The activities and movements you do first thing in the morning can have a large impact on the health of your spine.
Through a process known as imbibition, the spinal discs fill with fluid during the night. This process makes you around 10mm taller when you wake up after a full night’s sleep (and up to 60mm if you happen to reside in the weightless environment of space!)
Due to the change in concentration of the electrolytes in your disc with the compression it sustains during the day, the disc absorbs fluid when it is unloaded, i.e. when you are lying down and resting at night. This is a normal process and is important for the health of your discs.
However, because of this process of fluid absorption, your discs can be thought of as a bit “swollen” as you get out of bed in the morning. This means that the pressure inside the disc is at its highest and is therefore the most vulnerable to injury first thing in the morning. Disc height is mostly back to normal height around 30-60 minutes later.
Therefore, activities that add additional pressure to the disc structure, such as bending forward or rounding the spine, should be avoided.
Strategies such using a hip-hinge movement (see below) when brushing your teeth in the morning instead of bending over, sitting with a lumbar support and using a lunge movement to tie your shoes can all help to protect the discs during this time.