Back pain is a common issue that many people suffer from. It’s the most common musculoskeletal reason for visiting the doctor’s office. One of the worst complaints about back pain is the stiffness that can persist in the morning. Even when the primary pain has disappeared, the stiffness in the morning can last long after. There are many reasons for a back to feeling stiff which we’ll review.
One of the best ways to decrease back stiffness is to work on stretching and mobility of the spine. There are stretches that you can do each morning to reduce stiffness in your back for the rest of the day. In this article, we’ll talk about 7 stretches you should do first thing in the morning to start your back off on the right foot.
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Stretching in the Morning
Stretching your back in the morning is a great way to get it ready for the day. It will help you combat stiffness and decrease pain levels that may be associated with the stiffness.
A common issue in the morning is feeling bent over and as if you can’t straighten up all the way. This can be extremely frustrating!
The morning is one of the best times of the day to stretch to decrease pain levels, improve mobility, and start your day off right.
Benefits of Stretching
There are several benefits associated with stretching your back.
The first is reducing pain levels from stiffness and increasing mobility throughout the spine. Stretching helps calm down painful muscles, tendons, and nerves throughout the body.
Another benefit of stretching for a stiff back is to improve your posture as you go through daily activities. By improving your posture and keeping normal tension in the muscles you’ll be less likely to experience pain and stiffness during heavy activity..
Stretching in the morning is a great way to warm up your muscles and get ready for daily activities. It’s also an excellent preventative measure against stiffness that may otherwise occur throughout the day.
You won’t need any equipment nor will you have to spend a lot of time on these stretches if you do them in the morning.
Stretching has been shown to improve your mood and decrease stress. This is the perfect way to start your day each morning. Decrease back stiffness and decrease your stress before your day starts.
The stretches in this article take less than ten minutes to complete and can be done while you’re still waking up, getting ready for the day, or even before bedtime.
What Causes Back Stiffness in the Morning?
Stiffness can also be caused by lack of mobility, injury, wear and tear, and muscle tightness that persists through the night.
Some of the most common causes of back stiffness include:
- A recent injury such as a disc herniation, facet syndrome, or stenosis
- A muscle strain from repetitive lifting
- Sitting for too long in one position the day before
- Sleeping “funny” on the back
- Standing or remaining in one location too long the day before
Morning Stretches You Can Do Before Getting out of Bed
Here are our favorite 7 stretches that you can do each morning to help you feel better and improve your mobility.
This stretch helps open up the lower back, hips and stretches out your glutes. It’s a great way to loosen up the muscles that run down the entirety of the back. This stretch also opens up the Facet Joints and is a great option if you have pain with bending backward.
To perform the Child’s Pose: Start on your hands and knees. Slowly move your hips back until your hips are resting on top of your heels. Once you are here, try and get your chest down to the floor or bed and hold this position for 30 seconds or longer.
Lower Trunk Twist
This is a great stretch for the lower back. It stretches out your obliques and improves mobility in your spine by rotation. This also targets your glutes and upper hip muscles that can get tight and stiff with low back pain.
To perform the Lower Trunk Twist: Start by lying down on your back with both legs extended out straight. Bring one leg up and bring it across your body and grab your knee with the opposite arm. Hold this stretch for longer than 30 seconds and try it on both sides.
Figure 4 Stretch
The Figure 4 stretch is a classic and one that you will find on just about every recommended stretching routine. It also targets the glutes and most notably the Piriformis muscle. It’s a great stretch to help you get ready for daily activities and open up your hips.
To perform this Stretch: Start off by lying on your back with both legs extended out straight. Bring one leg up and cross it over your other leg, bringing the ankle to meet with the opposite knee.
Prone Press Up
The Prone Press Up stretches out your lower back and hip flexors. It is a great stretch for those who have low back pain or stiffness with bending over at the waist. This is also a great exercise for anyone that has recently had a disc herniation or other types of disc injuries.
