Stiffness in the back

December 24, 2012

Question: When I wake up in the morning I have a lot of stiffness in my back. Can you suggest any exercises or techniques to help get me moving?

Answer: Lie on your back with your knees bent and gently make shallow (small) knee swings to the right and to the left, or roll back and forth. You should start small and slow and get larger as you loosen up, but never move fast. Do this for 30-60 seconds.
Another exercise is to then pull your knee (one at a time) towards your shoulder and gently hold 30 seconds, repeat twice.
A final exercise could be to lie on your stomach and gently press your chest off the bed–you can either use your arms to hold you in this position, or place pillows under your chest so it is more passive and less active. In yoga this is called cobra or upward dog (depending on the intensity or range of motion in your back).
If you have any concerns about bone health or know you have osteoporosis or osteopenia, you should consult with BOTH a doctor and a PT.

Marvin Smith, D.P.T.

Marvin Smith, D.P.T.
Marvin Smith, D.P.T., is a physical therapist at the Oregon Health and Sciences University rehabilitation clinic. His treats a many injuries and conditions, including spine pain and pain from accidents, arthritis and falls. He earned his bachelor of science degree at Montana State University, a master’s degree at the College of Saint Scholastica and his doctorate in physical therapy from Eastern Washington University.


  • Excellent suggestions relative to the back. I’ve recently begun having pain in my lower back when I wake in the morning (I have both RA and Psoriatic Arthritis) so, I gave your suggested advice a try. Wow!! Amazing the difference getting out of bed each day. Thank you for taking the time to provide all three suggestion.

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