Waking Up with a Sore Back
February 18, 2006 9:44 AM   Subscribe

I wake up with sore lower back and stomach muscles every day, and I'm ready to be over it. I have a history of tweaking my back - mainly just from the way I sleep (on my stomach to a large degree). Any suggestions?

I use a down pillow, which I've found to be the most important factor. I have tried many different mattresses, and don't think that's the problem. I do yoga and that helps during the day, but I still seem to be injuring myself / holding myself wrong every night. I've also tried the technique of sleeping with a pillow underneath my groin area, or the knees. I try to fall asleep on my back or side but usually in the end have to turn onto my stomach to go to the final unconsciousness - though I often wake up on my back or side.
Any suggestions?
It's not that big a deal, in terms on negative effects, but I am tired of it.
posted by wavejumper to Health & Fitness (11 answers total)
Obviously, see a doctor, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Yoga isn't going to fix the weakness in your back...so sooner or later you'll need some streghtening exercises.

Meanwhile, If you can wake up on your side, you can sleep on your side.

First, sleep on your side with a pillow between your legs. This will reduce the weight of your legs/hips on your back.

Second, to "train" yourself to sleep on your side, take a tennis ball and sew it in the back of a Tshirt. This will cause you to find sleeping on your back 'uncomfortable' if you roll over onto it.
posted by filmgeek at 10:14 AM on February 18, 2006

I find that I feel this way if I sleep on a soft mattress with another person. His weight dips the mattress toward him and I end up holding myself in position all night.

You might want to try a body pillow, which will help support your lower and upper back. They're fantastic for stomach sleeping under any circumstances.
posted by stefanie at 11:21 AM on February 18, 2006

Train yourself to sleep on your side or your back (with some support). Sleeping on your stomach can harm your back. Try the tennis ball trick, or simply focus intently on changing your sleeping position.

See some online resources on the spine and (lower) back pain.

Core strengthening exercises (lower, upper abs, obliques, and lower back) will help you feel better. Stretching too. Try with an exercise ball (of the right size).

If your pain gets worse, see a doctor. They will likely refer to physical therapy, which will be core strength training, stretching, and maybe transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), therapeutic massage, etc.
posted by mumeishi at 12:34 PM on February 18, 2006

I spent a couple of years with similar pain, sore lower back/stomach area in the morning. Turned out it had nothing to do with my sleeping, I needed orthotic shoe inserts. It just hurt more in the morning because my muscles weren't warmed up yet. Getting the orthotics and being able to walk straight made a huge difference, sometimes you don't realise how debilitating the pain is til it's gone.

I'm not suggesting this is your problem, I have no clue what is causing your pain. My issue was picked up by my osteopath who referred my to a podiatrist. So what I am (fairly strongly) suggesting is you see a professional. Probably an osteopath in the UK or chiropractor in the US, or possibly your doctor can refer you to whoever is appropriate.

Back problems tend to get worse when you leave them and you could be slowly causing all kinds of secondary problems, which are always a lot more difficult to get rid of. Be wary of introducing new exercises too, in my case they were increasing the muscle imbalance caused by my screwed up legs and making things worse. Definitely do this in consultation with a professional.

There is a huge list of things that could be causing this, possibly even stuff you wouldn't suspect (who knew my ankles were making my tummy muscles hurt?). And life is so much better without it.
posted by shelleycat at 12:44 PM on February 18, 2006

Yes. First, see your doctor. But have him/her give you a prescription to a physical therapist. The PT will stretch you, TENS you, maybe ultra-sound you. And give you exercises/stretches to do at home. Do them!

All back problems are different, but I can feel your pain. Sleeping on my stomach is terrible for my back. I have learned to not sleep in that position. And I toss & turn a lot.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 12:45 PM on February 18, 2006

Sounds like a large part of your problem is weak back and abdominal muscles -- the comment about 'frequently tweaking my back' is a pretty decent givaway. Start doing abdominal/trunk exercises (curls, back extensions, push-ups, etc) and stretches. Pilates is very good for trunk strength. Find a good class that will work with a beginner. (Also might not be a bad idea to work on hip adductor/abductor groups and hamstrings.)

Go see a professional, though. This is not really the kind of thing that should be diagnosed remotely, as it can be caused by everything from muscle imbalance in the trunk to major orthopedic problems in the knee or ankle or foot. I second the suggestion for a PT 'script, as they have lots and lots of ideas on how to treat imbalanced muscles in the trunk (TENS is only to encourge repair of existing damage, so you may not get that). You'll get lots of ideas on how to remedy the underlying problem and how to prevent flare-ups from occuring.

(I'm currently dealing with a lot of back and abdominal muscle stress and pain, but that's largely because I had major back surgery 6 months ago.)
posted by jlkr at 1:43 PM on February 18, 2006

I'm finding your username hilarious, wavejumper, because my lower back pain dates from the day five years ago when I jumped into a berm-breaking wave up on Cape Cod and was dumped back on the beach with my head behind my knees.

Have you tried a memory-foam mattress? I have one in my summer cottage and my back hurts less when I sleep on it - I'm about to order one for here.
posted by nicwolff at 3:44 PM on February 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Be careful of getting a new bed. I got a Tempur-pedic, thinking it would help, and it has made things worse. If you do go that route, make sure they have a trial period. And if it doesn't help, return it.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:33 PM on February 18, 2006

i hurt my lower back pushing some 2000 pound lead acid batteries up a drive way and it took me almost a year to heal. one trick to stretch the muscles in your lower back out lay on your back and WITHOUT lifting your back from the ground AT ALL pull your knees up into your chest and just sort of lay like that, to find out whats wrong with your back see a doctor. the stretch works wonders and you can do it at work etc.
posted by stilgar at 10:23 PM on February 18, 2006

I am not a doctor either. And I have been to PT for my back in the past. You say you have tried putting a pillow under your groin area, but what about putting the pillow under your stomach? Sleeping on your side might be the best solution. But I found that if I do sleep on my stomach raising it a bit to reduce the strain helps.

BTW, I have a Sleep Comfort bed (you know, the one where you can dial the firmness). After checking out your problem with an expert (and all checks out ok) you should consider a good mattress. This one has been the best mattress I've ever had.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 11:06 AM on February 19, 2006

Honesly I think you just really need to try sleeping on your back/side. Don't sleep on your stomach at any cost. What has seemed to help me is to "hug" a regular sized pillow, which sort of prevents me from rolling onto my stomach. Do whatever you need to do to not sleep on your stomach and I'd be surprised if you didn't feel better almost immediately.
posted by viachicago at 5:49 PM on February 19, 2006

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