To perform the Prone Press Up: Start off by lying on your stomach with both arms underneath. By using your hands, slowly push your trunk up off the floor but by leaving the hips flat on the floor. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds then repeat 12-20 times.
This is more of an exercise instead of a stretch but’s a great way to get mobility in your spine. It is a great way to improve mobility in the spine, activate the glutes, and open up the front of the hips. This also targets your lower back muscles that can get stiff at work.
To perform Bridges: Start by lying on your back with both legs bent at the knees. Tighten your stomach muscles and squeeze your glutes bringing your hips off the ground toward the ceiling. Try and go slow and controlled, thinking about lifting your body one spinal segment at a time. Perform 10 times and perform multiple sets.
Open the Book Spine Rotations
This stretches out your lower back and upper back muscles. It is a great stretch for those who have pain with rotation or can’t quite seem to get rid of the stiffness throughout the whole spine.
To perform this Stretch: Start by lying on one side with both hips and knees bent. Also, have your hands out in front of you. Take your top hand to rotate it away from the other hand and rotate your back until your shoulder blades touch the ground on the other side.
Thread the Needle Spinal Rotation Stretch
This stretches out your lower and upper spine and is a great way to relieve stiffness in the back. It stretches out the muscles around the facet joints, which can get stiff with lifting injuries or from sitting too long. This stretch also helps improve rotation range of motion for those who have pain with twisting.
To perform the Thread the Needle Stretch: Start on your hands and knees. Using one arm, move it under the other arm and thread it through underneath your body and continue reaching as far as you can. To get more of a stretch, bring your hips back and down towards the heels. This is a great exercise to use in conjunction with the child pose stretch as they are both in similar positions.
Tips to Decrease Back Stiffness in the Morning
In addition to stretching each morning, there are a few other tips that you can follow to help decrease stiffness and improve pain as you start your day. Some of the most beneficial ways to improve stiffness are listed below.
Use a Hot Pack to Decrease Back Muscle Tension
Hot packs also increase blood flow to the area which aids in speeding up the healing process after an injury or surgery.
Don’t have a microwaveable hot pack? Simply, heat up a towel or cloth with warm water, wring it out, then place it over your lower back for several minutes before stretching.
Movement and Exercise Can Help Loosen Up The Back
Another great way to decrease stiffness and improve back mobility is by exercising. May seem counterintuitive right?
However, getting the body moving forces the muscles to relax and the joints in the back to loosen up. You’ll quickly notice that your back feels much better after a walk or a short ride on a stationary bike. We’ve compiled a list of the best treadmills for low back pain that’s worth reading.
Can’t walk because of back pain?
Try walking in your local swimming pool. The buoyancy of the water takes the pressure off the spine and the warm water will help relax the muscles.
Sleep with a Pillow Between the Knees to Help with Back Pain
Sleeping on your back with a pillow between the knees helps keep the spine in alignment and decreases pressure from lower back pain.
We’ve created a post on our favorite pillows to place between the knees when sleeping that’s worth reading here.
It’s Important to Strengthen the Muscles of the Back, Hips, and Core
Another great way to decrease stiffness in the morning is by improving the strength of your back, core, and hip muscles. One of the most common reasons that muscles are tight is actually due to weakness in the area.
The body responds to the weakness by tightening the muscles to make sure that the back is safe and to prevent injury. The stronger the muscles of the back and core are, the less passive tension the body needs to place on the muscles.
The stretches that are mentioned above can be done at any time of the day, but it is best to do them in the morning. This way you start your day off feeling refreshed and with less pain than if you didn’t stretch.
Having an injury involving back stiffness doesn’t have to keep you from living a full life or enjoying all that there is to offer. With stretches and other helpful tips, you can decrease stiffness and improve pain as soon as your day begins!
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only. This is not a substitute for a medical appointment. Please refer to your physician before starting any exercise program.