Getting older is a treat, but the aches and pains that come along with it are not.
My teenage self would laugh in my face if I told him that one day just sitting in the wrong position could hurt.
Incredibly, some days I even wake up in pain, especially from nagging lower back pain.
It turns out "non-specific" lower back pain is very common, especially with age. But if you live with this pain, you should know there are concrete ways to relieve your symptoms.
Note: if your symptoms suddenly get worse, include fever, bowel, or bladder problems, follow a fall or injury, spread to your legs, include chronic weakness and numbness, or unexplained weight loss, see a doctor.
1. Stretch Out Your Morning
This sounds silly, but it's true: waking up is hard work on your body.
Your body has been lying down at rest for (hopefully eight) hours, and now all at once you command it to sit up, stand up, and start walking around the house.
Starting your day with gentle exercise before you even get out of bed can keep your back pain-free all day.
Try these helpful stretches while you're still lying down. Your spine's discs are hydrated with fluid from your night's rest right after waking, so standing up right away and putting pressure on them is a bad choice.
Avoid twisting or torqueing your back, even while sitting up in bed.
It's very common for people to throw their back out while pulling on socks, so try to take it easy in the morning.
And before you go to bed at night, try your stretches again. Limbering up before bed can prevent your muscles from getting tight by morning.
2. Alternate Hot And Cold
Whether you should cool down or heat up a sore back is one of those debates that seems to never end.
But if you ask the experts, they'll tell you that both are helpful for morning back pain.
Most cases of morning back pain are caused by inflammation in one form or another. An ice pack will relieve this inflammation and ease your pain.
Heat, on the other hand, relaxes sore muscles and promotes blood flow to the heated area.
Try to alternate hot and cold compresses for 10 minutes each. You can start your morning this way, then use the compresses throughout the day when your pain flares up.
3. Choose The Right Medication
Looking at the range of pills in the "pain relief" section of the pharmacy can be very confusing.
Most people just reach for a brand name, but some of those aren't suited to treating back pain.
If you take Tylenol in the morning, it will treat your pain but do nothing to relieve inflammation.
Meanwhile, Advil will treat inflammation, but so will allergy medication like Motrin.
If your-over-the-counter medication isn't helping your pain, don't rule out other medicines.
Your doctor may find other options for relieving pain or inflammation, so don't be afraid to ask them.
4. Improve Your Posture
Because we wake up in pain, it's easy to assume that the problem is connected to our sleep patterns.
Sometimes it is, but often the stress and bad habits of our daily routine catch up to us at night.
Keep an eye on your posture throughout the day, but especially while you're driving or sitting at the computer.
Small changes to how you carry your head, neck, and shoulders can prevent most of your nightly pain.
Staying active and eating a balanced diet can also naturally reduce inflammation, helping you feel less sore in the morning.
5. Check If You Have A Chronic Condition
If changes to your lifestyle and sleep habits (see numbers 6 and 7 on this list) don't relieve your morning back pain, it could be time to see a doctor.
A laundry list of conditions ranging from rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia to osteoporosis can aggravate your back pain.
Another rare but serious culprit for morning back pain is Inflammatory Back Pain (spondyloarthritis), a type of chronic back pain caused by an inflamed spine.
Other causes, including Vitamin D deficiency and muscular conditions, can easily be mistaken for everyday pain.
The point is that if rest, good health habits, and medicine don't relieve your pain, there might be something wrong.
6. Change Your Sleep Position
Don't think the way you lie in bed could make your back ache? Just think about how a few hours of typing with bad posture can hurt your wrists.
Generally, lying on your back with your spine supported by the mattress is the best position you can have at night.
Side sleeping is also good, but if your head rests at a bad angle that can also cause pain.
But sleeping on your stomach is the worst position of all. Your head is forced into a painful alignment and your lower back is extended all night - causing pain.
Sleep experts recommend lying on your side or back, with a pillow between your knees to keep your hips aligned.
7. Change Your Mattress
If you're doing everything right, but still waking up in pain, don't rule out your bed as the source of the problem.
In general, a firm mattress is good for your back. You want the bony, heavy parts of your back to sink into the foam, while the soft parts are cradled by the mattress.
Supporting your spine is the most important quality for any mattress, so make sure it's not too firm and forcing you to arch your back.
When in doubt, have a friend take a picture of you lying in bed. Do you see any parts where your back is sticking up?
Your spine should be lying flat, so change your pillows or mattress until you get a good posture.
If a new mattress is too expensive, see if a study foam mattress topper will do the trick.