Physiotherapy for Back Pain Articles
Rise Without Pain: Tackling Upper Back Discomfort in the Morning

Rise Without Pain: Tackling Upper Back Discomfort in the Morning

Waking up with upper back pain can be frustrating to start your day. It can leave you feeling groggy and uncomfortable, making it difficult to focus on your daily tasks. In this article, we will explore the possible causes of morning back pain and provide you with effective remedies to alleviate your discomfort.

Possible Causes of Morning Back Pain

Back pain caused by ergonomic risks accounts for 60% of Singapore's confirmed occupational disease cases during 2019-2021. Morning back pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including both mechanical and medical reasons. Some possible causes of morning back pain include:

Poor Sleeping Posture

One of the most common causes of upper back pain after sleeping is poor sleeping postures. When we sleep, our bodies need proper alignment and support to prevent strain on our muscles and joints. Poor sleeping positions can put undue stress on your upper back, leading to pain and discomfort when you wake up.

Muscle Overuse

If you engage in repetitive or strenuous activities throughout the day, such as lifting heavy objects or performing repetitive motions, you may experience muscle overuse in your upper back. Overuse can cause the muscles to become fatigued and tight, leading to morning back pain.

To prevent this, practising proper body mechanics during these activities is essential, ensuring you distribute the workload evenly across your muscles. Additionally, taking frequent breaks, stretching your upper back muscles, and applying heat or cold therapy can relieve and prevent recurring pain.

Traumatic Injury

In some cases, upper back pain in the morning may be a result of a traumatic injury. Accidents or falls can cause damage to the muscles, ligaments, or bones in your upper back, leading to pain and discomfort.

If you have recently experienced a traumatic injury and are waking up with back pain, it's crucial to seek medical attention immediately.

Your healthcare provider will be able to assess the extent of your injury and recommend the appropriate treatment, which may include rest, physical therapy, or surgical intervention, depending on the severity of the injury.

Myofascial Pain

Myofascial pain syndrome can also contribute to upper back pain after waking up. This condition occurs when trigger points, or knots, form in the muscles of your upper back, causing pain and tenderness. These trigger points can be the result of muscle overuse, poor posture, or even stress.

Herniated Disc

A herniated disc in the upper back can cause morning back pain. The discs between the vertebrae act as cushions, absorbing shock and supporting the spine. When a disc becomes herniated, the soft inner material protrudes through the outer layer and puts pressure on nearby nerves. These pinched nerves then send signals that the body interprets as back pain and discomfort.


Spondylitis is a type of arthritis that primarily affects the spine. It causes inflammation of the vertebrae, which can lead to chronic pain and stiffness in the back and neck. Inflammatory back pain is typically worse in the morning and improves with movement and exercise. This pattern is a key indicator of spondylitis and helps differentiate it from mechanical back pain.


Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterised by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localised areas. While it primarily affects the muscles and soft tissues, it can also lead to symptoms such as sleep disturbances, cognitive difficulties, and mood issues.

Morning back pain is a common symptom experienced by individuals with fibromyalgia. This can be attributed to several factors, including stiffness, sleep disturbances, muscle tenderness, and central sensitisation.


Pregnancy can also contribute to upper back pain after waking up. As the baby grows, the additional weight can put strain on the muscles and ligaments in the upper back, leading to discomfort and pain. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can also loosen the ligaments, further exacerbating the issue.

Postural changes and stress on pelvic muscles during pregnancy can also contribute to the morning back pain that pregnant women experience.

As the pregnancy progresses, the body's centre of gravity shifts forward, leading to increased spine curvature (lordosis). This change in posture can contribute to morning back pain, especially after prolonged periods of rest.

Similarly, as the uterus expands, it can place uncomfortable pressure on the pelvic muscles and the sciatic nerve, potentially leading to back pain that may be more pronounced in the morning.

To alleviate morning back pain during pregnancy, it's essential to practice good posture, wear supportive footwear, engage in gentle exercises, and use pregnancy pillows for added support while sleeping.

Consulting with a healthcare professional specialising in prenatal care can provide additional guidance and support.

Pain Management Tips for Morning Back Pain

In dealing with morning back pain, it's important to approach pain management holistically, addressing physical, lifestyle, and psychological factors that may contribute to morning back pain. Here are some pain management tips that may help relieve pain symptoms that you may experience in the morning:

Lifestyle Modifications

Making certain lifestyle modifications can help reduce morning back pain. Maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, and quitting smoking can all contribute to overall back and spine health. Moreover, you may also do the following so as not to make the pain worse.

