Why is my lower back pain worse in the morning?

Lower back pain is a common condition that affects many Americans. While back pain may have many causes, it is often more acute in the morning. At Orthopedic Specialists of North Texas, we want to help our customers achieve a higher quality of life without back pain. Before you take any steps, it’s important to understand your condition. In this article, we explain why you might be experiencing more severe pain in the morning and describe what you can do about it.

Why Is My Lower Back Pain Worse in the Morning?

If you have chronic back pain, you may notice that it’s more severe in the morning, which can have various causes, depending on your underlying condition. One reason back pain might spike in the morning is because of renewed activity and pressure after a long period of rest. It may also occur because of the way you sleep.

Possible Causes of Lower Back Pain in the Morning

These are some of the reasons you might experience back pain in the morning:


Pregnancy can cause lower back pain, especially in the morning. The increased weight and bodily changes caused can put additional strain on the spine, especially during the later part of pregnancy. Increased fatigue can also lead to more sleep and greater morning stiffness.

Poor Sleeping Position or Mattress

If you’re experiencing pain when you wake up, your mattress may be to blame. Unsupportive or worn mattresses can cause spinal misalignment, sore muscles, and morning discomfort. You may also be sleeping in a position that strains your back. Some positions may artificially flatten your spinal curvature or cause unnatural twisting and bending. When you wake up, your back may hurt due to sore muscles or spinal readjustment.

Sedentary Lifestyle or Bad Ergonomics

Sometimes, a sedentary lifestyle can cause back pain. Remaining seated, especially in bad chairs, can leave your spine unnaturally curved and lead to degeneration over time. Spending time on your feet allows your spine to expand and assume its natural position. Even if you spend much of your time standing, you may still experience pain due to bad posture. Bad posture can include hunched shoulders, uneven shoulders, and unequal weight distribution on the feet. 

Muscle Strain

People who do a lot of manual labor may develop lower back pain, which can manifest in the morning. Incorrect lifting, pushing, and pulling techniques can cause muscle strain. Your muscles will become stiff as you sleep, causing increased pain when you wake up.

More Serious Spinal Conditions

In some cases, morning back pain may be a sign of a serious spinal condition. Here are some rare conditions that may cause pain in the lower back:

  • Spinal stenosis: This condition occurs when the area within the spinal column, called the spinal canal, becomes narrow and constricts the spinal cord.
  • Herniated disc: A herniated disc occurs when the tissue separating two vertebrae breaks down.
  • Fibromyalgia: A condition that causes chronic pain in muscles and soft tissue, sometimes in the back.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis: This condition causes swelling in spinal joints, leading to pain and stiffness in the back.
  • Inflammation: A wide variety of autoimmune disorders can cause inflammation and swelling in the back, especially in the morning.

How To Treat Morning Lower Back Pain

If you’re experiencing recurring back pain in the morning, there are a few simple steps that you can take to curb the pain at home, including:

Stretching or Exercise

One of the simplest ways to relieve stiffness and pain in the lower back is through stretching. This can help loosen the muscles in your lower back and prepare them for movement throughout the day. While this can help with certain conditions, especially muscle strain, it may not be suitable for more serious conditions. 

Pain Medication

If your lower back pain is caused by pregnancy, muscle strain, bad posture, or a bad mattress, you may be able to use pain medication to relieve it. Common medications like ibuprofen or aspirin can alleviate pain for several hours, although it’s important not to take them too often. If pain medication isn’t helping, or if you develop a more severe condition, talk to your doctor.

Better Sleeping Habits

If you suspect that your sleeping habits cause your condition, there are a couple of steps to reduce morning back pain. First, it’s important to get a good mattress that provides spinal support. Next, try to make sure that you sleep on your back or with a pillow between your knees. Try to avoid positions that put unnecessary strain on your spine, especially lying on your stomach.

Apply Heat

Heat can be an excellent way to loosen the muscles in your back and prepare them for the increased movement and pressure that the day brings. You can simply take a hot shower or consider getting a heating pad to place on your back before your day begins.

When To See a Doctor

Although these at-home remedies can be beneficial, seeking help from an orthopedic specialist may be necessary in some cases. Start by ruling out simple factors like muscle strain, minor injuries, posture, and sleeping habits. If none of these are causing your pain, and if it persists after simple at-home treatments, schedule an evaluation with an orthopedic specialist. It’s essential to contact a medical professional if you suddenly experience extreme pain or if your pain worsens over time. Orthopedic specialists can diagnose the cause of your pain and provide a range of treatments, including injection therapy or stronger medication. If you have a serious spinal condition, an orthopedic surgeon can help you resolve your issue and get you back to your daily activities.

That’s a quick overview of what causes lower back pain in the morning and how you can treat it. If you have developed a severe back condition or are curious about the causes of your pain, we have a team of orthopedic specialists who would love to help you regain your quality of life. You can contact Orthopedic Specialists of North Texas at any time, and we’ll get you on our schedule at a time that works for you. You can also view our resources page to find out more about common orthopedic injuries and remedies.