Expert tips & exercises for back pain after sleep

Back pain and neck tension can not only disrupt sleep, but can also arise from poor sleep at night. Fitness and health expert Prof. Dr. Stephan Geisler explains how to avoid muscle tension after sleeping and reveals his best tips and fitness exercises to combat back pain in the morning.

Table of Contents

  1. Back pain in the morning
  2. Prevent tension
  3. Causes and development of neck and back pain
  4. Three tips for back pain after sleep
  5. The best exercise after an uncomfortable night
  6. Conclusion

1. Back pain in the morning

Who doesn't know it? You sleep in a strange bed or with a different pillow for just one night and you wake up the next morning with a tense neck or a stiff back. We already know that existing muscle problems can disrupt sleep and cause a painful feeling in the morning. A sleep study by the Techniker Krankenkasse from 2017 showed that muscle and back pain, accounting for 54%, can be a decisive cause of sleep disorders.

But how exactly does it happen the other way around that we develop nasty muscle tension almost overnight, even though we hardly move while we sleep?

2. Causes and development of neck and back pain

The causes of back pain are very different and often remain unexplained. Most diagnosed back pain is attributed to the so-called MFS (myofascial pain syndrome). This means that most pain comes from the muscles themselves and/or the connective tissue that surrounds and infiltrates them. A common cause of muscular problems is tension, which can be counteracted through targeted stretching exercises and thus experience quick and effective pain relief. Therefore, one could assume that “poor sleep” is capable of giving us back pain. How can this be prevented?

3. Prevent tension

smartsleep Schlafmagazin Rückenschmerzen am Morgen nach dem Schlaf

In my opinion, there are two things you can actively do to prevent nasty tension in the morning and reduce pain:

Firstly, you should try to optimize your sleep. The room environment, the bed and your pillow should suit you perfectly. However, since I am not an expert myself, I would like to refer you to other articles in Sleep Magazine where you can find tips for a good sleeping environment and finding a suitable pillow.

On the other hand, you should also strive for a certain physicality so that you stay fit and healthy and your muscles stabilize your body. If the musculoskeletal system, joints and muscles function optimally together, you may even be able to allow yourself to sleep on the floor and wake up without any significant back pain. To do this, you should train and stretch your muscles regularly. I can highly recommend sports such as yoga or targeted fitness training here.

4. Three tips for back pain after sleep

If you still feel cold in the morning and start your day with diffuse back pain, I would be happy to give you a few tips.

    Tip #1: The Cat Cow Stretch

    To do this, get down on all fours and round your back like a cat by pulling in your stomach and arching your back upwards. Then you make it long/hollow like a cow. Repeat this movement as often as possible, at best between 30-50 times and your back will almost certainly feel a little better.
    smartsleep Schlafmagazin Katze Kuh Dehn-Übung gegen Rückenschmerzen nach dem Schlaf

      Tip #2: Warmth & exercise

      Take a warm shower and move your spine slightly. The combination of heat and movement is unbeatable for back pain and helps to mobilize the vertebrae, joints and bones.

      smartsleep Schlafmagazin Warme Dusche und Bewegung gegen Rückenschmerzen und Verspannungen am Morgen

        Tip #3: Exercise in everyday life

        Try to go about your everyday life with “normal” movements despite tension and to avoid protective postures of any kind. Although these can provide relief for a short moment, they only make the whole thing worse and can, on the contrary, lead to even more pain in the long run.

        smartsleep Schlafmagazin: Bewegung im Alltag bei langem Sitzen oder Stehen und Rückenschmerzen am Morgen

          The best exercise after an uncomfortable night

          Finally, I would like to recommend an exercise that is particularly effective against pain between the shoulder blades at the level of the thoracic spine and has already helped many thousands of people. So if you have pain in this back area after an uncomfortable night or after sitting for a long time at work, feel free to give it a try. I give you quick and easy instructions in this video!

          You can also find these and many other exercises for acute help and prevention of back pain in my book "Healthy Back".

          If you follow these tips, you will probably be able to get back pain that you wake up in your sleep under control. However, if the pain doesn't get better or gets worse, you should definitely contact a doctor or physiotherapist.


          • Back pain in the morning is often due to muscle tension, which can be caused by an incorrect sleeping environment or an unsuitable pillow.
          • The cat-cow exercise, a warm shower and avoiding protective postures help against acute back pain after sleep.

          Greetings and see you next time!

          smartsleep Schlaf und Sport Experte Prof. Dr. Stephan Geisler
          smartsleep Fitness- und Gesundheitsexperte Prof. Dr. Stephan Geisler

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