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Avatar universal

Upper-mid Back Pain Only After Sleeping

For about 6 weeks I have been experiencing mid back pain when I wake up in the morning.  The pain is so bad, I cannot go back to sleep, and NO position change helps.  I must get out of bed and start walking around or sit in a chair for the pain to start going away.  After an hour or two, the pain basically disappears.  The pain seems to be emanating from my spine, and tensing up the back muscles nearest the spine.  

I have been seeing a chiropractor/massage therapist for about 4 weeks now, and it has not helped, because the pain is only after I sleep!

I am 23 years old. I help my dad deliver produce 2 times a week in the morning, and I am also a full time sales associate at Sears selling electronics (which I'm on my feet all day.)  That may cause a little lower back pain, but it goes away when I'm not working.

I have used a contour pillow, slept in all different kinds of positions (back and both sides), I always sleep with a full body pillow, and nothing has seemed to help.

I would appreciate any suggestions, thanks!
518 Responses
Avatar universal
I have had the exact same problem for approximately 4 years.  I kept mentioning it to my doctors and they kind of blew me off. They only told me it sounded like a disc problem but didn't say anything more.  So I ignored the problem. In the last year I started to also develope pain in my neck,shoulders as well as low back. I have had MRI's done of the Cervical spine(neck region) and Lumbar spine (lower back)  I have a lg hernated disc in my neck and degenetive disc disease with an annular tear in my lower back.  I am going to also request my doctors to do an MRI of Thoracic spine (middle back) because they haven't done an MRI of that section yet. I am not sure if the mid back problems is caused by these issues I know I have.  I would suggest you dig into the problem more.
Avatar universal
Thanks for your response!  Have you tried the whole "changing your matress" deal?  If that doesn't work for me, or this doesn't get any better in the next month, I'll go see an orthopedic doctor.
96108 tn?1197694930
Yes I did try that and taking medications like Advil or Aleve.  Nothing ever really helped it.
Avatar universal
As read your post, i felt like i was the one who wrote it. (i googled to see what is going on with my back and found this post)Since Monday, i awake to pain in my mid-back, stays within a 5 inch diameter with the spine being the center. It doenst matter where or how i lay down from that point on, the pain is constant until i stand up. once im up, no problems, infact, i don't feel it at all the entire day or even when i fall asleep. When i go to sleep, i hope that i can pass out before the pain starts again. Additionally, i have been lifting for about 2 years and never had any back problems until this past Monday. Nothing physically traumatic or anything that would give me a reason for why i have this weird pain. It is only when i wake up and only since this past Monday.
Avatar universal
I've the exact same symptoms, 3.5 years running.  Mine, too, started while doing frequent lifting while working at a retail location, often with 12 hour shifts, standing on unpadded concrete.  I've since had 100% desk jobs with no improvement.  

Pain isn't really all that big of a deal since it rarely lasts past 30 minutes after I wake up.  I'm just sick of the insomnia.  I've been to a variety of "care providers." with absolutely no results.

- Sever pain, enough to wake you up, usually about 3-4 hours after falling asleep.
- Laying down is all that's needed, not necessarily sleep, and starts after lying on a flat surface for about an hour.
- Found that after waking from sleep, I can move to some recliners/large chairs and fall back asleep as the sitting position allows the pain to subside.  I don't find sleeping in a chair comfortable enough to start the night in the chair.
- In terms of treatment, I've seen two orthopedic surgeons, two chiropractors, PT clinic, exercise physiologists.  I get a lot of assumptions that I'm talking about a lower back problem/sciatica which is complete wrong.  I did have sciatica which a little bit of PT cleared up.
- I've been on NSAIDs (ibuprofen and naproxen), muscle relaxers, antibiotics, neurontin, percocet, vicodin.  Only the NSAIDs in large amounts (800mg every six hours) helped a little bit for about a week, but now even they do nothing.  
- Heat, cold, TENS device (short and long treatments), chiropractic manipulation, even acupuncture (I'm desperate) treatments have done nothing.
- X-ray, MRI, CT scans, and Bone Spec all show that I'm normal.  
- Next up, I'm waiting to hear back from a sleep study that I had a few weeks ago.  Also will seek out a message therapist for myofascial release which I've been told might give me one good night.  I might seek out sleeping medication to try and just sleep through the pain.

Hopefully someone out there can put a name to this so I can start teh path to treatment...  I'm so tired.

