If you live with chronic back pain, you are in good company. Millions of Americans live with lower back pain every day. In fact, it is the most common form of chronic pain that people seek pain management for.
Sometimes the cause of chronic back pain is stress due to intense activity at work or while playing sports. Sometimes your back smarts as a result of an injury in you incurred years ago. Sometimes back pain is just a part of aging.
While there are many causes of back pain, there are just as many treatment options; some more invasive than others. Back pain can be treated with medication, physical therapy, massage, or chiropractic adjustments. For extreme situations, steroid shots administered directly into the spine, or even surgery is used to manage the pain.
One simple way that many people who live with back pain find relief is by altering the way they sleep. There are several small modifications to the way you sleep that may have a huge impact on your ongoing back pain:
- Pay attention to your bed.
The ideal type of bed to use if you live with back pain is an adjustable bed. Adjustable beds serve a variety of health benefits, from relieving acid reflux symtoms to improving blood circulation. In regards to lower back pain, an adjustable bed is an effective way to take pressure off of the nerve that is causing the pain. Adjustable bed mattresses come in a variety of sizes and firmness levels, to meet the needs of any sleeper.
Even if an adjustable bed isn’t in your budget, there may be other ways to improve the position of your back while you sleep. Sometimes, as mattresses get old, they lose the support they used to offer. You may be able to regain some of the firmness your back needs by adding a memory foam mattress topper or by installing wood slats between the mattress and the box spring.
- Pay attention to your sleep position.
Since you spend a great deal of time motionless while you sleep, the position you sleep in has a big impact on your back pain. For example:
- If you are a stomach sleeper, your spine has to remain twisted for several hours (since you probably don’t sleep with your neck straight and your face planted in the pillow), which could increase your back pain.
- If you sleep on your back, you should place a pillow underneath your knees to slightly elevate them; this naturally places your back flat against the mattress and reduces the stress on it.
- If you are a side sleeper, it is important to alternate which side you sleep on, to avoid an imbalance in your back muscles. It is also important to resist curving your spine while sleeping on your side, as this could aggravate the injury.
Sleeping in the fetal position, on your side with your knees toward your chest is an ideal angle to relieve pressure on the back. If you sleep in this position, place a firm pillow between your knees so that your legs do not rest in an unnatural angle that could cause more pain.
- Prepare yourself for sleep
Taking these actions promote relaxation of your entire body, which relieves tension in the back while you sleep:
- Take a few minutes to some deep breathing exercises to calm yourself and prepare for rest. Playing calming meditation music while you do this encourages total relaxation.
- Apply an invigorating rub (found over the counter in sports or drug stores) to your lower back and any tense muscles that you have.
- Avoid eating food that cause heartburn or sit heavy in your stomach prior to going to sleep. Being comfortable while you sleep is an important factor to improving your back pain.
- Don’t stay in bed too long.
When you lay in bed for extended periods of time, it makes your muscles and joints stiff, which adds to your pain. Unless otherwise directed by your doctor, try to get up and move every few hours (or as soon as you wake up in the morning).
Back pain impairs your ability to lead an enjoyable life. Paying attention to the way you sleep is a simple way to reduce your pain.