Upper Back Pain After Sleeping

upper back pain after sleeping

Upper Back Pain While Sleeping

Upper back pain after sleeping is a common and often painful problem. The upper back is the nexus of lots of moving parts. Your neck above is supporting the fifteen pounds of your head, your shoulders are dealing with the stresses you place on your arms, and your mid- and low back are moving the rest of your body. Often described as waking from sleep:

  • Sharp back pain that makes you gasp
  • “Crunchy” upper or mid back feeling
  • Sudden and excruciating
  • You’re afraid to move the pain is so intense
  • You hold your breath to avoid pain

Usually related to weak or poor posture, back pain can begin with an injury, accident or from long-term habits.  Over time, posture stress causes pain and breakdown, arthritis and degenerative joint disease in the spine and other joints from daily wear & tear.   Then, during a lifetime of moving certain ways habitually, along with any new injuries you suffer, your motion becomes restricted to certain patterns only, rather than through a full range of motion, and your body becomes more and more unbalanced.

Upper back pain is usually positional. This means it will get better or worse as body position changes. Frequently episodic, back pain pain may come on after sleeping, over-activity or without apparent cause, and is triggered as your body adapts to mechanical stress, weak posture and inefficient motion.

  • Back pain after sleeping all night with no apparent cause
  • Upper back pain while sleeping causing inability to rest
  • Sitting for hours at a time
  • Standing, bending or working with a repetitive motion
  • Sudden upper back pain when moving
  • Posture stress or pain when lifting or carrying

You get better at doing whatever you do as your habits shape your body. This is true even of poor habits.

First steps to stop back pain after sleeping

Experiencing back pain after sleeping, or while sleeping, when it’s not apparent any other time suggests trying a couple of easy possible remedies.  Reduce postural stress:

  • Choose a supportive posture pillow designed for cervical support
  • Sleep on your side with a pillow between your legs to keep your body aligned
  • Don’t over-rest – More rest is rarely the answer, in fact it’s often the cause
  • End upper back pain with a posture improvement and strengthening program
  • Don’t sleep on your stomach

Habits create back pain

The modern sitting lifestyle most of us practice, where we drive to work, slump at a computer all day, then drive home and slouch in front of a television, provides all of the ingredients for shaping your body in profound and painful ways.

Maybe your head juts forward from staring at a screen and the traffic ahead, perhaps you slouch with poor posture while doing so, and/or your shoulders roll in from typing and holding a steering wheel.

Those stresses, individually and especially when combined, can result in occasional or chronic upper back pain. And when you’re in pain, you compensate and adapt your body motions in even more unbalanced ways, creating a vicious spiral that makes you weaker and more prone to injury.

Read more about posture exercise and self-help techniques to keep you moving well!

Self-Help Solutions: Upper Back Pain Relief

If changing your pillow and sleeping position doesn’t provide immediate relief, begin a program to strengthen exercise. It’s likely your habits during the day are causing you pain while sleeping.

It’s easy to begin an at-home posture exercise program.  Done daily, within a week you’ll begin to notice a difference. At the end of the 7 week program, your posture exercise program can help restore strength and the full range of motion your body needs to thrive.

  • Read Stand Taller Live Longer to begin a 7 week self-help posture exercise program to improve posture.
  • Or, enroll in the online course to improve your posture. This 7 week course was designed by posture expert Dr. Steven Weiniger and was originally only available to doctors and physical therapists.

More tips to fix upper back pain

  • Be aware of your posture – your habits during the day make a difference while you sleep
  • When sleeping or working change your body position frequently
  • Keep moving. Take stretch breaks during the day, change your posture, and change sleeping position during the night

Best Sleeping Position for Upper Back Pain

  • Sleep on your side, with a pillow under your upper arm, and a contoured cervical pillow under your neck to keep head aligned with your spine
  • A pillow between the knees will help support the hips
  • You must invest in a pillow designed for optimal posture

If you have upper back pain when sleeping it is a strong indication you need to change your sleeping habits, and work to improve posture during waking hours! Pain is not normal – it’s your body telling you to make a change for the better.

Find a Back Pain Specialist

If you’ve made the suggested changes and still have back pain while sleeping, or if you prefer to work with a professional to assess and correct postural issues, visit our posture specialist directory.

Note: If back pain is sever or last more than to weeks, consult your physician. If there is no trauma and pain initially begins in the chest, if the pain is not affected by motion, or if there is fever, nausea, vomiting, uneven pulse, anxiety, a sick feeling, burning urination, loss of bowel or bladder control, or severe pain, call your Physician.


Related Conditions: Postural adaptive muscle strain; Pinched nerve in back; Intercostal Neuralgia; muscle imbalances, muscle pulls, muscle strains, muscle weakness, myofascitis, Rib out of place; Thoracomyodynia; Thoracic neuralgia