Spec
Avatar universal
I cannot believe that someone, anyone, has the exact problem I do and has been through all the same doctors, therapists, and tests to no avail. This happened to me rather suddenly for no apparent reason (no trauma at the most I lifted a heavy bag incorrectly), 4 yrs. ago and I have had only a few good nights since. I go to bed pain free and always wake with a severe pain in my thoracic spine which radiates around my ribcage to my sternum now. The only relief I can get is to either sit up or stand dependending on the level of pain, take pain meds and try to fall back to sleep (always sitting up as there is no possibility of laying down once the pain starts). I am hoping you have something new to offer and are feeling better. I am under the care of the Pain Mgmt. clinic but they admit to being stumped. So am I.
Avatar universal
It's weird that while I'd never wish this dilemma on anyone else, ever, there is some gratification in knowing others are dealing with the same thing.  I'm thinking about printing out this thread and taking it into my doc and seeing what he says.  Maybe you should take it your people.

'Til then, I'll stick to my routine of moving to my recliner every night after a few hours of pain.

Avatar universal
I feel the exact same way and intend to do the same. I see a Dr. at the Pain Mgmt. clinic that I have been going to for over a year. I know that if he had ever heard of these symptoms before (he or the 2 Orthopedic Surgeons of the 2 PT's,2 Physical Medicine Dr.'s etc.)he would have said so. I have had numerous nerve blocks,and muscle injections,with some relief from the nerve pain but no interruption of the basic pain from thoracic to ribs and then to sternum (if I don't sit up in time). I have begun trying to go to sleep sitting up to avoid the onset but it is almost impossible and my tailbone is suffering. As far as someone mentioned, taking sleeping pills to sleep through the pain, my experience is that you will pay the price for not sitting up when you need to.You may be the only one who understands what I mean. If anything helps I will let you know.
Avatar universal
Amazing that I can find people whe are experiencing the SAME EXACT pain as me.  I, too, can not sleep through the night.  All started back in September, back pain would wake me up, and at that point, I was unable to lie down.  I would get up, walk around, then prop up pillows and sit up in bed, hoping to fall back asleep.

As the months have gone by, the pain has progressively gotten worse.  4 to 5 hours after lying down, I am so stiff and uncomfortable, that I rarely fall back asleep.  I have had MRIs of low back, mid back and CT scans of pelvis and abdomen and also back xrays and a full body bone scan.  All were "unremarkable". I am amazingly stiff right in the morning, sometimes it eases up as soon as I shower, other times, like this morning, it's taking alot longer.  

Now, I have had lots of blood tests, CReactive Protein was high >10 and my latest was an ANA panel - I am awaiting the results of this.  My internist thinks it could be rheumotoligical, so after these blood results come back, I guess I will know.  

I feel for you.  I know how awful it is to just want to sleep.  I now have in my arsenal, Ambien, Soma (muscle relaxant) and hydrocodone.  I also tried Trimadol, but that didn't do much for me. I try various stretching exercises, some feel good, some don't.  

Good luck to you - do you think you could have something like arthritis??  Maybe, if you haven't done so, you could get some bloodwork done.  
Avatar universal
So sorry to hear that you too, have this problem. Can you please tell me how it came on (gradually or slowly) and if it is in your mid thoracic area and where it radiates to?
That is a good question regarding the Rheumatology issue. I can't be sure, as this began 4 yrs. ago, but I know I had lots of blood tests. I will follow up on this with my M.D., thanks. When mine began, and it was sudden, there was fear that it was a metastisis from a malignant melanoma that I had. When I asked the first Ortho. Surgeon if he had ever heard of my symptoms he simply said "yes and that is why I am ordering an emergency MRI". Fortunately, other than a small benign Ostoid Osteoma, it was clear. Obviously if it had been a metastisis, I wouldn't be here as it would have been fatal. In light of all that I am able to keep strong, but wonder, how long a person can go without a full nights sleep. I know you understand.
Does the Ambien help for you and what is the hydrocodone?
I am very interested to hear the results of your blood tests. I sincerely hope you get an answer.
Avatar universal
Hi - I have been waking most nights/early mornings with back pain right accross both shoulder blades. It gets worse when i take a deep breath and I have sharp pains. I soon as I get up it goes, almost within 30 mins.
I used to think it was my kidneys and the pain was going after I had been to the bathroom, now I am not sure if the pain is going just because I am up and moving. I do not get the pain at all during the day.I have no other symptoms ( I dont think) I have had blood tests, urine tests and X rays all of which are OK.
I would love to hear it anyone has any ideas what this could be as my Doctor has openly admitted he is stumped.
Ta..........
Avatar universal
Hey hurts,
Mine came on very gradually and the pain has changed (in other words, it covers a broader area now), but has stayed very consistent.  Now it radiates to my ribs sometimes my chest feels stiff in the morning too.  Got my ANA panel back - my doctor said it showed some positive/some negative factors (she thinks it may be an auto-immune issue) and has referred me to a rheumatologist - I go on March 15th.  I live in a town that has only 2 rhuematologists (!), so I have to wait all the way till next month.  

