Why does my back hurt in the morning?

People that come into our chiropractic clinic for treatment after lumbar disc herniation or disc bulging frequently have a history of pain which is worse in the morning and then improves after they’ve been up moving around for a bit.

Often they have some questions about what exercises and stretches they can do in the morning to make them feel better. We learned more about morning back pain in a disc – injured patient after the research of Michael Adams in the 1980s.(1,2) Adams referred to the “diurnal behavior of the disc” which mostly refers to the tendency for the discs to absorb moisture from the tissues around them overnight.

The discs soak up the fluids from the tissues around them while a person is recumbent in bed overnight. So in the morning when they wake up the outer layers of the disc are under a bit more tension, which we refer to as hydrostatic pressure.

In turn, the disc becomes a bit more plump, adding pressure to nerves and surrounding structors.

So what should you do? Once you get out of bed you should not bend over right away. Try to keep your back straight or try stretching backward .

Next, use your hips to bend over the sink to brush your teeth.

A straight back using my hips to bend over.
Bending at the lumbar spine causing lots of pressure on the lumbar discs

The above picture is a great way to cause sharp shooting pain in the morning.

Try to sit up straight or use a back support in the small of your back like in the picture above.

Sitting with a more normal curve in the lumbar spine helps take the pressure off of the lumbar discs and helps decrease pain.

A wrong way to sit

Sitting like this cause more disc pressure causing disc irritation. It can cause the disc to bulge more.

Discs are fatter in the morning because the absorb fluid overnight. So think of a jelly doughnut if the doughnut has more jelly its more likely to shoot out if you put pressure on it.

So remember back straight, stomach tight will help prevent lower back pain and help you heal if you have pain.

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