As we age morning stiffness inevitably creeps up on all of us. So, is morning stretching a good idea to rid yourself of the stiffness and discomfort of 7-8 hours in bed? The answer is yes, and NO! The reason I say no, is certain stretches are very useful to break up tissue adhesions that form while sleeping and increase blood flow to the extremities but you never want to stretch your lower back first thing in the morning. As I’ve stated in several videos, the discs of the lower back attract water while you sleep. This plumping of the lumbar discs creates an increase in hydraulic pressure within the discs and as a result will increase a disc bulge’s size. This increase in disc fluid volume can give you the feeling of lower back stiffness but the quandary is, it is NOT muscle stiffness. The stiffness is the pressure to the outer rings of the discs from the increased hydraulic pressure giving you the perception of stiffness. As such, many individuals will attempt to loosen up their lower backs by bending over to touch their toes, stay in bed and pull their knees to their chest, do cat/camel stretches and other yoga moves. Unfortunately, even for a healthy lower back that doesn’t have disc bulges, all of these moves are NOT recommended first thing in the morning!
As I’ve stated over and over again in blogs and videos, for a healthy lower back we need to move through the mobile areas of the body (in this case the hips) and keep the stable areas from moving (the lower back). So, the best strategy first thing in the morning is to perform spine sparing stretches to the glutes and hamstrings and other structures that influence mobility so proper movement can occur while keeping the lumbar spine neutral thus not creating any injury.
Simply stated, DON’T STRETCH YOUR LOWER BACK FIRST THING IN THE MORNING! Stretch the muscles that influence the hips and hip mobility, stretch the muscles that influence shoulder mobility. In all likelihood your lower back is stiff in the morning because you’ve moved through the lumbar spine too much the previous day and irritated your discs. Do some prone elbows, prone lumbar extension presses, bear and standing extensions just prior to going to bed and you’ll push those bad discs back in place so your back will feel better first thing in the morning. And if you do want to have a proper morning routine check out this video for the best way to stretch to start your day and most importantly start your day while you PROTECT YOUR BACK!!