The ambien definitely helps me fall asleep, but still have problems 4 - 5 hours into my sleep waking up from discomfort.  Am really hopeful to get an answer in March.  Hydrocodone is a pain reliever.  I think I'm becoming immune to all of it though, which kind of scares me.  

So, the wait continues. I'll keep you posted.  Take care.
Avatar universal
My back pain started as sciatica-like.  For years I dealt with it no big deal.  This particular pain went from: 1)causing me no less sleep, just waking up with pain to 2) waking up an hour or two early to 3) only being able to lie down for a couple hours before pain started and woke me.  From beginning to end about three months.  Then 3.5 years at level 3.

Anyone want to offer life style specifics?  

  At the time this started for me I worked, standing and walking on unpadded concrete floor for up to 15 a day, 4 times a week.  Very similar to the retail job mentioned in the first post.
  I'm 5'10", 220lbs.  Overweight, but morbidly obese.  Doctor does not think it's a factor.
  During the time of the pain I've gone from extremely out of shape, to fairly fit, and back again.  No changes.  No major weight changes either.


  Has anyone tired massage yet?
  Sounds like I don't need to bother with sleeping pills, and better if I don't.

thanks,
Spec
Avatar universal
Sorry I realized you did say how it came on (gradually). Let's hope it starts to leave the same way!
Avatar universal
Hello Again,
   I really hope that the Rheumatologist can help. I did ask my family Doc. yesterday if we had checked those blood levels and we had w/o significant findings. I am going to repeat the blood tests today. I am getting more anxious as the pain in last two months or so, has begun to be a daytime problem as well. It is what I prayed would not happen. The nights were bad enough but at least the pain subsided when I sat up/got up. My neck and tailbone are also both chronically sore now from the years of sitting upright at night. I am seeing a chiropractor again as, even though she can't seem to help the initial pain site (thoracic area) she does help with the referred pain. I do recommend that.
    It is interesting that both of you have such similar symptoms yet Spectrum's came on gradually. I'd be interested in hearing how Edelweiss's began. I was in Europe with my daughter and awoke from sleep with terrible pain(I have had both labor pain and multiple kidney stones so I know)as I thought someone had snuck in and put a knife in my spine. I have had 4-5 nights without pain since. That was 4 yrs. ago in Dec..The only possible injury was slinging a "too heavy" bag over my shoulder running to catch a train or something (nothing I noticed at the time). The only other question was, whether or not it was a result of a virus, which I had at that time) with a very high fever.
    There is a good article in Women's Health this month in regards to Chronic pain and the fact that sometimes the nerve does not "shut off" long after the injury has healed. At least this would account for the fact that nothing shows on MRI's, X-Rays, CAT scans, Bone Scans etc., etc.. The hope was that the nerve blocks that I had would work "like shutting down and restarting your computer". One worked for 4 days, the next one 2 (they won't repeat them). Some people get as much as 6 mos. relief, so it may be worth talking to you Dr.s about.
Best Wishes, Hurts
Avatar universal
SAME EXACT pain started app. 3 months ago.  2-3 hrs into sleep, pain wakes me up at which point I have to sit or stand, walk around until it goes away.  I've discovered that if I use two pillows, I can sleep through the night so that the pain doesn't wake me up.  It is still present in the morning, but not as bad as it would be if I slept in a regular, horizontal position with only one pillow, which is how I slept all my life.  Sleeping on 2 pillows helps the thoracic area, but my lower back is suffering as a result.  Recent X-rays show no signs of problems.  Chiropractor didn't help.  He thought it was a pinched nerve.  Haven't yet tried PT even though I have been referred by an orthopedic surgeon.  She thinks it is a twisted ligament or tendon since the pain doesn't radiate elsewhere.  In the morning, I can even feel the pain when swallowing as the food passes through that area.  

