Most of us have had some type of back pain at one time or another. There are a number of different reasons for back pain. They can be self-inflicted due to bad habits, caused by muscle strains, sporting injuries, accidents, or a variety of other reasons. While the cause is different in many cases, the symptoms are usually the same. These may include:
- Sharp pain in the neck and upper or lower back, particularly after lifting something heavy or another strenuous activity
- Chronic stiffness or achiness anywhere along the spine from the neck to the tailbone
- Making it nearly impossible to stand up straight without the onset of muscle spasms and pain in the lower back
- Consistent ache in the lower or middle of the back, especially bad after sitting or standing for long periods of time
- Radiating pain that comes from the lower back and runs into the buttocks and down the back of the leg into the toes
How to Get a Good Night’s Rest Even with Back Pain
At least one-third of the people in the US have some type of back pain. This number is constantly increasing due to the prevalence of desk jobs and the inactive society we live in. While it would seem like nighttime would be a good time to get some relief, this isn’t true in many cases. Back pain may even intensify when you lay down. According to Joseph McNamara, a chiropractic neurologist, people have more pain at night due to stiffening of their joints because of inactivity and the brain not sending proper blood flow to these areas.
Additionally, pain in the back can be due to:
- Scoliosis — an unnatural curvature of the spine
- Spondylitis — inflammation of the joints along the spine
- A bulging or ruptured disc
Because of the wide variety of issues that can cause back pain, there is no correct answer for how to sleep better that will work perfectly for everyone. However, some of the following suggestions can help to relieve pressure on your spine by allowing it to stay in neutral alignment and letting you get a chance to rest and wake up feeling less stiffness and pain overall.
- Sleeping on your stomach: This is actually the worst position possible to sleep in, especially if you have back and neck pain. It is equivalent to looking over your shoulder all day long, as your neck needs to be twisted to one side or the other so that you can breathe. It also hyperextends the spine, making lower back pain worse. The muscles in the low back have to arch more. As this occurs, according to Dr. Joseph Horrigan of the Soft Tissue Center, the facet joints of the spine become compressed. If they are already irritated or inflamed for some reason, you wake up with a dull backache. Stomach sleeping is really bad for you, and we highly recommend trying to get used to sleeping in a different position. If you absolutely cannot, you may want to use a thin pillow next to you and rotate slightly to your side to relieve some of your discomfort.
- Sleeping on your back: While one of the best ways to sleep, this position can put stress on the lower discs of the back as you flatten out the lumbar lordosis (the natural curve of the low back). Simply putting a pillow behind your knees will help tremendously and allow your low back to relax. Pillow height for the head can be important as well, as the wrong one can cause neck and shoulder pain, headaches, and numbness in the arms. Your pillow should not be thicker than the distance from your neck to your shoulder. You can achieve positive results using a small rolled up towel or a half-moon pillow under your neck. Using a foam wedge, instead of a pillow, under the knees is also recommended as it doesn’t flatten as easily. This is also a good idea if you suffer from stenosis or an anteriorly rotated pelvis.
- Sleeping on your side: Being pregnant teaches women to sleep on their side with a pillow between their knees. This is a great idea for everyone. It keeps your legs in a neutral position and keeps the top leg from dropping on the mattress. The pillow should be small enough not to feel bulky between your knees and big enough to help you not to roll onto your back or stomach. The pillow used for your head should also be thicker and on the firm side. It must take up the distance from your ear to the bed and keep your neck in a neutral position.
- Other suggestions for a good night’s sleep: A warm bath or sleepy-time tea before bed can help you relax. Heating pads will help relax the back muscles and take away tension. However, if you have an acute back injury, heat can increase inflammation. Ice is a better option.
Alleviating Chronic Back Pain Naturally
Visiting us here at Providence Chiropractic in Edmonton, Alberta, can assist you with back pain. It is often a misalignment in the bones of the upper cervical spine that are causing back pain. To correct this, we use a very gentle method that does not require us to pop or crack the spine. Rather, it is a natural correction to help the bones stay in place longer than if we used force. This often helps our patients with back pain find some relief in a short period of time.