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise is crucial for maintaining a healthy back and preventing morning back pain. Strengthening the muscles that support your upper back, such as the core muscles, can provide stability and reduce strain on your back. Incorporate exercises such as planks, bridges, and rows into your routine to target these muscle groups.

Observe the Neutral Position as a Sleeping Position

As mentioned earlier, adopting a neutral sleeping position can significantly reduce morning back pain. Maintaining a neutral spine alignment while sleeping minimises stress on your upper back muscles and joints.

To improve your sleeping posture and maintain a healthy sleep position, try sleeping on your back with a pillow supporting your neck and another pillow placed under your knees to maintain the natural curve of your spine. If you prefer sleeping on your side, use a pillow that adequately supports your head and neck while keeping your spine in a neutral position.

Moreover, avoid sleeping on your stomach as it can strain your neck and upper back, which can cause back and neck pain. Instead, opt for sleeping on your back or side with proper pillow support to maintain a neutral spinal position.

Invest in a Comfortable Mattress and Pillows

The quality of your mattress and pillows plays a crucial role in preventing morning back pain. An unsupportive mattress can lead to improper spinal alignment, causing discomfort and pain. Choose a mattress that provides adequate support for your body type and sleeping preferences.

Similarly, invest in pillows that offer proper neck and spine alignment, depending on your preferred sleeping position. Memory foam or latex pillows can be excellent choices for relieving upper back pain.

Get Quality Sleep

Getting a restful night's sleep is essential for overall health and well-being, including the prevention of morning back pain.

Establish a consistent sleep routine and create a sleep-friendly environment that promotes relaxation and restorative sleep. Ensure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Limit exposure to electronic devices before bedtime, as the blue light emitted can interfere with your sleep quality.

If you continue to experience difficulties sleeping or if the morning back pain persists, make sure to consult with a healthcare professional for further evaluation and guidance.


In some cases, over-the-counter painkillers may provide temporary relief from morning back pain. Medications like ibuprofen or naproxen, known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can aid in reducing inflammation and easing back discomfort caused by this inflammation.

It's important to follow the recommended dosage and consult a healthcare professional if you have any underlying medical conditions or are taking other medications.

Cortisone Injections

For more severe cases of morning back pain, cortisone injections may be recommended.

Cortisone, a potent anti-inflammatory medication, can be directly injected into the affected area to relieve pain and control inflammation. These injections provide targeted relief and can be an effective short-term solution.

However, it's important to note that cortisone injections should only be administered by a qualified healthcare professional.

Implanted Nerve Stimulators

In rare cases where conservative treatments have not provided relief, implanted nerve stimulators may be considered. These devices deliver electrical impulses to the affected nerves, effectively blocking pain signals from reaching the brain.

The procedure to implant nerve stimulators requires surgical intervention and should only be considered after thorough evaluation and discussion with a healthcare professional.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a non-invasive treatment option that can help relieve morning back pain.

A physical therapist will assess your condition and develop a personalised treatment plan, including exercises, stretches, and manual therapy techniques. Physical therapy can improve flexibility, strengthen muscles, and promote proper posture, reducing the likelihood of morning back pain.

It's essential to follow the guidance of your physical therapist and practice the recommended exercises consistently for optimal results.


Physiotherapy, or physical rehabilitation, focuses on restoring function and mobility to individuals with musculoskeletal conditions.

Our skilled physiotherapists at Phoenix Rehab will evaluate your requirements and create a thorough treatment strategy to target the root causes of your morning back discomfort. This may include a combination of exercises, manual therapy, and education on proper body mechanics.

By working closely with a physiotherapist for your physiotherapy at the back, you can regain strength and flexibility in your upper back, minimising morning back pain.

Surgical Intervention

In severe cases or in cases of chronic back pain where conservative treatments have failed to provide relief, surgical intervention may be necessary. Surgical options vary depending on the specific condition causing the morning pain, such as herniated discs or traumatic injuries.

It's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional specialising in spinal surgery to determine the most appropriate surgical approach for your specific case.

Final Words

Waking up with upper back pain can be a challenging and uncomfortable experience. By understanding the possible causes of morning back pain and implementing the remedies discussed in this article, you can significantly reduce your discomfort and start your day off on the right foot.

It's important to seek guidance from a healthcare professional to receive an accurate diagnosis and a personalised treatment plan for upper back pain physiotherapy. With the right approach, you can overcome morning back pain and enjoy restful nights and pain-free mornings once again.

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