I am almost 31 yrs old, 6ft, 200 lbs.  No specific injury that might have caused it.  I have a desk job, although I do stand up often and walk around the office.  I play occasional table tennis.  Talk on the cell phone a lot, w/o headphones, often I will feel the pressure in the shoulder area from this, which soon disappears after a long talk.  

Someone mentioned a virus.  I did have a strong case of strep throat, which coincided with the problem.  I'm not sure if the bacteria had anything to do with causing this.  

I get the sense that from reading all your comments, any PT, MRI, etc., might not help.  I've started thinking of perhaps trying acupuncture or s/thing similar.  I'm not sure what.  I will continue posting and updating as I will continue to look for solutions.  
Avatar universal
It is really amazing that there are so many people experiencing the exact same pain under the same conditions, yet the solution is still a mystery.  I typed "pain mid-back morning" into the search engine which brought me to this site.  I am a 53 year old male of average size and weight.  In my case, the excruciating pain every morning between my shoulder blades and mid-spine area started about 3 months.  It usually starts around 4 A.M.  Sometimes it is so bad that the only way for me to cope with the pain is to get up walk around for an hour.  There is no position change in bed or sitting that helps relieve this pain.  (Sound familiar??) The pain disipates as the day goes on.  By mid-day, the pain is a dull ache in my back.  Lately this dull ache has stayed with me until bed time.  Like many of you, I dread going to sleep because I know I'll wake up in excruciating pain.  Ambien doesn't help me sleep through the pain.  Pain killers like oxycodone (percocet, etc.) provide only minimal relief. Unfortunately I have a very high tolerance to narcotic pain killers.  One 10 mg oxycodone to me is no stronger than an extra strenth tylenol.  

My situation is a little different than others and MAY SHED SOME LIGHT for some -or maybe suggest something to look into.  

About 1 and a half years ago, my lumbar spine was in pretty bad shape and I needed surgery.  As of a year ago I still had not had the back surgery and another serious problem occurred.  I tore the labrums and rotator cuffs in both shoulder joint sockets as a result of incorrect weight lifting....I know...it was stupid to do this with my lower back the way it was......don't ask :(  

I had 3 low-back disks fused about 5 months ago and have recovered fairly well from this through physical therapy.  But just prior to my back surgery as luck would have it, the torn structures in both my shoulders started causing me significant upper arm pain 24/7.  This got significantly worse over time and is now so bad that I can't find a comfortable sleeping position except for sleeping on my back.  That is not ideal for me because: (1) I can usually fall aslepp only if I am sleeping on either side, and (2) I know my mid-back pain will start a few hours after I fall asleep on my back.

I have 5 different types of doctors: an orthopedic shoulder surgeon, an orthopedic spine surgeon, an internist, a pain management specialist (anesthesiologist) and a chiropractor.  They all suggest THE SAME THING....Specifically that my mid-back pain is a result referred pain of my torn labrum and rotator cuffs in both shoulders.  Apparently there is a major nerve coming from your shoulders to your mid-spine.  

I've had recent MRIs of both shoulders and my entire spine (lumbar, thoracic and cervical).  The MRIs confirm the torn labrum and rotator cuffs in both shoulders.  They show that my lumbar spine has healed nicely and my titanium hardware is firmly in place.  They also show degenerative spine disease and arthritis at all levels of my spine that are common in a person my age and with my medical history.  (Fortunately I live in Arizona, so snow shoveling is not a problem!)

I will eventually have surgery on both shoulders (one at a time!).  But timing it right with work and life is a challenge.  For now, I am having Nerve Blocks on both shoulders this Monday.  If this works, then I will have radio ablation therapy on both shoulders.  For those who may not know about this, it is a procedure that "shocks" the nerve enough to stop it from transmitting the pain impulses.  Or I may go straight to the shoulder surgeries.  Either way, I will report the success of the Nerve Blocks next week.    

I apologize for writing such a long entry.  I hope it will help someone.
Avatar universal
I am having the EXACT same problem.  I find that my pain is the worst when I lay on my back.  I can ususally get an extra hours sleep by moving to my side.

I have not yet seen the huge number of doctors that you all have.  Only GPs so far who seem to expect it to go away by itself.  

