Upper Back Pain After Sleeping: What To Know

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Waking up with upper back pain can be agonizing, making it difficult to start your day. From poor sleeping posture to underlying medical conditions, many factors can trigger discomfort between your neck and mid-back after a night’s sleep. Understanding the common causes along with preventive and remedial solutions empowers you to address morning upper back pain properly.

What Causes Upper Back Pain After Sleeping?

Your upper back, composed of the thoracic spine and surrounding muscles, tends to be highly sensitive to strain and improper positioning through the night. Here are some of the most common culprits behind upper back pain that shows up post-slumber:

Poor Sleep Posture

Maintaining awkward positions through the night strains muscles and applies excess pressure on the upper spine:

  • Sleeping on your stomach – Rotates the neck and arches the back unnaturally.
  • Failing to support the head – Allows the heavy head to drag and twist the upper spine.
  • Using too many pillows – Angles the neck sharply to one side.
  • Cradling phone to chest – Hunches shoulders forward.

Mattress Issues

An unsuitable mattress that fails to promote spinal alignment during sleep provokes back discomfort:

  • Too soft – Allows the mid-back to sink in, twisting the spine.
  • Too firm – Fails to cushion pressure points in the shoulders and back.
  • Worn out – Fosters uneven contouring and lack of support.

Musculoskeletal Problems

Osseous irregularities or muscle imbalances in the upper back region often aggravate aching after sleep:

  • Arthritis in the facet joints or spinal discs
  • Muscle tightness or spasms
  • Pinched nerves or radiculopathy
  • Spinal misalignment or poor posture

How To Prevent Upper Back Pain When Sleeping

Supported Sleeping Positions

Aim to sleep in positions that maintain the head, neck, and spine in a neutral alignment without muscular strain:

Mattress Adjustments

Choose a medium-firm mattress with adequate back support and cushioning properties suited to your sleep style and body type. Replace aging mattresses that sag or lack support.

Spine-Friendly Pillows

Opt for ergonomic cervical pillows to fill the space between your neck and mattress, keeping the head, neck, and shoulders properly aligned.

Pre-Sleep Stretches

Simple stretches for the neck, back, chest, and shoulders help unwind tight muscles before bed, promoting comfortable positioning through the night.

How To Find Relief From Upper Back Discomfort After Sleep

  1. Hot Packs:

Applying a heated pack on the affected upper back area boosts blood flow, eases stiffness, and offers pain relief. Use a microwaveable pack, hot water bottle or warm towel compress.

  1. Massage Therapy:

Seeking professional therapeutic massage therapy helps alleviate muscle tightness causing post-sleep upper back discomfort. Communicate any problem areas for the masseuse to address.

  1. OTC Medications:

Over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or NSAIDs temporarily alleviate upper back pain to help you start your day post-sleep. Consult your doctor on suitable options.

  1. Spinal Adjustments:

Visiting a chiropractor allows you to identify and correct any spinal joint restrictions or vertebral misalignments provoking recurring upper back pain after slumber.

  1. Improve Sleep Hygiene:

Optimizing sleep duration, the bedroom environment and pre-bedtime habits fosters quality, restorative sleep crucial for preventing and reducing subsequent back pain.

How To Improve Your Sleeping Posture

Adjusting your posture, positioning, and pillow support while asleep prevents next-morning upper back stiffness or soreness:


  • Sleep on your side or back keeping the spine neutrally aligned.
  • Support the space between your neck and mattress with a cervical pillow.
  • Use supportive pillows between the knees or under the lower back.
  • Ensure your mattress provides an even sleeping surface tailored to your needs.


  • Sleep on your front forcing the neck into rotation.
  • Rest your head directly on the mattress without a pillow.
  • Use too many stacked pillows distorting neck alignment.
  • Sleep in a hunched or contorted position cradling electronic devices.


What is the Best Sleeping Position for Upper Back Pain?

The best sleeping postures involve lying on your back or side in a neutral aligned position without twisting or craning your neck. Use supportive pillows as needed while avoiding stomach sleeping.

What Causes Upper Back Pain After Sleeping on Stomach?

Stomach sleeping rotates your neck sideways and arches your back resulting in overstretched muscles and joint strain – prime culprits for post-sleep upper back pain.

Why Does My Upper Back Hurt After Using a New Mattress?

Switching to an unsuitable mattress that lacks adequate back support or proper spine alignment fosters next-day tightness and aching. Allow 2-4 weeks for your body to adjust to a new mattress before making a change.

Final Thoughts

If you find yourself grappling with persistent upper back pain after a night’s rest, it’s time to take charge of your well-being. Our dedicated team at Innovative Healthcare Centers is here to offer targeted solutions to alleviate and prevent upper back pain caused by sleeping discomfort. Take the first step towards waking up pain-free and revitalized. Schedule a consultation with us today, and let’s work together to restore your quality of life.