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Why Does My Upper Back Hurt After Sleeping?

If you consistently wake up with upper back pain or stiffness, your sleeping setup and habits may be to blame. From your mattress to your sleep position, many factors can contribute to discomfort between your neck and mid-back.

Understanding the common causes behind upper back pain from sleeping is key to finding relief. With a few simple tweaks to how you sleep, you can stop waking up with an aching back.

What Causes Upper Back Pain During Sleep?

The upper back is comprised of intricate muscles, joints, and vertebrae that are vulnerable to overuse and misalignment. Here are some of the top offenders when it comes to triggering upper back pain at night:

Poor Sleep Posture

The positions you sleep in can directly impact back comfort. Sleeping in a twisted position or with your head, neck, or arms angled awkwardly can strain muscles overnight. Side sleeping with legs curled up tightly or back sleeping with arms overhead are common culprits. An unnatural spine position for hours on end taxes the upper back.

Old Mattress

Mattresses wear down over years of use. A sagging, lump mattress that no longer provides even support can throw your spine out of whack as you sleep. This allows the upper back to dip and twist, resulting in morning soreness.

Too Soft or Too Firm Mattress

On either end of the firmness scale, mattresses that are ultra plush or very hard don’t properly cushion and cradle the upper back. This can leave you waking up with stiffness or pain.

Improper Pillow Support

Using a pillow that is too thin or thick for your body and sleep position can angle your neck and head at odd positions relative to the rest of your spine as you sleep. Incorrect pillow loft places strain on the upper back.

Daily Posture Habits

Postural habits from sitting hunched over a computer or looking down at your phone all day carries over into the way you hold your body as you sleep. Slouching during the day often translates to back discomfort at night.

Overworked Muscles

Intense exercise, sports, or physical activity can leave upper back muscles feeling fatigued. Sleeping without giving tight, stressed muscles a chance to recover can result in pain and spasms.

Trapped Nerve

Issues like herniated discs or bone spurs can pinch nerves that run along the upper back. Nerve compression sends radiating pain signals causing you to wake up with back discomfort.

Medical Conditions

Various conditions like spinal arthritis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, kidney problems, and even pregnancy can contribute to upper back pain when sleeping due to added spinal pressure, inflammation, or shifting of your center of gravity.

How to Prevent and Treat Upper Back Pain From Sleeping

Modifying your sleep setup and habits can help resolve nighttime back pain without the need for ongoing medications or medical treatment. Here are some tips:

Choose Supportive Mattress and Pillow

A medium-firm mattress and pillow that support your spine’s natural alignment without bending or twisting it go a long way for preventing pain.

Improve Sleep Ergonomics

Mind your sleeping position by avoiding positions that crunch your torso or over-arch your neck. Keep your spine neutrally aligned as much as possible.

Do Back Stretches Before Bed

Light stretching helps relax tight, fatigued muscles before you settle in for the night. Upper back rotations, thoracic extensions, and door frame stretches are good options.

Apply Heat or Ice Before Bed

Heat loosens muscles while ice reduces inflammation – both can help you fall asleep more comfortably before back pain sets in.

Manage Stress

Anxiety and mental tension manifests physically in the muscles. Try relaxing rituals before bed like meditation, gentle yoga, deep breathing, or journaling.

Use Proper Posture During the Day

Standing up straight and avoiding slouching or hunching when sitting keeps you conditioned for better sleep posture at night.

Check Your Workouts

Over-working the back during the day can leave you hurting at night. Balance strength training with plenty of upper back stretches during and after exercise.

See Your Doctor

If back pain persists for more than a week or hinders sleep, see your doctor to diagnose any underlying conditions. Imaging tests or physical therapy may be needed.

The right mattress and pillow provide a foundation for healthy sleep posture and alignment. Building nightly habits to relax the upper back while correcting posture issues during the day can help resolve back discomfort. See a doctor promptly if severe pain develops to avoid complications. With minor tweaks, you can stop waking up with morning upper back pain.