A fairly common complaint in the office is aggravating back pain in the morning. Frequently the pain improves throughout the day. Specific activities may exacerbate the pain, but every morning the individual experiences pain. Difficulty brushing their teeth, putting on socks and picking up their child in the morning may even cause a sharp, “shooting” sensation.
Throughout the course of the night while lying flat, gravity does not have the same effect on spinal discs. The vertebral discs absorb fluid causing increased disc height. The body aided by gravity, compresses our newly expanded discs when first standing in the morning. This compression causes pain and gives a feeling of stiffness. People with low back pain in the morning need a strategy to decrease the excess fluid.
Photo courtesy of WebMD
The cat camel exercise (sometimes referred to as the cat cow exercise) performed immediately after getting out of bed can reduce the increased height of the swollen disc. First thing in the morning, get on the floor and perform the exercise for approximately 8-10 repetitions. Remember - more is just more, not better. 8-10 repetitions is sufficient to pump the excess fluid from the discs.
Be mindful of pain generating activities in the morning. If you are a taller individual, avoid bending forward while brushing your teeth. Use a chair to bring your foot closer to put on socks and shoes. Another consideration for morning exercisers is choice of activity. Avoid morning exercises that may encourage spinal flexion, such as rowing. Waking earlier allows time for the spinal discs to accept increased compression during a morning run. Crossfit athletes may need more dynamic warm-up time. More prevention strategies will be discussed in the coming weeks.