Lower back pain can be a debilitating adventure experienced by 84% of people globally. It can limit someone from participating in their daily activities and prevent them from getting a good night’s sleep. So what is the best way to relieve back pain and get some quality shut-eye?
The short answer is that you should consider several different methods. Here are some of the common treatments people use to help alleviate their back pain and ways to help improve sleep quality.
The 4 Major Causes Of Lower Back Pain
There are four major causes of back pain:
- Too much sitting—prolonged periods of sitting can cause back pain from poor posture or from being seated for too long, which will compress your spine and weaken your lower-back muscles.
- Lack of exercise—when you don’t regularly exercise, your back muscles may become weak and start to ache.
- Slouching—slouching decreases the space between vertebrae in your spine and can result in a lack of circulation and increased tension on the discs that lie between your vertebrae.
- Stress—stress triggers the release of hormones that increase muscle tension and decrease blood flow to certain areas of your body, including your lower back. This can lead to chronic tightness and pain.
How to Get Relief From Your Lower Back Pain
Whether it’s from a stressful day, an injury, or excessive sitting, many people suffer from back pain.
You may want to start by considering lifestyle changes. Things like changing your posture, getting regular exercise, and resting when you need to can make a big difference.
You can also try taking over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil).
If your back pain is related to the weather—like the colder months—or if an injury causes it, these treatments may help relieve your pain:
- Heat packs: Heat relieves tension and helps promote blood flow in tight muscles. If you add moist heat before bedtime, it could help you sleep better.
- Pain relief cream: Pain relief creams contain ingredients that soothe sore muscles and joints and reduce inflammation. They might be helpful for short-term relief of back pain.
- Massage: Getting a massage can help improve circulation and relax tight muscles around the spine and other areas causing your discomfort. It can also enhance sleep quality by reducing stress hormones that cause nighttime awakenings.
How to Improve Your Sleep Quality
One of the most common ways to help with lower back pain is to find a way to improve your sleep quality. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, try one of these suggestions:
- Make sure your mattress is always in good shape. You want it to support you and be comfortable.
- Invest in a good pillow – one that fits your body size and sleeping style.
- Create an environment where you can rest comfortably by eliminating light disturbances, noise, and temperature fluctuations (don’t overheat or underheat your bedroom).
- Avoid drinking caffeine before bedtime.
Best Sleeping Positions For Your Lower Back Pain
Acute, intense, mild, persistent, erratic: the misery that characterizes back pain can take on different definitions depending on the case. Here are the best positions to sleep in if you have back pain.
On The Side With A Pillow Between The Legs
One of the best positions to sleep in if you have back pain is the fetal position. Lie on your side, resting your entire side on the mattress, and settle with a pillow between your knees.
The pillow will help keep your hips, pelvis, and spine in better alignment, preventing lower back pain. If there is some space between the side and the mattress, you may want to consider using another small pillow for added support.
NOTE: Whether using a pillow or opting for two supports, you should resist the temptation to always sleep on the same side. In the long run, this habit causes a series of problems, such as muscle imbalance and even scoliosis.
In The Fetal Position
In addition to back pain, those with a herniated disc may try sleeping on their side, curling up in a fetal position.
Here’s how to do it: Lie on your back and then gently roll onto your side; curl the knees towards the chest and gently bend the torso towards the knees.
Remember to switch sides from time to time to avoid imbalance.
How does this position help? The intervertebral discs are soft pads placed between the spinal column’s vertebrae.
A herniated disc occurs when the nucleus of a disc protrudes from its natural location, causing nerve pain, weakness, and other symptoms. Bringing the torso into the fetal position opens the space between the vertebrae.
Facedown On A Pillow
We often hear and read that sleeping on your stomach worsens lower back pain.
This is only partially true: on the one hand, it can add stress to the neck, but on the other hand, it must be borne in mind that if you find yourself resting on your stomach, you do not sleep in another position perhaps more harmful.
However, the important thing is to place a pillow under the pelvis and lower abdomen to relieve some pressure on the back.
Depending on how you feel in this position, you may or may not choose to use a pillow under your head.
People who have degenerative disc disease may benefit most from sleeping on their stomachs with a pillow as this position can relieve stress on the space between the discs.
Lie On Your Back With A Pillow Under Your Knees
Sleeping on their back may be the best position for back pain relief for some people. However, if you choose this posture, it is good to put a pillow under your knees and make sure you keep your spine neutral.
The pillow is important: it works by helping to maintain the natural curve in the lower back. Alternatively, you can also place a small rolled-up towel under your lower back for added support.
This position is beneficial because the weight is evenly distributed when you sleep on your back. Consequently, the pressure points are subjected to less stress.
In addition, this position is also capable of promoting better alignment of the spine and internal organs.
In A Reclined Position
Some people feel more comfortable napping in a recliner. While this is not the ideal position for back pain, it may be helpful for those with isthmic spondylolisthesis. (Isthmic spondylolisthesis is when a vertebra slips on the one below)
In this case, an adjustable bed that can offer alignment and support might be a good idea.
Sleeping in a reclined position can be beneficial for the back because it creates an angle between the thighs and the trunk, which helps reduce pressure on the spine.
NOTE: Regardless of the position chosen, remember that it is essential to maintain proper spine alignment—focus specifically on aligning your ears, shoulders, and hips. If you notice gaps between your body and the bed, use pillows to fill them as they strain your muscles and spine. Be careful while turning over in bed: you can lose alignment during twisting and rotating movements. Always move the whole body together, keeping the core tight, contracted, and pushing towards the navel. It may also be helpful to bring your knees towards your chest as you roll over.
Lower back pain can be debilitating, but it doesn’t have to rule your life. The good news is, there are many things you can do to improve your back pain and get better sleep. First, identify the underlying causes of your back pain. Once you know what’s causing your pain, you can take the necessary steps to relieve it.