allows the muscle fibers to actually open up, and frequently after that initial period, you will feel the stretch 'creep' into the muscle belly, during the remaining 30-45 seconds. You will be able to FEEL it right away. After I stretch my hamstrings this way, I stand upright, balanced on both feet, close my eyes and feel how my leg, glute and low back feel, and it always feels like it has less pressure on those areas...but only when I hold the stretch long enough.
3) Holding a munchkin on your hip. Moms and Dads should get hazard pay. No, really, I'm not kidding. We put our bodies through SO much EVERY day, in the name of loving parenting! If you have a little person who needs you for their mode of transport, you are bound to deal with some serious pain...back, shoulder, neck, etc! As a tour guide, because they aren't mobile on their own yet, or they aren't feeling well, you will likely throw your 'hip seat' out to hold them, and your low back WITH it. Another parenting milestone with low back discomfort, is when those little cuties are starting to walk. We lean over them, holding their hands, so they can toddle along, unaware that we are WRECKING our backs at the same time. Your hamstrings in particular are holding your upper body in an odd 'dead lift' position while you are holding your wee-one up. It's bound to cause a bit of low back pressure during that time...the stretches may be very useful to you during that time. These stretches will help some of the parenting wear and tear, but you will also need a massage, a babysitter and a vacation...
4) Driving too much. Driving=Sitting+Stress...so, read the above information on 'sitting at the desk too much'. THEN, add: too much tension in your left leg, possibly from pulling your knee up and shortening your hip flexors and hamstrings further on that side...as well as the tension in the front of your right leg from the constant lifting your foot to push down the brake and gas pedals. You may want to find work you can do from home. Driving is just too hard on your body...then you can spend your commuting time stretching.
For some other positions to avoid during the day, visit our
Back Pain Page.
We usually suggest foam rollers and specific deep tissue home massage items to help with keeping the muscles pliable and comfortable.
A cold gel pack is also MUST HAVE in any home. If you are asking why I would want to put ice on my body, especially my back, because you are having a love affair with your heating pad...here's what we learned in intently studying cryotherapy. General ice/heat rules: If you have a new injury: ice=less inflammation=quicker healing + less pain, heat=more inflammation=ouchy=longer recovery time. If a muscle is chronically tight, warm will usually bring more blood to the area, making it looser, and more comfortable. If you use heat, PLEASE don't EVER sleep on your heating pad-besides being a fire and personal burn hazard, it will leave your tissue over-inflamed. Important healing observation: IF THE AREA YOU HEATED IS ACHING OR THROBBING 45-60 MINUTES AFTER YOU HEAT IT, that may be an indication that it is too inflamed...a good time to notice this, is if you have been in a hot bath or jacuzzi. Part of why ice is so helpful is that it doesn't just flush the area of inflammation, and reduce pain, it has a secondary benefit as the tissue is warming up. There is an rush of new blood, which also means nutrients that heal the tissue, and an increase in elasticity in the surrounding area, which contributes to increased comfort and speedier healing. SOOO, back to the ice gel pack: Leave it in the freezer to always be ready, then put it in a pillow case and place it on the injured or inflamed area for a short time (most doctors will tell you 15-20 minutes at a time...no more than that, or you can cause a hypothermic -type reaction in the tissue, and it will be more inflamed afterward).
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