The answer is right here:
Mike Westerdal: Hi Rick, I got a question for you. Sometimes in the morning when I wake up my back is stiff. It’s not like that all day it just seems to be the first 5 or 10 minutes.
I picture this in the middle of the night too, just to be like physically prepared for anything. What if somebody broke into the house and all of a sudden I have to pop out of the bed but my back is all cranked up and stiff.
I’m wondering why is it so stiff, right when I wake up, can you tell me about that?
Rick Kaselj: One thing I am looking at is how you end up sleeping? When you sleep, is your spine in a good position?
Oftentimes if you lie on your side your spine won’t be nice and straight. If you lie on your back, your back would be in a nice straight position. If you lie on your stomach, your back will end up being arched.
Look at how you sleep; you can also look at your mattress. If the mattress is poor and your hips dip into the mattress…
Mike Westerdal: Soft is poor?
Rick Kaselj: Soft is poor. A more firm or medium-firm is what I would recommend in the mattress.
You can check to see how your back feels on other beds. Let’s say if you’ve gone to someone else’s house, visited someone else’s house, or gone to a hotel, has your sleep been better at those other places? It might be because the mattresses are better there, so look at your mattress.
The second thing is when we sleep our spines expand or they decompress and that decompression makes that stiffness happen in our backs.
Also, when our joints end up loosening up with movement we get that decompression and that lack of movement causes that stiffness. Because you probably get up and after like a minute or two of moving around it feels fine, that movement ends up lubricating things so that’s what is happening.
The decompression ends up expanding things for lack of movement leads to stiffness, so with all of us, we need a little bit of movement to loosen things up.
Because if you look at like when you’re younger, let’s say in your 20’s, you probably didn’t have that problem but as our backs kind of age we have more wear and tear on them and they end up getting a little bit stiffer.
Mike Westerdal: I am not sure what position I sleep in. I think I move around a lot. I sleep on the side, on my back, wake on my stomach, and my arms are slipped so I am all over the place.
But if I do wake up and I have stiffness you’re saying it goes away on its own. Is there any way to speed that up and kind of get warmed up quicker?
Rick Kaselj: What I would recommend when you get out of bed is you can do a couple of back arches.
You are not bending forward, you are arching your back. You would stand up and arch your back a couple of times, like 5 times.
Mike Westerdal: Like arch backward?
Rick Kaselj: Yeah. Like standing I could go and arch and relax, arch and relax.
Mike Westerdal: You do that first thing when you get up?
Rick Kaselj: First thing in the morning. Not flexing forward but arching back. You’re kind of countering the common movement that most people make. Most people move into flexion or forward bending and even when we sleep.
If you lay on your side, you’re not perfectly straight usually your knees are bent. You kind of bent forward in your back so we’re kind of countering that in the opposite way. I would recommend getting up and doing a couple of those back arches.
Mike Westerdal: Do you think like me and everybody I talk to says they feel similar, is it a common thing?
Rick Kaselj: It’s a common thing and just like I said, as we age there’s more wear and tear going on in our bodies.
Also, the quality of our tissue, like the quality of our muscles kind of decreases as we age and that ends up perfecting that stiffness.
Mike Westerdal: Thanks. I’ll give it a try.
Rick Kaselj: You bet.
Before you go, watch this:
Fix My Back Pain will be coming out next Tuesday, watch for it.
Rick Kaselj, M.S.