Healthy Back Tips

October 2009

Suggestions For Getting Out Of Bed Without Straining Your Low Back

Low back problems can often make simple tasks like getting out of bed challenging. Many people with low back pain have difficulty turning over in bed and rising to a sitting position first thing in the morning. Individuals that have repeated incidents of low back pain or ongoing low back problems learn to move carefully in the early morning hours. 

One reason for low back pain when moving in bed upon awakening relates to joint stiffness and muscle tightness that may develop overnight from being relatively less mobile. A sound sleep does wonders to restore energy and health, but at the same time may contribute to early morning low back stiffness and discomfort. 

Another reason for pain and stiffness upon rising in the morning relates to resuming the upright position. Reloading of the spine after a night's rest requires an equilibration in each spinal motion segment. As we transition from non-weight bearing (in bed) to weight bearing positions such as sitting and standing fluids are squeezed out of the compressed discs. The rate at which this is done is dependent upon the health status of each segment in the spine. The weaker segments will tend to compress more readily which can result in disc deformation into pain sensitive tissue such as ligaments. In addition, our body mechanics for this transitional movement often combines bending and twisting forces on the low back that also make the low back vulnerable to injury (see Fig. 1). 

Figure 1 

For many individuals a change in body mechanics significantly reduces risk for low back injury or aggravation upon getting out of bed. The first step in a back lying to sit movement progression is to gently draw in the abdomen by pulling the belly button towards the bed. Maintain the abdominal drawing in maneuver while sliding one heel up at a time to bend both knees (Fig. 2). Let go of the abdominal contraction for a moment. 

Figure 2 

The second step also involves a gentle drawing in of the abdomen to stabilize (brace) the low back. Keep your shoulders and hips in line with each other while turning onto your side (preferably your non-involved or less involved side). This technique, referred to as log rolling, helps to reduce twisting and bending stress on the spine (Fig. 3). 

Figure 3 

Once you are on your side, bend your knees so that your feet and lower legs are almost over the edge of the bed. Now push into the bed with your top hand and bottom elbow while simultaneously allowing your feet to drop to the floor (Fig. 4). 

Figure 4 

In addition to using this strategy to get out of bed, move slowly and deliberately so that mechanical stress on the low back is reduced. Moving in this way minimizes the risk of straining your low back first thing in the morning. If you need additional help in learning how to safely transition from a lying position in bed to sitting , contact the Atlanta Back Clinic, or give us a call at (770-491-6004) to set up an appointment with a physical therapist who can teach you the log rolling technique.