Morning low back pain- cause and solution

Posted on February 16, 2018

(Last Updated On: February 16, 2018)

Sleep elongates the spine. On the left is a spine before bed rest; on the right is the same spine after bed rest:

Notice the discs bulging more on the right, as well as how the spine is longer. This is why we’re taller in the morning.

That elongation also means a lessening of our spine’s natural curve. The spine on the right is straighter.

The spine ends up with less curvature. It flattens out. The pink line is straighter than the red line.

This primarily happens at the lower back. (Which is why the upper back isn’t the problem here.)


We don’t need to elongate our spine to change our curvature.

We can voluntarily do it. You may have heard the terms anterior and posterior pelvic tilt.

  • Posterior = lower back flattens
  • Anterior = lower back’s curve gets more pronounced

When we sit is the most common time we flatten our lower back, albeit unintentionally:


What’s important to appreciate here is our lower back naturally has some forward curve to it. A curve is its neutral.

Where a flattening means the low back is curving backward some. We call this lumbar flexion.

That is, a straight lower back is a flexed lower back.

So when someone is having lower back pain in the morning or more towards the beginning of their days -when their back has straightened out / when their low back is flexed– they probably have already been flexing their back too much / too often.

They wake up with a slightly flexed spine to begin with. If the back is already sensitive to this, you’re probably regularly bending the back a good deal. Such as how, and how much, you sit. Or hanging out in a posterior pelvic tilt too often. Or laying down too much.

-> Might seem farfetched, but people who work from home can pull this off. Software developers / programmers being a common example in my clientele.

A lack of compression actually causes astronauts lower back pain, since they don’t have gravity to pull their spine down.

This is often why, in these low back morning pain people, the back will feel better as the day goes on. The back compresses some, lessening how much it flexes. It regains some of its curve, putting it back towards neutral.


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Posted in: Lower Back Pain, Pain