The only additional symptom I have is an odd peeling of one fingertip that never heals.  This has led me to think that the issue is likely nerve related.

I will be watching this thread closely to see if anyone has any progress, and will let you know if I learn anything myself!
Avatar universal
Please excuse a typo I made in my previous post.  I meant to write that Sarno helps back pain patients WITHOUT drugs/surgery, rather than WITH surgery.  His method is not without controvery, but I'm here to tell all of you with back problems that his method does work.  
Avatar universal
EVERYONE with back problems, no matter the diagnosis, NEEDS to read one of Dr. John E. Sarno's books.  This man has helped thousands with chronic back problems with drugs/surgery. I was diagnosed (by MRI) with a slipped vertebrae (yes, vertebrae) and condition called spondylothesis.  This "condition" caused me low back pain, sciatica, tingling in my ankles, toe and lower leg.  After reading Sarno, my pain is GONE and I'm not alone.  Just check out all the people who have posted comments about Sarno on Amazon. com's book site. Also, do a search for Sarno on Wikipedia and open the link provided by ABC News 20/20 and John Stossel.  Sarno helped him after 15 years of back pain.  Forget the surgery.  Forget the drugs.  Get pain-free.  Get your life back. Read Dr. Sarno!!
Avatar universal
It is somewhat a relief to hear other people having the EXACT same issues as I am going through.  Here it is almost 4:00am and after researching on the net since I awoke at at 1:00am I have finally found other people like myself.  I definitely feel everyone's pain.  My thoracic mid-back pain has been going on for about 3 weeks now waking me up consisently every night after about 4 hours of sleep and it goes away roughly 30 minutes after getting out of bed and sleeping upright in a chair is not an option.  I have seen a pain doc, neurosurgeon, and physical therapy along with taking sleeping pills, celebrex, & flexeril.  Everyone is completely stumped with this issue and no meds have helped at all.  I plan on printing out everyone's comments, etc to bring them to my doctors.  Maybe this my trigger a spark of some sort.  If I hear of anything I will definitely pass along the info.  Thank you for posting your issue.......    
Avatar universal
Are you a stomach, side, or back sleeper?  I'm a stomach sleeper and I have recently started TRYING to sleep on my back and it has made a difference with my pain.  It doesn't completely take away the pain in the middle of the night, but enough to sleep through it as long as I stay on my back the entire night.  I have to surround myself with pillows so I don't try to roll on my stomach in the middle of the night (thankfully my wife understands).  I have only been able to do this 3 or 4 nights, so the jury is still out.  I'm just wondering if sleeping on your back makes that much of a difference.  Thank you for any response.
Avatar universal
This may be a shot in the dark. I have all the exact same symptoms, waking after about 4 hours of sleep with back spasms. I grind my teeth bad at night (maybe TMJ). I talked with my dentist about the jaw pain today and he explained it was from grinding and clinching in detail. I was driving home and it dawned on me. Can TMJ or nightly jaw clinching cause my back spasms? Makes sense, I grind my teeth and clinch my jaw for 4 hours straight without knowing it.

The dentist said you apply a constant 400 lbs per square inch of presure on your jaw muscles at night and keep doing it because your not aware of it. When your awake you dont do it. I called him when I got home and explained my back spasms, sore shoulders and neck muscles and asked if the jaw clinching could cause muscle spasms in my back. He said "absolutley"! he has patients with these symptoms and told me he could fit me with a custom night guard that costs $650.00 so tonight Ill sleep with my teeth whitening plastic guard ( 5 bucks!) that is similar and see if it prevents the grinding.

Research TMJ or nightly jaw clinching associated with back spasms. Since no doctors are associating this with back spasms it just may be whats causing them. Hey, its worth looking into, I cant find a solution. I just spend $1500.00 on a Tempurpedic mattress, slept on it last night and woke again paralysed in back spasms yet again, its every night for me. I get up, prop up on the couch with some pillows and it slowly subsides then its fine all day with the exception of some soreness from the spasms. Just a thought. Im miserable.
Avatar universal
It still amazes me how many of us have this problem and it is so hard to find the "diagnosis" or some relief. I was so miserable again this morning too. I have seen gastroenterologists and different MDs for this problem. I just need some sleep, I am so tired of waking in the middle of the night in so much pain and unable to get back to sleep because of the pain. I'm going to research TMJ and back spasms...I'm open for suggestions. Thanks
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