Lower back pain is the second top reason why people take sick days from work. 80% of the UK population will at one time in their lives experience back pain. One of the most common symptoms I come across when I see new clients is the complaint of waking up with pain or stiffness. I am going to explain why this is such a frequent complaint and also offer a few tips on how to relieve your morning discomfort so you can start the day in a better state.
The spine throughout the day
Over the course of a day we lose height. This is to do with the effect of gravity on our spines and also a loss of fluid in the discs. This is a normal occurrence and one of the important reasons why we must get enough good quality sleep. For my top 10 tips on the best sleep ever read my blog post on sleep.
What happens when you sleep?
Sleep is when your body gets to work on healing and recovering from the day’s events. This includes the restoration of fluid in the discs between your vertebrae. The expansion of the discs with fluid can sometimes cause pressure on the nerves that run through the spine and this can cause discomfort on waking.
Nerves get on my discs
Nerves are sensitive creatures and they do not like to be touched. They like space and freedom to do their job. When a disc expands overnight from the intake of fluid it can press upon a nerve and create a sensation of aching or sometimes quite a sharp uncomfortable pain. This can occur for many reasons – it could be poor posture which is pulling your discs out of alignment, a disc prolapse or a bulge. I cannot answer what your specific cause is – only a medical practitioner can help to diagnose an injury. When the body experiences pain, especially around the spinal cord where your central nerves run through, the muscles surrounding the area may contract to stabilise the area. The body knows that the nerves running through the spine are exceptionally important for function and survival and it will do anything to preserve their health. In this case it means contracting and tightening up the surrounding area.
What can I do?
If you find that you are consistently waking up in pain then start keeping a mini journal of your symptoms. I would then recommend you seek medical assistance – the first port of call is your GP. If you explain your symptoms he/she will be able to assist you further. You can also download my eBook ‘I have Back Pain – what do I do?’ which gives you 10 steps to sort out your back pain, who to see and in what order, and what options there are for treatment.
I see many clients with the main symptom of waking in pain. I help to realign their posture and strengthen their spine and pelvis which helps relieve their pain. Exercise is invaluable – but if you are experiencing morning pain it must be the right type of exercise to realign, stabilise and strengthen areas that are compromised. If you are diagnosed with a specific back condition like a disc prolapse or disc degeneration, seek specialist care from a CHEK Practitioner or similar corrective rehabilitative exercise specialist.
You can also try Precision Movement’s morning mobilisations. These are gentle movements in a safe and unloaded position that help ease the stiffness of the muscles and encourage gentle movement of the nerves to ease them up. Often just a few sets of these movements are enough to get on with your morning. However, they do not replace proper treatment and corrective exercise.