Pain in your upper back after sleeping?

Many people wake up with pain in their upper back. But what is the exact reason for this? What can be the cause? And more importantly: what can be done about it? Often, a good bed with the right mattress will offer a solution.

What is the structure of the back?

To know why you have back pain, it is useful to know the exact structure of your back. The back consists of seven cervical vertebrae (neck), 12 thoracic vertebrae (breast), 5 lumbar vertebrae (loin), 5 sacral vertebrae (the sacrum) and a coccyx. A vertebra has a vertebral body to which a vertebral arch is connected. Protrusions are attached to this arch, with weights. The vertebrae are stacked on top of each other. Between two vertebrae sits an intervertebral disc. The vertebral arches jointly constitute a long hollow containing the spinal cord: the spine.

Back pain due to the trapezius muscle

An important cause of pain in the upper back may be the trapezius muscle. This is a large muscle that protects part of the back. The trapezius starts high at the cervical vertebrae and the head and runs up to the middle back, where it attaches to the thoracic vertebrae. This muscle has various connection points and ensures amongst others that you can move your shoulder up, down or backwards.

Interesting detail: the trapezius is also called ‘monk’s cowl muscle’. This name indicates the shape of the muscle in respect of the rest of the torso: it resembles a cowl of a monk’s habit that has not been pulled up.

The trapezius muscle has many trigger points and therefore also many stress points. The muscle often tenses up due to stress and this may result in pain in the upper back, the neck and head. In order to avoid building up too much tension, the neck must lie in line with the spine during sleep. A good pillow plays an important role in this respect.

Make sure you have good support

In order to go through life without back pain, the back must be able to sufficiently relax and recover, both day and night. If you do sedentary work, a good office chair is a real necessity. But what is most important, is a good bed offering the right support to all of the back, no matter how you sleep (on your back, stomach or side). Even an adjusted mattress can be a good solution for most of the upper back problems.

Pain in the upper back due to a hernia

A hernia in the upper back is quite rare, but certainly not impossible. If you have a hernia, you must consult a medical specialist. A good bed may alleviate the pain somewhat but cannot remove the problem.

Other causes of pain in the upper back

The ribs are suspended from the dorsal vertebrae and form a type of corset. Pain and pressure on the rib cage may therefore cause pain in the (upper) back. Certain diseases may also cause pain in the upper back. For instance, this type of backache may be an indication of heart problems. Airway infections and lung diseases may also cause discomfort in the upper back. If in doubt, consult a doctor!